Karen Schuessler (right) and Denise Pelley (left) leading Sudanese children in music.
This past January I went to South Sudan with a group on a mission trip. One of the wonderful things about this trip for me was that most of the folks in the group were from my church choir at Wesley-Knox United Church in London, Ontario. These are people I am close to, and who I respect in many ways. Jazz soloist, Denise Pelley, whom I’ve worked with for years, was also part of this life-changing trip. She and I led the music part of a music and arts camp for Sudanese children—over 300 of them—every morning for nine days. It was a beautiful experience working with Denise, teaching these wonderful children, and having them teach me!
This is the music that will be performed this Saturday, November 17, at the first concert of our 20th anniversary season. Interwoven with the music be stories and quotes narrated by Ted Barris, Canadian journalist, author and Canadian war historian.
I am very proud of this concert. It will be moving and uplifting.
Roland Majeau, arr Trent Worthington
Edmonton singer-songwriter Roland Majeau is a talented and passionate Canadian artist who is writing and recording real music for real people. Often likened to James Taylor, Roland’s unique blend of country, folk and pop is a style of music that tells a story.
This poignant song was arranged by Roland’s friend and fellow musician, Trent Worthington.
In Remembrance Eleanor Daley
Toronto composer, Eleanor Daley, is world renowned for her exquisite setting of this moving poem by Mary E. Frye, which is from her Requiem. It speaks of the eternity of the soul.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
The hymn is sung at the annual ANZAC Day services in Australia and New Zealand, and in Remembrance Day services in Canada and Great Britain. This stunning arrangement is by Greg Jasperse, a composer and arranger currently living in Chicago. Blessed with an incredible gift of arrangement and harmony, he has composed for and conducted Vocal Jazz Choirs across North America and Europe.
The Nathaniel Dett Chorale of Toronto:
Dirge for Two Veterans (Dona Nobis Pacem: IV) poem by Walt Whitman, music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
This intensely moving piece was written by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), one of the most influential British musicians of the twentieth century. He was a composer, arranger, editor, collector of folk tunes, and conductor. His outlook was human and social. An important experience in VW’s life was his time in the British Army in WW I. He volunteered for service at age 42, and served as an ambulance driver and as an artillery officer. The impact of the war on his imagination was deep and lasting. His cantata, Dona Nobis Pacem, (Give Us Peace) was written in 1936. VW meant it clearly as a warning against war.
Performed by the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Robert Shaw
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Pete Seeger, arr Mark Sirett
Singer-songwriter and American activist, Pete Seeger, has long been at the forefront of Civil Rights and the peace and anti-war movements, as well as the fight for a clean environment. After reading Soviet author Mikhail Sholokhov’s epic novel about the Cossacks pre-World War I, And Quiet Flows the Don. Seeger wrote this song in 1955, adapting it from a Cossack folk song mentioned in the novel. Arranger Dr. Mark Sirett is an award-winning composer living in Kingston, Ontario, whose works are frequently performed by Canada’s leading ensembles.
He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother Bob Russell & Bobby Scott, arr John Coates, Jr.
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, one of the most defining and enduring tunes of the 1960s was by The Hollies and became one of their biggest hits. The origin of the title of the song is often associated with Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. In 1941, Father Flanagan came across a drawing of a young boy carrying his brother with the caption reading “He ain’t heavy Mister – he’s m’ brother!” It is sung here to emphasize the need to help each other if we are to heal the divisions that lead to conflict.
A men’s chorus singing this:
Dona Nobis Pacem (Mass in B Minor, final movement) J.S. Bach
The Mass in B minor is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of all time and is frequently performed. The work was Bach’s last major composition. As the final movement of such a monumental work, the prayer, Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace), is the culmination of the entire mass that precedes it. As the first piece of our second half, it heralds the desire for peace in all its forms, going beyond the absence of war. It states our intention and serves as a starting point to explore what might be the work for peace here on this earth.
Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra – Robert Shaw
Al Shlosha D’Varim Text from the Pirkei Avot (1:18) Allan Naplan
The Pirkei Avot is an important compilation of the ethical and moral teachings of the Rabbis from around 220 CE. The piece is, appropriately, a partner song of two interweaving melodies.
Melody 1: Al shlosha d’varim haolam kayam,
The world’s sustained by three things, by truth and justice and by peace.
Melody 2: Al haemet v’al hadin v’al hashalom, hashalom.
By truth and justice and by the work for peace, the world is sustained for us all.
Treble, Christian Haworth, sings this with us.
Distant Land (A Prayer for Freedom) John Rutter
Words and music were written by John Rutter in 1990, soon after the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. It was premiered in Carnegie Hall, New York.
Hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing this
Nation Shall Not Lift Up Sword (Dona Nobis Pacem: VI) Ralph Vaughan Williams
The final section of Dona Nobis Pacem is an affirmation of peace as justice with mercy. Confident and joyful, it then breaks into a blaze of glory. It fades to the soprano soloist’s repeated prayer for peace, ending the work as a benediction.
Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra – Robert Shaw
I Dream a World André Thomas
American composer and conductor, André Thomas, set this inspiring poem by Langston Hughes, American poet, social activist, and playwright. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. His main concern was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record.
We are joined by treble, Christian Haworth.
I Dream A World – Langston Hughes
I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
This Little Light of Mine Harry Dixon Loes, arr Mark Hayes
“This Little Light of Mine” is a gospel song written by American composer and teacher Harry Dixon Loes in about 1920 and arranged by the talented and popular composer, Mark Hayes.
In closing with this song, we join the millions around the world who are working for peace in ways big and small by letting our light shine. By letting our light shine in the ways of peace, we remember those who have gone before, and honour their gifts of sacrifice and love.
Ted Barris, narrator
Christian Haworth, treble
Ron Fox, piano, organ
Thanks to sponsorship by the Karen Schuessler Singers, the Canadian Chamber Choir is returning to London for the first time since 2007.
Led by Chicago-based conductor Julia Davids, the 17-member choir will host workshops throughout the weekend of January 14 to January 15, and will fill the Wesley Knox Church with an exciting array of well-known and brand new Canadian choral compositions on January 18.
“We really work on building community through choral singing,” says Julia Davids. “Beyond the educational part is just really promoting Canadian composers. We’ve made some great connections with emerging composers.”
Concert goers can expect to hear work from composers such as Eleanor Daley, Imant Raminsh, Jeff Enns, Lavinia Parker, Orlando Gibbons and James Fogarty. The concert will also premier “Icarus in the Sea”, a newly commissioned work by Toronto’s Erik Ross.
“We’re very proud that KSS could help bring the Canadian Chamber Choir back to London and we are looking forward to their performance”, says KSS founder Karen Schuessler.
Tickets for the concert at Wesley-Knox United Church, which begins at 7:30 p.m. on January 18, are $15 for adults and $10 for students. They are available at Wesley-Knox United Church on 91 Askin Street or at the door.
Each year the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration recognizes thousands of volunteers who generously contribute their time to organizations across Ontario.
On Friday night, April 8, several volunteers from KSS were honoured at the local 2011 ceremony held at the Marconi Club here in London.
Congratulations to Michael and Margaret Ryan, Harry MacLean, Marilynne McNeil, Graham Brown and Michelle Balch. It’s the hard work of dedicated volunteers like these that make it possible for KSS to exist and thrive. What are the Volunteer Services awards?
The Volunteer Service awards are given to people who volunteer their time to a single organization for several years.
Youth nominees must be under 24 years old and have volunteered with one group for at least two consecutive years. Adult nominees must have volunteered with one group for at least five consecutive years.
Both adult and youth nominees:
Must not have received payment for their volunteer work
Must be active beyond simple membership in an organization
Must not have performed the services as part of their regular business or professional duties.
Nine levels of services are awarded – for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30+, 40+, 50+ and 60+ years of continuous service.
How are recipients selected?
Recipients are first nominated by their organizations. The Ministry tries to make sure the information organizations send in about nominees is accurate, and that the nominees are eligible for an award. It then sends a letter to confirm that the nomination has been reviewed and accepted.
Can I nominate someone?
Only organizations can enter nominations for the Volunteer Service Awards. Any organization that has been providing service for five years or more can nominate up to seven volunteers. Nominations are eligible from organizations such as not-for-profit and non-profit organizations and associations, co-operatives, boards and commissions, businesses, government ministries that recruit volunteers, arts, educational and correctional institutions and schools, municipalities, and long-term care homes and hospitals.
When is the deadline?
You can submit nomination forms at any time. The deadline is January 25 of each year. If January 25 falls on a weekend or holiday, nominations will be accepted until 5 p.m. the next business day. All nominations received after the deadline date will be considered for the following year.
How should nominations be submitted?
You can either nominate someone online or fill in and send us a nomination form. You can download the nomination form from the Ontario Volunteer Services awards website in PDF and HTML formats.
Where can I get more information?
If you have questions about Ontario’s recognition programs or are having problems or questions about the nomination process, please contact the Ontario Honours and Awards Secretariat by phone at 416-314-7526.
Karen recently answered some questions about our first concert of the season – Voices of Light – which features a variety of classical choral music that celebrates the seasonal cycle of darkness and the return of the light.
What was the inspiration for programming this particular concert? Did you start with any particular pieces, or with the theme itself?
I started with a vague thought of doing a Christmas type of concert, but then realized that the concert date was too early for that. What’s starting to happen at this time of year, however, is that the days are rapidly getting very short, and we are going into that season when we cocoon or hibernate – that is, winter. So it was the idea of celebrating of exploring light in general – and darkness – that appealed to me. This theme is very ancient. As long as there have been humans, the idea of hoping that the light comes back is part and parcel of our survival.
The other aspect of that that I’m hoping to allude to at some level is the idea that we all have a responsibility to shed our own light in the areas of darkness that we come across. And that we are able to do that because we are – all of us – filled with light. Sometimes we don’t realize our gift in that way, or see ourselves in that way. And certainly our culture does not support that thought. But when we own that thought, there’s much good that we can do and accomplish.
I wasn’t sure how to verbalize that with music – there’s no music I know of that has exactly that theme – but there are metaphors of Christ being “the light”, which is why the winter solstice was chosen for Christmas (Christ’s birth). And there are great teachers, avatars, mentors and spiritual leaders who lead us and guide us by showing us their light. And so we rejoice when we celebrate the coming of the light for our particular culture.
We’re not singing Christmas music, but we are singing a Bach cantata that was written for Christmas day. And we’re singing O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen, which is all about the incredible mystery and miracle of the the great light that has come and is born in a feed trough. That’s an incredible image: that in the darkest corner of your barn is the beginning of the light. That’s huge if we let ourselves think about that. So that’s partly what it’s all about.
The title of the concert itself comes from the last piece on the program (Voices of Light by Paul Halley). It’s an ecstatic interchange between piano, choir and flute. The last time we performed this piece was at our tenth anniversary concert. The music carries you along, and it builds and builds.
Do you have a favorite piece in this concert?
I love Voices of Light. It’s just so thrilling. I love the Magnificat (by Francesco Durante, attributed to Pergolesi). It isn’t itself about light, but it’s the song of (Christ’s mother) Mary when she is telling her cousin Elizabeth that she’s going to be having this incredible baby. As the bearer of the light, her song is a social manifesto; in the words of the piece, the rich are “sent empty away” and the low are “brought up and exalted”. It turns society upside down. After Vivaldi’s Gloria, the Magnificat is probably the most popular choral piece of the Italian baroque. It is absolutely delicious, and I’ve wanted to program it for a number of years.
I’ve gotten several comments from the choir that they LOVE the music for this concert. There’s the beauty of the Bach, fantastic vocal lines of the Pergolesi. I can’t hear the Lauridsen or Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque without being moved. Whitacre’s piece will surprise the audience, because his musical language has a lot to do with texture and tuning, and the chords just shimmer. You should FEEL light coming from these chords. That’s the exciting part. When you sing it right, the light shines through the piece, and it’s palpable. It’s not just ABOUT light, it IS light.
The choir is trememdously enjoying making that happen. They can sense it, and they’re working really hard to do that.
Have there been any surprises as you’ve been rehearsing the music?
The surprise would be probably how much the choir is enjoying the music. It’s different, and it’s a lot of tonal colour, and the choir is enjoying so much getting inside that. There’s also a huge contrast and variety between all the pieces – German baroque, romantic Mendelsohn, with all the fabulous, soaring lines coming through…
And then there’s the Frostiana – a musical setting of a long poem by Robert Frost about how, when times get tough and we feel like we’re about to lose our bearing, we should choose something like a star that is fixed “out there” and just hang on. Don’t let yourself get pulled into the darkness. Hang on to that star. Within the poem, the poet talks about the conversation that we’re having with the star, and we say “Say something to us!” and the star says “I burn”. Come up to my level. So we lift ourselves and we make the effort to go there, and by doing that we rise out of our situation.
In a way, we are all voices of light. And the question is, do we raise our voice in the cause of the light, or do we let ourselves hide it?
Visit this space often for a wealth of background information, research and interviews about our upcoming concerts, as well as cool stuff that we've found on the Internet related to music and choral singing.
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