About the music: This disc features four seemingly disparate composers: one from 16th century Italy, one from 20th century France, and two who have crossed the bridge from the 20th to the 21st century; one from Canada and the other from Estonia. However, their connections are significant and binding: all have a deep connection to choral music and the liturgy of the church; all were choristers first before taking up both the pen of the composer and the mantle of leadership over their own choirs; and, most importantly, all possess that particular common trait of great composers of finding a unique voice of expression while drawing on older forms and traditions.
Since much of the repertoire on this disc is contemporary music drawing on earlier forms and styles, we felt it appropriate to turn that concept around by taking a piece of early music and making it contemporary by the use of variation techniques. We begin with Palestrina’s original setting of the hymn O Bone Jesu, and then revisit this same motet in two interesting variations. In the first variation, two sopranos sing the top part (cantus) beginning eight measures into the piece, thus creating a canon which is at times consonant and at other times dissonant. In the second variation, each chorister follows the pattern of notes for each phrase, but is allowed to freely improvise the note lengths. This creates a “wash of sound” between the gathering points at the end of each successive phrase.
The text of O Bone Jesu (O good Jesus/have mercy on us/because you created us/you have redeemed us/with your most precious blood) forms fitting bookends to Summer Rain by Estonian composer Toivo Tulev. Summer Rain was written in 2006 for Tulev’s own choir, the early music ensemble Vox Clamantis. The text comes from three sources. The first is the Rorate caeli (Drop down, ye heavens, from above; and let the skies pour down righteousness – Isaiah 45:8). The second is Tulev’s own English text, which is a meditation on the cross of Christ. Tulev’s text not only contemplates Jesus’ personal anguish, but the anguish of a world trapped in sin (“The arithmetic of pain, calculation of destruction”). In the preface to the score, Tulev states: “The music was conceived and composed contemplating on the words of Jesus tortured by thirst.” This is indicated in the music by the third text: a solo soprano singing the word “sitio” (from Christ’s last words on the cross: “I thirst”).
César Geoffray was born and educated in Lyon, where he was a pupil of Florent Schmitt (who in turn was a pupil of both Massenet and Fauré). Although he was a prolific composer and teacher at the Conservatoire in Lyon, he is best remembered as the founder of an international choral federation known as À Coeur Joie, which has member choirs throughout the French-speaking world (including Québec). He is also a founding member of the International Federation for Choral Music. Geoffray’s Triptyque Marial is a beautiful setting of three Marian hymns. It is reminiscent of Geoffray’s contemporaries, Francis Poulenc and Maurice Duruflé.
Jeff Enns was born and raised in Waterloo, Ontario, and studied organ, viola and composition at Wilfred Laurier University. He has had a life-long association with choral music; he has sung with the Canadian Chamber Choir (and was their composer-in-residence) and curently signers with the Da Capo Chamber Choir and the Elora Festival Singers. He is also Director of Music at St James Lutheran Church in Elmira, Ontario. He has written for a number of groups: Conrad Grebel College, St. Mary’s RC Church Kitchener, the Menno Singers, the Inter-Mennonite Children’s Choir; we are proud to include Vox Humana among those groups now.
We present five of Jeff’s works on this recording; three have their roots in the liturgy. The Lux Aeterna is from the Communio of the Requiem (May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord, with your Saints forever, for you are kind). To You, Before the Close of the Day is a prayer from the Office of Compline, and the Ave Maria (Hail Mary, full of grace) is appropriately set for soprano solo. The remaining two works are settings of two poems: E. Pauline Johnson’s Life, and e.e. cummings’ touching i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart). Find out more about Jeff Enns at www.jeffenns.com.
Liner notes by Robert Fraser
About the Choir: Since 2002, Vox Humana has established itself as Victoria’s premier chamber choir and an ensemble of great diversity and flexibility. Their repertoire covers every historical period and style, from the earliest polyphony to contemporary commissions. Highlights of their past performances include Handel’s Dixit Dominus with the Galiano Ensemble in 2003, appearances with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in 2004 and 2006 on their Christmas Pops programme, contributions to the soundtrack for the TV documentary Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery (scored by composer Tobin Stokes), and the Victoria premiere of Video Games Live. The choir’s membership ranges from advanced-level students through to experienced professional musicians. Summer Rain is Vox Humana’s first commercial recording.
Sopranos: Kristen Birley, Natalia Heilke, Stephanie Landucci, Wendy McMillan, Eve Richardson, Annalise Smith Altos: Erin Carson, Katherine O’Connor, Kaya Fraser, Amy Konowalyk, Marita Manson, Katherine Muncaster, Sarah Quartel, Tamara Schwartzentruber Tenors: Robert Fraser, Daniel Hogg, David Monkman, Scott Vannan Basses: Connor Ashton, Geoff Espin, Ben Groom, Mark Swinehart
Brian Wismath, conductor, began his education in choral music as a chorister in the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir, under the direction of Robert Cooper. He has studied conducting in Canada, the United States and Sweden, with Bruce Chamberlain, Robert Cooper, Anders Eby, Helmuth Rilling, Dale Warland, Jon Washburn, and William Weinert. He has a Bachelor of Music from Queen’s University and a Master of Music from the University of Arizona. Brian is also the director of the University of Victoria Chamber Singers and the Victoria Conservatory of Music Chorale.
Sound Editor: Mark Franklin Sound Engineers: Richard Bailey (tracks 8-12) and Russell Dawkins (tracks 1-7). Recorded at St Barnabas Anglican Church, Victoria, British Columbia, 2011. Made in Canada.