Greetings readers! We’re now less than 2 weeks away from our concerts with composer Ola Gjeilo, and we couldn’t be more excited to bring one of the most popular composers today to Portland and share his beautiful music with all of you! One of those pieces is called “Dark Night of the Soul”, and although the music is new, the text is centuries old! Here to give you some background on this text by St. John of the Cross is one of our longtime members, and author of our program notes and other informative blog posts, Susan Wladaver-Morgan!


“Dark Night of the Soul.” The phrase sounds so forbidding. It can conjure up images of being abandoned in a hostile universe or trapped inside your mind, alone with your own private demons. For many, the dark night appears as a crisis of faith, sometimes triggered by loss or illness, when everything you had trusted in suddenly collapses into doubt and God feels very far away. And no one seems to be immune from such crises—even people like Mother Theresa experienced her own dark time of doubt and alienation.

But amazingly, the original poem “Dark Night of the Soul,” by 16th-century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, overflows with anticipation and ends with joy as the soul escapes its mortal body to join with God. Here the soul ventures out of its “house” into the dark night, secretly, feeling no fear and guided in its journey by the blazing light of love. Yes, the night is dark and full of hardships, but faith leads the soul safely through all of them to a union with God. The two pieces by Ola Gjeilo that we will perform reflect the two parts of the original poem: “Dark Night” represents the soul’s journey, while “Luminous Night” reveals the soul’s fulfillment.

St. John of the Cross (Juan de la Cruz) was a major figure in the Counter-Reformation (the Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation) in Spain. Born around 1542, he joined the Carmelite Order as a friar in 1563 and continued his religious studies at Salamanca, where one of his teachers, Fray Luis de León, translated the Song of Songs into Spanish at a time when the Church forbade rendering the Bible in vernacular languages; John would later compose his sacred poetry in Spanish as well. He was ordained a priest in 1567 and intended to join a contemplative order.

However, that same year he met a Carmelite nun, Teresa de Jesus, who was on her way to found a new convent for women. They spoke about her plans for reforming the Carmelite Order, returning it to the “Primitive Rule” under which it had been founded in 1209. This Rule was extremely strict, involving long periods of silence, fasting, and other deprivations, including going barefoot (which led to her followers being called Discalced, or shoeless, Carmelites). She believed such reforms were necessary to reverse what she saw as corruption in the existing church, and she persuaded John to follow her lead. In 1568 he founded a monastery for friars based on Teresa’s principles and changed his name to John of the Cross. By the early 1570s, he was serving as spiritual director for both this monastery and for Teresa’s convent.

Sometime in the mid-1570s, he had a mystical vision of Christ crucified, seen from above, which he rendered in a drawing (this in turn inspired Salvador Dali’s famous painting. The same period saw growing tensions in the Carmelite Order over the new reforms. These culminated in 1576 when the governing body of the Order in Rome agreed on the total suppression of the Discalced Order, although the edict was not thoroughly enforced in Spain. Nevertheless, in 1577, a group of anti-reform Carmelites broke into John’s home, arrested and tortured him, and imprisoned him in a tiny cell. These were the circumstance in which he composed “Dark Night of the Soul” and his Spiritual Canticle, the paper smuggled to him by the friar who guarded his cell. He escaped in August 1578 and went on to found several more Discalced monasteries, which he could do safely once the papacy ruled that both Carmelite Orders could exist under their own rules. He died in 1591 and was canonized in 1726.

St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila were known in their lifetimes as dedicated (or stubborn, depending on your point of view) reformers of the Carmelite Order—indeed, what we would now call activists. But history treasures them for their mysticism and their glowing visions of the soul going far beyond this world toward union with God.

-Susan Wladaver-Morgan

*Visit our website to purchase tickets to our upcoming concerts on Oct. 18 and 19! Adults and seniors, you can save up to 15% on our at-the-door prices by purchasing ticket in advance. All students with ID will be admitted for just $5!

After much planning and anticipation, we’re thrilled to announce our 46th season, which is practically overflowing with variety, excitement, and most importantly, wonderful music! Although our website is currently undergoing maintenance, tickets (both season and individual) are currently on sale on our Brown Paper Ticket page!

Luminous Night of the Soul: The Music of Ola Gjeilo, with special guest Ola Gjeilo and Thomas Barber.

Saturday, October 18 @ 8:00 pm

Sunday, October 19 @ 3:00 pm

St. Philip Neri, 2408 SE 16th Ave, Portland (map)

This concert will feature internationally-renowned composer Ola Gjeilo and local trumpeter Thomas Barber.  Both will accompany CAE in a selection of Mr. Gjeilo’s choral works.  Mr. Gjeilo will also perform some of his solo piano literature.

CAE at the Grotto

Sunday, November 30th, 8:00 p.m.

The Grotto, 8840 NE Skidmore St., Portland (map)

CAE is pleased to be singing as part of the Grotto’s annual Christmas Festival of Lights. We will be performing a variety of seasonal music by Lauridsen, Gjeilo, Gorecki and Rutter, as well as traditional carols. Admission to the concert is free with paid admission into the Festival of Lights. Please see the Grotto’s web site for details http://www.thegrotto.org/.


Handel’s Messiah/Judas Maccabaeus with Portland Chamber Orchestra

Wednesday, Dec. 17 @ 7:30 p.m., St. Henry Catholic Church, 346 NW 1st St, Gresham (map)

Friday, Dec. 19 @ 7:30 p.m., St. Matthew Catholic Church, 447 SE 3rd Ave, Hillsboro (map)

Saturday, Dec 20 @ 7:30 p.m. St Andrew Catholic Church, 806 NE Alberta St, Portland (map)

Sunday, Dec. 21 @ 3:00 p.m. Lewis & Clark Chapel, 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Rd, Portland (map)

CAE will once again join forces with the Portland Chamber Orchestra and a stellar line up of guest soloists.  This year selections from Handel’s Messiah and Judas Maccabaeus will be performed.


CAE Pops! Music at the Movies

Saturday, February 21 @ 7:30 pm

Hollywood Theater, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland (map)

In our 3rd annual pops concert, CAE will perform music from the best of Hollywood, complete with film clips!


Viennese Masters

Saturday, April 18 @ 7:30 pm

Sunday, April 19 @ 3:00 pm

Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave, Portland (map)

In our final concert of the season, we pay tribute to the great composers who called Vienna home, including Brahms, Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and others.


And now, artistic director David De Lyser will be giving you a brief overview of what we have planned for all of these performances. Dig in, enjoy, and remember to reserve your tickets!


I’m excited. I hope after you read this that you will be as well. Our 46th season, and my third with the group, is about to begin, and I am at a bit of a loss for words on how to describe it. Over 10 concerts in 8 different venues, we will collaborate with an internationally-renowned composer, a local professional jazz musician, one of the finest chamber orchestras in the Northwest, the historic Hollywood Theater and the Portland Rose Festival. Here’s what’s in store…

In October, we are very honored to be able to present the music of Norwegian-born Ola Gjeilo, with Mr. Gjeilo himself accompanying us, along with his good friend and local trumpeter Thomas Barber. I first came across the music of Ola Gjeilo in 2008. His music was already starting to get people’s attention, and the last 6 years have seen his popularity grow exponentially. He was the composer in residence with Grammy-award winning Phoenix Chorale and their 2012 recording of his choral works, Northern Lights, was named as one of the best classical vocal albums of the year. His music has now been performed by choirs all over the world. But “classical” is not the best way to describe his music. He draws inspiration from movies and cinematic music, as well as popular and jazz music on which he was raised. Perhaps the Houston Press said it best – his music is a “…film score waiting to happen.” In the composer’s own words, it’s “concert music – but in a kind of cinematic style.” To that I would add sweeping, dramatic, and absolutely gorgeous. And he’ll be right here. Sitting at the piano. Playing both written and improved accompaniment as we sing his music. In case you’ve bought into the myth that the only good “classical” music is old classical music, I highly encourage you to attend one of these concerts, and experience for yourself the power and beauty of contemporary choral music.

As we head into the holiday season, we look forward to once again collaborating with the Portland Chamber Orchestra and an amazing lineup of soloists for four performances of music from Handel’s Messiah and Judas Maccabaeus. Concerts will be held in Gresham, Hillsboro, Northeast Portland and at Lewis and Clark College. This is music that stirs the soul. There’s a reason it is still performed going on 300 years after it was composed. Choral singers talk about the “it” moment – that undefinable state of consciousness and connection between conductor, choir (in this case also orchestra) and audience that great music allows for. Perhaps transcendent is perhaps the best way to describe it. But it’s one of the reasons we do this. Last year’s Messiah concerts with the PCO had many such “it” moments. I know this year’s performances will as well.

In our 3rd annual CAE Pops! Concert, we’re heading to Hollywood! In every sense of the word. We’ll be performing music from the movies at the Historic Hollywood Theater, complete with clips and stills from the movies themselves. This promises to be a fun evening of some of the best choral music composed and adapted for film.

In our final concert series, we revisit some of the classical choral repertoire that is near and dear to our hearts, including Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer, and works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and others who called Vienna home, however briefly. These are works that got many of us into choral singing, and like Handel, they continue to inspire both audiences and singers centuries after they were composed.

So we hope you will come out to the concerts this year and let the music enrich and entertain you. That’s why we’re here. And now it’s time for us to get to work.

David De Lyser
Artistic Director
Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland

*Individual and season tickets are on sale here, or call 503-488-3834

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!


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


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