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rsz_1cae_wine_and_roses_postcard_proof_3-1_page_1We’d like to offer you a further sneak peek into the music we have in store for you this weekend by sharing our program notes, written by our own Susan Wladaver-Morgan. Enjoy! And remember that you still have a couple more days to buy tickets in advance and save 10%! We hope to see many of you this weekend!

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Wine, Roses, and Music

 

What better way to kick off Portland’s Rose Festival than with music celebrating wine and roses, two of our region’s most popular offerings? Both have inspired the creativity of artists for centuries, and it is a pleasure to sample this bounty with you.

 

We begin with the 1962 Oscar winner for best original song. “The Days of Wine and Roses,” with music by Henry Mancini (1924-1994) and lyrics by Johnny Mercer (1909-1976), elegantly sums up the movie of the same name. The plot tells of a young couple struggling with alcoholism, whose love cannot survive their addiction (“a door marked nevermore that wasn’t there before”). The song shares the warmth and wistfulness of the creative team’s “Moonriver,” which won the Oscar just the year before.

 

Next we present Three Flower Songs (2001) by Grammy-winner Eric Whitacre (b. 1970). An innovator in using digital technology, Whitacre created the Virtual Choir. People from all over the world digitally record and upload videos of themselves singing one of his works, and he combines these into a single recording posted online. His most recent virtual choir included nearly 6,000 voices from 101 countries!

 

Whitacre’s composing style relies on rich, dense chords, achieved by dividing vocal parts into as many as 10 distinct lines. These three songs show off these chords, as well as his wonderful taste in texts.  The first, by Emily Dickinson, portrays her tentative efforts to reach out from her reclusiveness through a flower; her passionate longing peaks just before fading. The second is by 20th-century Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, a close friend of surrealist artists who was executed in the Spanish Civil War. Whitacre depicts the text in terms of two elements—fire and water—fire in the almost flamenco rhythms at the beginning and end, water in the lyrical passages in the middle. The third, by English Renaissance poet Edmund Waller, was actually one of Whitacre’s first compositions.  He wrote it at age 21 as a gift for his conducting teacher. The poem personifies the rose as both the poet’s messenger to a beautiful young woman and an embodiment of how quickly beauty fades.

 

“To a Wild Rose” comes from Woodland Sketches by American composer Edward MacDowell (1861-1908) and is probably his most famous composition.  MacDowell was born in New York, and studied in Paris (Debussy was a fellow student). He showed an interest in American folk songs and even Indian themes, bits of which he worked into his evocative sketches. A mysterious mental and physical breakdown forced his untimely retirement to his New Hampshire farm, which has become a retreat for American artists of all kinds.

 

Roses as symbols of love appear again in the Rose Trilogy. A perennial favorite for weddings, “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose” by Robert Burns exists in dozens of arrangements and folk versions.  Our setting is by American René Clausen (b. 1953), conductor of the famous Concordia Choir in Minnesota.  A composer of both sacred and secular work, his most recent recording, Life & Breath, won three Grammy awards last year. Canadian Eleanor Daley (b. 1955) composed the other two pieces for women’s voices, and they won the Canadian award for outstanding choral composition in 2004. The first contrasts passion (the red rose) with love (the white); the text is by John Boyle O’Reilly (1844-1890), an Irish nationalist poet who eventually wound up publishing a newspaper in Boston. The wrenching final piece depicts a love that withers even before it can fully bloom—the lost rose a symbol of heartbreak depicted in falling, overlapping lines that fade and die away.

 

But we close the first half with a toast to champagne. This giddy polka comes from the party scene in Die Fledermaus (1874) by Johann Strauss (1826-1899). A composer like his father, Strauss wrote over 400 waltzes, polkas, and quadrilles, as well as 16 operettas. A farce full of disguises and pranks, Fledermaus was the most popular operetta in the world in the 1870s—no mean feat in the age of Offenbach and Gilbert & Sullivan.

 

Our first piece in the second half of the concert shows that drinking songs go way back. German Renaissance composer Johann Herman Schein (1586-1630) wrote both sacred and secular music, mostly vocal and usually influenced by Italian madrigals. The word “Rundadinella” is completely made up, a simple refrain like the “fa-la-la” found in English madrigals. This song comes from a four-song collection entitled Studenten Schmaus (Student Feast), though these students seem to do much more drinking than eating.

 

Les Chansons des Roses (1993) by Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943) was the first piece we chose for this concert. Born in Washington State, Lauridsen grew up in the Portland area and attended Sunset High School. In the last fifteen years, he has become the most widely performed American choral composer in the world. He does most of his composing in an isolated cabin in the San Juan Islands, and his love of nature shines through his work. Although not all his music has explicitly religious themes, a fellow musician has described him as “the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic.” More on this extraordinary composer and his work can be found on a wonderful DVD titled Shining Night.

 

Lauridsen initially intended “Dirait-on” to sound like a simple French folk song. Passionate about poetry in many languages, he was intrigued by the image of a rose caressing itself, obsessed with its own beauty like Narcissus. But other poems from Les Roses (1924) by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) kept drawing him back. As with his Mid-Winter Songs (based on poems by Robert Graves), Lauridsen chose a few poems from the longer work and rearranged them in a new order. Musical phrases recur from one song to the next, until the piano finally melts in under the voices in “Dirait-on”—a magical effect.

 

Anything but magical, the rowdy “In taberna” comes from Carmina Burana by German composer Carl Orff (1895-1982). In 1934 Orff ran across an edition of medieval student songs, mostly in Latin, from the 11th and 12th centuries. His complete work is often performed in costume or accompanied by ballet, although the opening chorus, “O Fortuna,” can also be heard in numerous commercials. Like the piece by Schein, “In taberna” extols the revelry (and also the dangers) of drink.

 

The Mozart canon praises the pleasures of wine. Apparently based on a tune by Wenzel Trinka and composed in 1782, the original irreverent lyrics confirm the portrait of Mozart presented in the film Amadeus; the song was almost certainly meant to be sung at parties. We sing the cleaned up version that Mozart’s widow submitted to the publisher after his death.

 

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) rarely composed light-hearted music, which makes “Tafellied” (“Thank the Ladies”) very special. It is also his only work expressly composed for choir with piano (not orchestral) accompaniment. Baron Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857), considered one of the most important German Romantic poets, wrote the lyrics.  In the song, the women and men flirtatiously exchange toasts, before joining in 6-part harmony to celebrate love and wine.

 

We close with the finale from Gilbert and Sullivan’s last successful operetta, The Gondoliers (1889). In the story, one of two gondoliers (but no one knows which) is supposedly the king of Barataria, somewhere near Spain. When the Venetian men and their girlfriends reunite in Barataria, they rejoice in this festive song praising Spanish dances and wines before they all head home to Venice.

 

We wish you all a great time at the upcoming Rose Festival and look forward to seeing you again next season.

 

Susan Wladaver-Morgan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KPP_CAE_013As we approach our finals concerts of the year, it’s only natural to look back over the concert season – my 2nd as the conductor and music director of CAE. It’s been a bit of a wild year – 11 concerts in 6 different venues. And as I mentioned in my last post, singing everything from Messiah to an imitation of a banjo. We’re nothing if not flexible. We’re very excited about our final “Wine & Roses” concerts. We’ll be singing, as you might expect, songs about roses and wine – two things Portlanders hold near to their heart. OK, in the interest of full disclosure, there is one about beer, too, but that’s not far from wine in the heart of a Portlander. We’ll be singing Lauridsen, Whitacre, Brahms, Mozart, Gilbert and Sullivan, Strauss and Orff among others. We’re also happy to be partnered with the Portland Rose Festival for this event, and will be having a very special wine-tasting reception after the Saturday concert. So come out and help us kick off the Rose Festival, taste some wine (we promise we’ll wait until after the concert before we do that), listen to some music that is at times achingly beautiful, and at other times silly fun, and help us close our 45th concert season.

I’d like to thank all of you so much for your support this season and look forward to bringing you an exciting schedule of concerts next season, including a concert with renowned composer, Ola Gjeilo & Portland’s own jazz trumpeter Thomas Barber, another collaboration with the Portland Chamber Orchestra, a Music at the Movies Pops concert at the Hollywood Theater, and a Viennese Masters concert. We’ll have season tickets on sale at a 10% discount during the reception. And this whole idea of singing songs dedicated to best of Portland? We’ll revisit that. I’m thinking songs about Kombucha and Kale next time…

See you all at the concerts!

*For more info on our Wine and Roses concerts on April 26 & 27, or to reserve your tickets and receive 10% off for buying in advance, visit our website or call 503-488-3834. Tickets will also be on sale at the door at both performances.

From the Director

ImageAs we approach our CAE Pops!: The Great American Songbook concerts this weekend, I find myself laughing a bit as I think back over the repertoire so far this season.  We started in October with a very diverse set of songs about the elements – including songs about shipwrecks, storms, volcanoes (who knew these existed), and trees, among other things.  Then we sang a more traditional December concert at the grotto, and then four amazing concerts of Handel’s Messiah with the Portland Chamber Orchestra.  And now, as I look over the repertoire for this weekend, I realize how far removed it is from anything we’ve done previously.  Diverse repertoire is our hallmark, though, so in some ways, this should not surprise me.

Last February we sang choruses from Broadway and Opera, and we had a blast doing so.  And from that was born the idea of CAE Pops!  We didn’t invent the pops concert of course, and generally it is the province of orchestras.  But last year, our audience made it very clear that it works for choirs as well.  So we’re back with another one that we hope will be equally as enjoyable for you – the Great American Songbook.

Researching this one was fun!  The traditional definition of the Great American Songbook usually centers on the years 1900-1950, and many scholars deem it ending as Rock and Roll begins.  We wanted to go a bit further, particularly historically.  So we went back to the Colonial era and forward to the early 1960s.  And while the Great American Songbook is also traditionally centered on Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and film, we included folksongs, hymns, spirituals, patriotic music, jazz standards and a few other odds and ends that have helped defined music in this country.  The composer names will be familiar – Foster, Cohan, Berlin, Gershwin(s), Mancini.  So will many of the titles (I won’t list them all) – Down to the River to Pray, Oh! Susanna, Dixie, Over There, Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, I’ll Be Seeing You, Moon River…the list goes on and on.  Honestly, we could have made this a 5-day long concert with all of the great music we initially proposed!  And as with last year’s concert, we’ll feature many individual members of the choir- in solos and small groups.

Which brings us back to the opening paragraph – from Messiah in December…to imitating a banjo in March.  It’s certainly never boring around here, that’s for sure!

See you all at the concerts!

*For tickets and other important info, visit our website or email us at info@caeportland.com!

Ola-Gjeilo-Picture-1The Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland is excited to announce that composer/pianist Ola Gjeilo will be coming to Portland to perform two concerts with us on October 18 and 19, 2014.  Local trumpeter/composer Thomas Barber will also be joining us for the concerts. More details will be forthcoming!

Great American Songbook Front Reduced B

imagesIt’s hard to believe, but Messiah week is here! We are so excited to give 4 performances of Handel’s masterpiece with the Portland Chamber Orchestra and 4 fantastic local soloists at 3 different locations all over town, starting tomorrow night! If you don’t have your tickets yet, visit the Portland Chamber Orchestra’s website for all the dates, times, locations, and to secure your tickets.

Most of us in CAE have been singing in a variety of choirs for years, and therefore have many past experiences and memories involving this great work (especially with one of the most beloved and widely performed pieces in choral history, the Hallelujah chorus). We thought it would be fun to ask CAE members about some of their Messiah memories. So grab a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy!:-)

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I performed the Messiah in it’s entirety in England in (yikes) 1989.  I was a student at the University of Hull, and our choir sang it at Easter (which I think was the time the University Choir and Orchestra usually performed it at that time).  I remember finding it so odd to be singing the Hallelujah chorus in April!   -Jenny Stadler

Like many people, my first exposure to Messiah was through the Hallelujah Chorus.  This was the “alumni” piece at my high school’s Christmas concert.  It closed every Christmas concert, and all of the choir alumni in the audience were invited up to join the choir onstage and sing it.  I, however, was in the orchestra, playing trumpet.  This was my first real “orchestral” trumpet experience, having only played in wind symphonies and jazz bands until this point.  I’ll never forget the experience of sitting in the middle of all that well-intentioned sound (hey, we were high school musicians) – the choir behind me, the strings in front of me – and my first encounter with the dreaded 16th-note descending trumpet solo passage just before the sopranos start their long, held notes on “King of Kings.”  OK, I know it was only four notes, but I was 16 – these four notes terrified me!  Fortunately, they went pretty well.  A few years later, I had the opportunity to play it again on a piccolo trumpet, which, while not authentic, was at least closer to what a Baroque trumpet would have sounded like.  And, I might add, it was MUCH easier on a piccolo trumpet.  Some might call this cheating – I’m OK with this.  -David De Lyser

During my junior year in college, the choir performed various selections from the Messiah, and I was given the aria, “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion”. I was VERY nervous, as the aria lasts over 4 minutes before the choir comes in, has several fast vocal runs, and it was my very first time singing with any kind of orchestra. I knew that if I got “off” somehow, the orchestra couldn’t save me like a piano accompanist could. And I knew if that happened and it all train-wrecked, I would be ruined forever, have to change my major, and never sing again (I was 20 years old and over-dramatic; I’ve totally grown out of that now. Right.). However, when it came time to actually do it, I LOVED it. In fact, I’m sure I looked ridiculous, because it was really hard to wipe the grin off my face. But trust me–singing with an orchestra is an addicting adrenaline rush! I can’t wait to perform this entire great work with CAE! -Megan Elliott

I love the way that various pieces of music echo each other or transform what they mean when they show up in new contexts. I found one example when Choral Arts was preparing to sing The Messiah on Easter Sunday in the millennial year of 2000. That year our conductor Roger Doyle decided to use the orchestration prepared by Mozart in 1789 for the works premiere in Vienna. In researching the program notes, I discovered that Mozart added different instruments to Handel’s original mix, including flutes, trombones, tympani, and the clarinet, which hadn’t even been invented in Handel’s time. This year’s concert uses Handel’s original orchestration, but the experience definitely had an effect on Mozart: the opening notes of the “Kyrie” of his Requiem, which he composed about a year later, are a direct steal from “And with his stripes we are healed” in The Messiah. After I learned that, both Handel’s and Mozart’s two works sounded different to me, as if they were having a conversation, sometimes with their voices alternating and sometimes together. If only I knew what the conversation means.  -Susan Wladaver-Morgan

I sang for several seasons in a holiday caroling quartet at the Grotto in Portland.  My quartet fashioned an a cappella version of the Hallelujah Chorus.  It was almost true to the original, super fun to sing, and always a big hit with our audiences (people would automatically stand up when we started, just as if we were a full choir with orchestra).  One night after we finished a caroling set, a man approached; he was visibly agitated.  He stuttered, “It’s not right, what you did!!  That chorus is a sacred entity!! It was ruined!! RUINED!!”  I felt like laughing and crying at the same moment. It really brought home how very important this music is to so many people. :-) -Holly Schauer

I sang The Messiah with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Boston Symphony sometime around 1980 and the timing was particularly meaningful because the concert was at Christmas time, (reflecting the texts in part I) and then the performance was nationally broadcast just before Easter where parts II and III provided the appropriate relevance. One of my fondest memories of that performance is of a report I heard from my younger brother in Minnesota concerning his then 3 year-old son, Matt. Everyone was gathered around the television at Easter-time to watch the broadcast and see what I was doing with myself and my singing while living on the East Coast. Even though he was only 3 years old (and typically a very active kid), Matt sat quietly through the entire performance in rapt attention, exclaiming, “There’s Uncle Doug” every time the camera would find me as it panned across the chorus. As it turns out, Matt is the one of the nieces and nephews that has been most active in music and the arts and he showed that inclination very early in his life. – Doug Strickler

Christmas Day in my family meant opening presents by the fire while listening to the Messiah.  The musical tradition was started by my father, the atheist. -Anne Samuel

I first sang the Messiah my freshman year of college as an alto, and it definitely made an impression. The conductor was incredible and it was my first time performing a piece of that difficulty. I believe it was also my first time performing with an orchestra. A few years later I attended a Messiah sing-along and it was a nice bonding experience with my Dad. Since my college years I have transitioned voice types, so this will be my first time singing this wonderful piece as a soprano! – Becca Stuhlbarg

The other day while in my kitchen, I was quietly singing something from The Messiah that we will be performing next week.  One of my family members remarked:  “That sounds religious.”  I thought about this for a couple of seconds, and then replied that “It is from The Messiah, yes it’s about THAT Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Yes, that’s pretty religious.”  No response from my family member.  Just another night in my kitchen. -Elizabeth Madsen

Many years ago, when  I was singing with the Oregon Repertory Singers, we had the opportunity to perform Handel’s Dixit Dominus with John Eliot Gardiner (now Sir John Eliot Gardiner) as he made his American debut right here in Portland, Oregon.  That was in April of 1978 (actually before his “official” American debut with the Dallas Symphony in 1979).  He was just 34 at the time – a superb conductor and rising star in the musical world.  A year or so later he happened to be back in the United States and invited the Repertory Singers to join him in an informal read-through of Messiah. We were happily singing away until we came to a movement we didn’t know at all.  We completely fell apart.  Sir John was astonished  that we didn’t know choruses that are as familiar to the British as the Halleluiah Chorus is to us.  It was just unthinkable!  Things pretty much deteriorated from there, and we finally gave up and went home.  I’ll bet Choral Arts could have faked it with our usual excellent sight-reading!  -Rosemary Mitchell

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All of us at CAE would like to wish you a the happiest of holidays! We hope to see you all this week, as well!

From the Director

DeLyser.conducting2In an ordinary year, we would now be finishing up preparation for our December concert (performed twice).  This is not a bad thing, as a certain amount of ordinary is needed in order to judge what is then an extraordinary year.  This is definitely an extraordinary year.  For we are now in final preparations for not one, but five performances of two different December concerts, both of which involve new ventures and adventures for the Choral Arts Ensemble.

At 8:00 PM on December 1st, we will perform in the Chapel at the Portland Grotto as part of the Christmas Festival of Lights.  We are very excited to be singing in this amazing venue and to be a part of this wonderful holiday experience, and we hope you will come out and enjoy both the festival and our music as you wrap up the holiday weekend.  There is an admission charge to the festival itself, but once inside, all of the concerts are free.  We will be performing seasonal music taken from our last few December (and other) concerts, including O Nata Lux from Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, and Ola Gjeilo’s sublime arrangements of The First Nowell and the Holly and the Ivy.  Too often we work and work on music, perform it twice, and then put it away, and there is always a bit of sadness in that process after having spent so much time with it.  So we are very happy to be singing this amazing music again so soon!  Parts of Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols will reappear, which is only fitting, as just days ago the classical music world celebrated the 100th anniversary of Britten’s birth.  The famous Christmas text, O Magnum Mysterium will be presented in arrangements by both Lauridsen and Renaissance composer, Tomás Luis de Victoria.  We’ll end a bit playfully with Vaughan Williams’ Wassail Song.

And this is just the beginning of our extraordinary December.  For in addition to preparing the Grotto set, we have also been preparing all of the choruses from Handel’s Messiah in anticipation of our four Messiah concerts with the Portland Chamber Orchestra.  In addition to preparing the music, we are also preparing ourselves for one of the most intensive “choral” weeks any of us has had – 2 rehearsals and 4 concerts of Messiah in 7 days.  These concerts will find us at churches in Gresham and Hillsboro, and at Lewis and Clark Chapel – all new venues for us.  The holiday season and Messiah have become intrinsically linked, and we are happy to be able to present this most glorious of works to audiences all across (literally) the metro area.  As always, concert details and ticket information are available on our web site.

So let’s recap – 5 performances of 2 complete and different sets of concert repertoire in 4 completely new venues, none of which we will even see the inside of until concert night (requiring of us some rather “on the fly” adjustments to new acoustics).  It will not be a boring December.  But, we are musicians.  This is what we do.  And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Of course, this also brings up a rather salient question:  What in the world are we going to do NEXT December?

All of us here at CAE wish you the happiest of holiday seasons, and we hope to see you at the concerts!

-David De Lyser

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