Once again it is July and thoughts at YRM are turning to snow… with a couple of new publications that touch upon the subject of winter (just in time for your winter concert programming consideration, of course!).
The first of these two new scores (the second one will be featured next week!) is a setting of Elinor Wylie‘s poemVelvet Shoes by Dennis Rosenbaum. He first became acquainted with this text when he heard Randall Thompson’s choral setting at an assembly in the seventh grade. He was intrigued by the imagery of walking in fresh fallen snow being likened to walking in “velvet shoes.”
To his delight that very poem was presented for study in an English class just a few weeks later. The text stuck with him over the years, and he was inspired to do his own musical setting in 2003. His intention was as follows:
“The overall mood I strove to create throughout the piece was one of romantic intimacy – a walk through virgin snow with a lover in a world which is quiet, hushed, and tranquil after a snowstorm; a moment which is private, event though it takes place in a public setting, a walk that becomes the moment when a relationship “gels,” and is ever after remembered as the start of that commitment.
The calm of the final plagal cadence represents the lovers resting into their new commitment to each other. The end result of the piece shows the calm of the outer world contrasted with the internal passion of the lovers taking a walk in “velvet shoes” for the first time in their relationship. In the end, the listener is taken on a journey not only through freshly fallen snow, but into the romance of the couple walking through it.”
This thoughtful and lovely piece is ideal for those choruses wanting to program music that touches upon the subject of winter, but isn’t tied to any particular holiday celebration. Velvet Shoes is available for men’s chorus, mixed chorus and women’s chorus with piano accompaniment (click on the link to view partial score PDFs).
What makes the way that Rexroth adapted the text particularly special is its ability to accommodate a variety of gender references. My True Love Hath My Heart is composed for either women’s or men’s chorus (download the first three pages of each score as a PDF by clicking on the links), with each voicing able to use either “his” or “her” pronouns. This flexibility allows a chorus to express themselves precisely as they’d like!
Randi shares the following story about the inspiration for the piece:
“I needed to give my boyfriend a Christmas gift, but I was not able to buy him much. After speaking with my mother, who is a composer herself, she sent me the Philip Sydney text. She had tried to set herself, but had come up short. I remember her saying “I wanted to compose a contemporary madrigal, but I just couldn’t hear it”. As soon as I received the words I heard this piece.
I wrote the song as a solo and recorded it as my gift. A month later, I arranged the piece to be an SSAA arrangement that would be used in our wedding. The choir that sang My True Love Hath My Heart was made up of students from the schools where we teach and was touted as a highlight of the ceremony.”
For our first post of 2008, we’d like to welcome Jerry Ulrich to our roster of incredible choral composers!
Jerry is an ASCAP award-winning arranger/composer, originally from Illinois. He’s currently Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he directs two mixed choirs and the all-male Georgia Tech Glee Club. His numerous compositions and arrangements in the catalogs of several publishers in the US and abroad have sold over 80,000 copies. His music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, throughout New York City and on national radio and television, as well as throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Robert William Service was born on January 16, 1874 to a Scottish bank clerk and the daughter of an English factory owner. At the age of 15 he followed his father into the banking business, but in 1896 he immigrated to Canada. He spent several years in the Yukon, and the austere landscape is infused into many of his poems. During his life, he traveled extensively in North America and Europe and died in 1958. This setting was composed in October 2002 for the Southeast Alaska Music Festival Honors Chorus.
[This] is a setting of the familiar Percy Bysshe Shelley poem. Its somewhat haunting and incomplete melodic character is intended to reflect the melancholy nature of the text. It was composed in April 2004, and is dedicated to the composer’s Hofstra University Music Department colleagues with appreciation.
[This] is a setting of a pensive poem written from the perspective of an older person reflecting on a missed opportunity for love at an earlier age. The Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. Yeats’ years of unrequited love to Maud Gonne (including four unsuccessful marriage proposals) is reflected in the poem. The composition is dedicated to the composer’s mother and in honor of his father, who were married for 57 years.
Search, three movements for unaccompanied SATB chorus, was composed by Paul Des Marais in 2002. It’s a beautiful and reflective work set to poetry by W.S. Merwin, Theodore Roethke and Mark Doty, revolving around the journey of mortality. The composer describes this journey as being…
…full of feeling: full of fear, full of anger, full of sadness, and – sometimes – resolved by a quiet acceptance of the inevitable.
Regarding the last movement, Des Marais writes the following:
In the poem by Mark Doty, revolving around the last days of his partner, the feeling of refusal is very powerfully described. Wally, Doty’s partner, hears madrigal-like, beautiful voices inviting him to come, to dance with them. And his reply: “I’m not ready yet; I’m not ready yet.” But it was a dream, and he did go.
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was an English poet whose words touched not only upon the spiritual (she was a strong high-church Anglican… so much so that she turned down two suitors due to religious differences, breaking her heart in the process), but also on physical beauty and the sublime in nature.
Jerald Thomas Hawhee has set two of her poems as Christmas carols, In the Bleak Midwinter and Love Came Down At Christmas with original music. The composer himself writes himself about his concept of these works available together in Two Rossetti Carols:
I’ve always liked Christina Rossetti’s simple, understated use of imagery. There’s a kind of home-spun quality to the poetry that makes it very immediate and personal, and I tried to convey something of this hearth-like warmth in my settings. Especially in “In the Bleak Midwinter” the harmonies are dense and quite closely written in order to evoke contrasting colors/feelings of isolation and warmth, exultation and humility. Each verse represents a variation on the same theme. The piece begins in a low–almost cramped–register and slowly, verse by verse, different voices take up the theme in their own idiomatic fashion, culminating in the song of the angels; the women (divided into four parts) soaring high into the stratosphere. The final verse brings us down to earth again to look inward and “turn all these things over in our hearts.”
The setting of “Love Came Down At Christmas” is simpler and more straightforward. The contrast between the introspective, personal nature of the holiday versus collective/community worship is highlighted by the use of an alto soloist (who introduces the theme) and the full choir which then takes up the theme and expands upon it. I revised the piece in 2000 to include a modulated section for a solo quartet to play on this dichotomy, create greater contrast and coloristic interest.
Two Rossetti Carols: You can view the first four pages of In the Bleak Midwinter (for SSAATTBB chorus a cappella) by clicking here, and the first three pages of Love Came Down At Christmas (for SATB chorus a cappella) by clicking here.
Yelton Rhodes Music would like to officially welcome Thomas L. Read to our family of talented composers! Thomas, a violinist as well as a composer, is a Professor of Music at the University of Vermont. He has composed music for a variety of media and almost entirely on commission- music for small ensembles, full orchestra, solo voice, chorus and musical theater.
We’re delighted to publish three of Thomas’ choral works, all of which are a cappella. His music is strongly lyrical and expressive. The texts he selected to set musically are highly passionate writings by two American poets of the romantic period, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Herman Melville.