ï¡ Fittingly, we open the Santa Barbara Quire of Voycesâ€™ 2004 offering of music for Christmas with Noel!, a four-part canon for menâ€™s voices by Steven Sametz. Based on a medieval Christmas carol text, his setting also captures much of the hearty flavor and layered structure of late-medieval English canons such as the famous â€œSumer is icumen in.â€ Steven Sametz is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Arts at Lehigh University and artistic director of the Lehigh Oxford Summer Institutes and of the a-cappella ensemble, The Princeton Singers. After completing his undergraduate studies at Yale University and at the Hochschule fÃ¼r Musik and darstellende Kunst in Frankfurt, he received the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Sametz has received commissions, including from the National Endowment for the Arts, to create new works for Chanticleer, the Dale Warland Singers, and the Pro Arte Chamber Choir, among others. His choral work In Time Of is featured on Chanticleerâ€™s Grammy Award-winning album Colors of Love.
ï¡ O come, o come, Emmanuel appeared in its modern form only in 1851, but its roots lie as early as the fifth century, or perhaps even earlier, in a series of seven Advent praises to the anticipated Messiah (called the Great Antiphons or the Great Oâ€™s: â€œO Sapientia,â€ â€œO Adonai et Dux domus Israel,â€ â€œO radix Jesse,â€ etc.) sung each evening at monastery Vespers from December 17th to 23rd. The tune, with its refrain, seems to have been a nineteenth-century confection of several medieval Kyrie melodies. The arrangers, Robert Shaw (1916â€“1999) and Alice Parker (b. 1925), are two giants of American choral music. Shaw got his start in 1938, fresh out of Pomona College, helping to organize and direct the Fred Waring Glee Club, and went on to head the choral departments at the Berkshire Music Center and Juilliard while working with Toscanini at the NBC Symphony Orchestra. From 1948â€“1965 he directed the Robert Shaw Chorale, perhaps the premier professional American chorus; in 1967 he became music director of the Atlanta Symphony. On his retirement from that post he founded the Robert Shaw Institute at Emory University in Atlanta. He was the first conductor to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship, in 1944; in 1992 he received the National Medal of Arts. His collaborator Alice Parker is a graduate of Smith College and Juilliard, where she studied with him and with Vincent Persichetti. She worked as the arranger for the Robert Shaw Chorale from 1949 to its dissolution in 1965, and taught at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Her arrangements of American folksongs and spirituals are particularly fine and well-known.
ï¡ O magnum mysterium (1994) is a fine examples of Los Angeles composer Morton Lauridsenâ€™s serenely sonorous and lyrical style. Lauridsen (b.1943) joined the USC School of Music faculty in 1967 after completing his doctoral studies in composition there. Now chair of the composition department, he is also founder of USCâ€™s advanced studies program in film and television scoring. O magnum mysterium received its premiere at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1994 with Paul Salamunovich conducting the Los Angeles Master Chorale (for which Lauridsen is Composer-in-Residence). This hushed and richly-scored work, which the composer described as â€œa quiet song of profound inner joy,â€ alternates pulsing declamation with gentle, sustained cluster-chords over which the soprano line soars and dips like a swallow in the sky above the gentle animals in attendance at the Bethlehem manger.
ï¡ Melinda Bargreen (b. 1947) started piano studies at the age of four and composing at age five. Born in Everett, Washington, she earned her bachelorâ€™s and masterâ€™s degrees from the University of Washington and a doctorate in English and Comparative Literature from UC Irvine. Bargreen has been the classical music critic of the The Seattle Times since 1977, and has contributed articles about music to Christian Science Monitor, Clavier, Opera News, Opera Canada, Musical America, American Record Guide, and Symphony magazine, among others. We present her velvety, suspended setting of The Lamb, the famous poem by William Blake (1751-1827); her evocation of the text compares favorably with other, more famous settings by John Tavener and John Rutter.
ï¡ Listeners familiar with the music of Victoria and Morales might be forgiven the impression that all Spanish music is somber. In the spirit of disproving this one-sided view, we hope you enjoy these two sixteenth-century villancicos, jaunty religious refrain-songs in a popular or rustic style which share many characteristics (such as the refrain/verse structure) with the English carol and the Italian frottola and which showcase the lighter side of Spanish Renaissance sensibility. The anonymous Riu riu chiu, from the sixteenth-century Cancionero of the Duke of Calabria, is perhaps the most famous villancico ever written; both it and Verbum caro factum est: Y la virgen le dezia, with its â€˜macaronicâ€™ text mixing Latin and Spanish, first appeared in print in the collection Villancicos de diversos autores (Venice, 1556).
ï¡ The self-taught composer Javier Busto was born in Hondarribia in the Basque country of Spain in 1949. He studied medicine at Valladolid University, but since the 1970s has devoted himself to choral music, both as a composer and as director of several Basque choirs, including Kanta Cantemus Koroa, which has gained renown throughout Europe. He has also served on the jury of composition and choral competitions in Spain, France, Italy and Japan. In his Ave Maria, as in his other compositions, Busto favors chant-like melodies and rich, modal harmonies which coalesce in gentle clusters reminiscent of John Tavener or Arvo PÃ¤rt.
ï¡ Daughter of a musical family (her father played trombone in the Vilnius Opera Theater Orchestra, one brother is organist of the Vilnius Cathedral and another the cellist in the Lithuanian String Quartet), Lithuanian composer Kristina Vasiliauskaite (b.1956) studied musicology and composition at the Lithuanian Academy of Music, graduating in 1980; she has taught since 1983 at the Ciurlionis Art School in the capital city of Vilnius. A nexus for Lithuanian, eighteenth-century Polish and nineteenth-century Russian influences, Vilnius has also been the center of Lithuanian nationalism since early in the twentieth century. Almost all the important institutions of Lithuanian musical life are located there, as is the oldest university in northeastern Europe (founded in 1579). Given its close historical association with Polandâ€”with which it was united in a loose commonwealth from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuriesâ€”Lithuania remained Catholic after the Reformation period. The countryâ€™s musical culture has variously been oriented toward Poland, eastern Germany, and (especially during the period of its annexation by the USSR, 1944â€“1991) Russia; until the 1960s, almost all its leading composers had studied at the Warsaw, Leipzig, or St. Petersburg conservatories. More recently, excellent training has been available at the conservatories in Kaunas (the historic capital) and Vilnius. Vasiliauskaiteâ€™s compositions include an orchestral sinfonietta, a cello sonata, a chamber sonata and fantasia for organ, and numerous choral works. The four movements of her 1995 Missa brevis in honorem Beatae Mariae Virginis (a missa brevis is a musical setting of the Mass which omits the Creed) share a harmonic palette of lush chromatic chords and similar key relationships, but also are sensitively differentiated according to the spirit of their texts (the Gloria employing pulsingly ecstatic rhythms, the Sanctus featuring a serene chantlike alto line supported by tenor and bass and adorned by a soprano descant, the particularly lovely Agnus Dei dreamily alternating womenâ€™s and menâ€™s voices as the dark harmonies slowly unfold).
ï¡ Born in 1943 in Ventspils, Latvia, Imant Raminsh emigrated to Canada in 1948. After earning a diploma in violin at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Toronto, he spent two years at the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, studying composition, fugue, violin and conducting, and playing in the professional Camerata Academica orchestra. His music has been heard in such world-renowned halls as Carnegie Hall, Tchaikovsky Hall (Moscow), Canterbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame de Paris and Santa Maria delâ€™Fiore (Florence). Raminsh has also pursued studies in geology and biology, and worked for many summers as a naturalist and interpreter in provincial parks in British Columbia. Raminshâ€™s setting of the antiphon for the foot-washing ceremony on Maundy Thursday, Ubi caritas, features smooth chant-like melodies (with here and there a quote of the actual Gregorian antiphon tune), richly modal harmonies, and lilting changes of meter; it was commissioned by the Anglican Cathedral of St. George (Kingston, Ontario) to celebrate its bicentennial in 1992.
ï¡ Charles Wood (1866â€”1926) was an Anglo-Irish composer and composition teacher, deeply interested in folksong and early English music, who played a central role in the twentieth-century English musical renaissance. He held teaching positions at the Royal Conservatory of Music, London (where his important students included Herbert Howells), and at Cambridge University, where he composed the chimes for the clock of Gonville and Caius College and eventually succeeded Sir Charles Stanford as professor of music. While at Cambridge he taught William Harris, Michael Tippett, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, who said his teacher was â€œrather prone to laugh at artistic ideals, and [gave the impression that] composing was a trick anyone might learn if he took the trouble.â€ Wood is now chiefly remembered for his fine Anglican service music. Blessed Be That Maid Marie, a marriage of a fifteenth-century macaronic text (English mixed with Latin) and the traditional English morris-dance tune â€˜Staines Morris,â€™ first appeared in Woodâ€™s Cowley Carol Book in 1901.
ï¡ Peter Warlock (1894â€“1930) was born Philip Heseltine, scion of a well-to-do Welsh family of solicitors, stockbrokers and art connoisseurs. Schooling at Eton and Oxford was followed by a brief and unsatisfying stint as music critic of the London Daily Mail. In 1915 he entered the orbit of D.H. Lawrence, with whom he began planning to found a utopian community in the United States; when their friendship soured, he returned to bohemian circles in London, where he involved himself with composer-critic Cecil Gray in high-minded schemes for the â€˜regenerationâ€™ of English music. A conscientious objector, Heseltine fled to Dublin in 1917 to escape the draft for World War I; while in Ireland he became involved in the occult, which suggested to him the pseudonym he would use for his future compositions and journalistic activities. After his return to England in 1918 he was involved in various enterprises (composing songs, founding the controversialist music journal The Sackbut, writing books on the music of Delius and Gesualdo, producing large numbers of early music editions) but met with only limited success. Although the Delius Festival of 1929, which he helped organize at the invitation of the prominent conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, was a triumph, Warlockâ€™s outlook on life became increasingly bleak. He was found dead of an apparent suicide by gas poisoning in his Chelsea apartment on December 17, 1930. Bethlehem Down is among a group of songs and choral works which Warlock composed to texts by his friend, the journalist and bon vivant Bruce Blunt. They seem essentially to have been drinking buddies, and Blunt recalled later that both the words and the music of Bethlehem Down were hastily composed to raise Christmas beer money. (That such an exquisite miniature should have been produced under such utilitarian, even crude, circumstances strikes a salutary blow against rose-colored notions about the necessarily noble origins of noble art.) Warlockâ€™s perfectly paced, slow-moving harmonies and Bluntâ€™s poem, which seems to place the manger scene among Englandâ€™s green and pleasant hills, perfectly complement each otherâ€™s mood of quiet mystery.
ï¡ The sumptuous double-chorus motet Bring Us, O Lord God (on a visionary passage by seventeenth-century Anglican divine, John Donne in his fifteenth published sermon) is one of the finest of many fine works by the gifted organist-composer Sir William Harris (1883â€“1973). Recipient of an organ scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1899, he studied with Stanfordâ€™s colleagues Charles Wood and Walford Davies, and assisted the latter as organist at the Temple Church in London. Positions in London, at Lichfield Cathedral, and at New College, Oxford were followed by an appointment as professor of harmony and organ at his alma mater, the RCM, in 1921 (where he continued to teach until 1953). In 1929 he left New College for Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and from there he moved to St. Georgeâ€™s Chapel at Windsor Castle, which post he retained until 1961. As a choirmaster he concentrated his energies on small professional choirs rather than large amateur ones; as a composer, he enriched and expanded the conservative Anglican style which he inherited. In addition to its rich use of the double-choir idiom and harmonic shifts whose seamlessness masks their daring, Bring Us, O Lord God embodies those qualities of noble melancholy and wistful poise which are a particular beauty of much conservative twentieth-century Anglican music.
ï¡ William Walton (1902-1983), the major English composer between Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten, is best known for his orchestral works and his film scores for the Sir Laurence Olivier Shakespeare films. He steered his musical style on an individualistic course between the twentieth-century musical poles of Schoenberg and Stravinsky, retainingâ€”even though he lived most of his adult life in Italyâ€”a strong sense of the traditions of English music. We offer the anthem Set Me As a Seal upon Thine Heart (1938) and the carol What Cheer? (composed in 1961 on a text from Richard Hillâ€™s sixteenth-century Commonplace Book) which showcase his elegant but idiosyncratic vocal part-writing, arching melodic lines, and admirable formal concision.
ï¡ The English composer and teacher Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988) began his musical life as a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral. At Queenâ€™s College, Oxford, he studied classics and music composition, and in 1951 he won the Mendelssohn Scholarship, which enabled him to study in Rome with Petrassi. Other awards included the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize (twice, in 1950 and 1951), the Busoni Prize (1956), the Trieste Prize (1965), and the Cobbett Medal (1968). After positions at the universities of Leeds and Edinburgh, Leighton returned to Oxford in 1968 as a Fellow of Worcester College and lecturer in music. He earned his doctorate there in 1970, and in the same year was appointed Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh University. He was made an honorary doctor of the University of St. Andrews in 1977 and a Fellow of the Royal College of Music (FRCM) in 1982. Leightonâ€™s music offers an engaging balance of classicism and romanticism, manifest in his highly lyrical melodic idiom, dynamic rhythms, colorful orchestration and virtuosic solo writing. After early explorations of serialism, he came to a mellower diatonicism with an emphasis on resonant sonorities and an intricate, often fugal use of counterpoint, especially in his works for chorus. In the last works there is an added visionary energy and opulence, with sonorities reminiscent of Messiaen. Beyond his large number of sacred works, Leighton demonstrated a concern with religious themes by a frequent use of plainsong, chorales and chants as thematic resources. His approach to the famous text from the fifteenth-century Pageant of Shearman and Tailors in the city of Coventry , Lully lulla thou little tiny child (from Three Carols, op.25), foregoes the traditional tune and strophic form in favor of a through-composed setting which gives each verse its own colorful expression.
ï¡ John Paynter (b.1931) received his music degree from Trinity College, London in 1952. In 1969, following various college lectureships, he began teaching at the University of York (where he earned his doctorate in 1970); he served as Chair of the Music Department there from 1983 to 1994, retiring in 1997. Aside from his many musical compositions, he is the author of the celebrated compositional text â€œSound and Silenceâ€ (1970) and of several books on music education and curriculum. With Paynter â€™s plaintive and mystical The Rose (1969), we are brought at first into an austere, semi-static sound-world, which is then progressively warmed and enriched and shot through with transient bursts of color; it is an effect in music analogous to the architectural effect of those glowing, fragmentary stained-glass windows set in the cold cement walls of Le Corbusierâ€™s radical modernist chapel, Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp.
ï¡ Much of the recent success of choral music in English-speaking countries can be attributed to the efforts and compositions of popular British composer Sir John Rutter (b. 1945). Sir John began his musical life as a choirboy at the Highgate School in London, where he absorbed the Anglican choral legacy as embodied in traditions such as Advent Lessons and Carols. He continued his musical training at Clare College, Cambridge, where he came into contact with the great English carol arranger Sir David Willcocks (whom he later joined as co-editor of the Oxford Carols for Choirs series), who encouraged his development as a composer and arranger. After teaching at the University of Southampton and at his alma mater, Rutter founded his own choral ensemble (the Cambridge Singers) in 1981, in order balance his activities in composition and performance, and also to have a vehicle to premiere his own works. His style combines the British choral idiom of Holst, Vaughan Williams, and Britten with the continental legacy of FaurÃ© and DuruflÃ©. Sir John is widely active as a guest conductor and workshop director, and his music is prized for its tunefulness and singer-friendly writing. While some of his larger works have become standard (The Falcon, Requiem), he is best known for his church anthems and carol arrangements, such as his lovely arrangement of the Anglo-Irish Wexford Carol, named after the Irish county where it was first collected.
ï¡ Traditions are an integral part of the Christmas season, and one of the Quireâ€™s favorites is to close our holiday concert with a version of the beloved Christmas chestnut, Silent Night. Penned for Christmas Eve, 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber (1787â€“1863), a provincial church-musician of Upper Austria whose other 190 compositions rest in obscurity, the LÃ¤ndler-like tune was originally composed for two voices with guitar accompaniment. Our lush, post-Debussy arrangement was prepared in 1948 by Sir Malcolm Sargent (1895â€“1967), who for many years was a fixture of English concert life as an organist, orchestral conductor (London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, and chief conductor of the Proms Concerts from 1948 till his death), choral conductor (Royal Choral Society, Huddersfield Choral Society), and opera conductor (most notably in his work on Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with the Dâ€™Oyly Carte Company).
The Quire of Voyces is a non-profit organization dedicated to the performance of sacred choral music in historic settings. The Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces was founded in 1993 by Nathan J. Kreitzer, Director of Choral and Vocal Activities, and Music Department Chairman at Santa Barbara City College. The annually auditioned volunteer group, made up of professional singers from the Central coast area, is dedicated to the highest quality performances of the sacred choral music of the Renaissance and 20th Century, in historic settings. It gives ten concerts annually, and has been featured several times on The First Art, a production of Chorus America on National Public Radio, as well as on Radio KDB 93.7 and KEYT-TV of Santa Barbara. The ensemble has appeared as part of the Midwinter Music Festival, the Gotland Medieval Festival in Visby, Sweden, and at the Music Academy of the West. The enthusiastically received performance in Visby (June 2000) was the highlight of a concert tour that featured performances in seven other cities including Kalmar (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia) and Copenhagen (Denmark). The success of this tour inspired Nathan Kreitzer and the Quireâ€™s Board of Directors to plan for a tour in the year 2003 to Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Most recently the ensemble has been asked to perform with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra in performances of Mozart's "Requiem" and J.S. Bach's "Bminor Mass". The Quire of Voyces is host to a major annual education and outreach event for high school choruses from throughout California. This Chamber Choir Festival introduces young singers to the literature and performance of great choral music. The choirs are adjudicated by three of Californiaâ€™s most highly respected professional choir directors.