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Concert Program

"Modern Madrigals"


Bob Chilcott


Ulysses Kay


Adolphus Hailstork

W. Aaron Rice

Morten Lauridsen

Reena Esmail


Fire! Fire!

A Madrigal

The Silver Swan

Look and Listen*

Amor, Io Sento L'alma

Together at Last

*World Premiere

Past Performances

Fire! Fire! From Little Jazz Madrigals by Bob Chilcott (b. 1955)

Fire, fire! My heart!

Fa la la la.

O help, alas! Ah me!

I sit and cry me,

And call for help, alas,

but none comes nigh me!

Fa la la la.

O, I burn me! Alas!

Fa la la la.

I burn, alas, I burn! Ah me!

Will none come quench me?

O cast, cast water on,

alas, and drench me!

Fa la la la.


- Thomas Morley (1558 - 1602)

Program notes:

The final of four works in a collection of Jazz Madrigals, Chilcott takes this Morley text and injects it with energy and flair. The urgent rolling tempo captures the text's calamity and titular call of 'Fire, fire!', also expressed by a walking bassline that continually drives towards the work's emphatic conclusion. The movement is replete with Jazz extended harmonies and rhythmic figures, and juxtaposes the intensity of each stanza with light, playful settings of the "fa la la la" sections of the text.

A Madrigal by Ulysses Kay (1917 - 1995)


Dream days of fond delight and hours
As rosy–hued as dawn, are mine.
Love’s drowsy wine,
Brewed from the heart of Passion flowers,
Flows softly o’er my lips
And save thee, all the world is in eclipse.

There were no light if thou wert not;
The sun would be too sad to shine,
And all the line
Of hours from dawn would be a blot;
And Night would haunt the skies,
An unlaid ghost with staring dark–ringed eyes.

Oh, love, if thou wert not my love,
And I perchance not thine—what then?
Could gift of men
Or favor of the God above,
Plant aught in this bare heart
Or teach this tongue the singer’s soulful art?

Ah, no! ‘Tis love, and love alone
That spurs my soul so surely on;
Turns night to dawn,
And thorns to roses fairest blown;
And winter drear to spring—
Oh, were it not for love I could not sing!

- Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 –1906)


Program Notes: 

Ulysses Simpson Kay attended the University of Arizona for his undergraduate degree and went to the Eastman School of Music for his graduate work under Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers. Later, for a formative year of study, he followed Paul Hindemith to Yale. Near the end of his life, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Arizona. In this setting of a Paul Laurence Dunbar text, Kay's wide gamut of compositional skills are on display. From the homophonic, heartfelt tonal opening to the renaissance-like point of imitation polyphony, to extended tonal harmonic language and deep, dark dissonances, Kay shows his masterful control of compositional devices. This setting of Dunbar's text perpetuates in a Ternary form, with each stanza being given different treatment and recapitulating opening material towards its conclusion.  

The Silver Swan from Two Madrigals by Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941)


The silver swan, who living had no note,
When death approached, unlocked her silent throat;
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sang her last, and sang no more:
“Farewell, all joys; Oh death, come close mine eyes;
More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.”

- Orlando Gibbons (1583 - 1625)

Program notes: 

A famous text also famously used by Gibbons himself for his own Madrigal, Hailstork here pays homage to the work's 16th-century roots. An early composition (written while in college) from the proflic composer, Hailstork combined his own language with his love for choral literature to create a piece reminiscent of the Renaissance with a modern flair. The harmonic language harkens back to a hexachordal modality of the 16th century, uses an unaccompanied SATB choir, and employs varied moments of imitative polyphony and homophony. This short work culminates in the text "and sang her last" in an explosive moment of emotion before coming to a somber, yet satisfactory conclusion.

Look and Listen from Municipal Madrigals by W. Aaron Rice (b. 1992)​​

This piece is a World Premiere by the Neoteric Chamber Choir

Look and Listen

Within these vast granite walls

are the sounds of Yosemite's year-round residents

The raucous call of the Steller's Jay

or Clark's nutcracker

or maybe the distant rhythmic booming of the Male Blue Grouse

trying to attract a mate.

Look and listen

if you stay long enough

you might hear a golden eagle above

- Yosemite National Park

Program Notes: 

In the second work of this set commissioned by director Dane Carten, Dr. Rice continues his saga of slightly humorous, yet powerful settings of mundane texts found throughout modern life. Here, Rice features educational prose found at Yosemite National Park describing the sounds of wildlife within the park. The piece opens with a slow intonation of the titular text, inviting you to appreciate the austerity of wide-open natural spaces. This is accompanied by spatial piano chords, paired meditative choral homophony, and a general sense of serenity. Actual recordings of the birds mentioned in the text set the scene for the choral interpretation: "If you listen long enough, you might hear a Golden Eagle above". The second section evokes bird calls with grace note figures in the piano and clashing dissonances in the choir, before winding down to a return of the opening material. Bird calls featured in this performance were made available by the National Parks Service and the avid birders contributing to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. 

Amor, io sento l'alma from Madrigali by Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943)


Italian                                                          English

Amor io sento l'alma
Tornar' nel foco ov'io
Fu liet'et più che mai d'arder desio,
et più che mai d'arder desio.
S'tu mi reacend'il core,
Et io ne son contenta
Et ritorn'humilment'al giogh'antico
Opra ch'el mio signore
Parre del foco senta
Ov'io dolc'ardo ci mei pensier' nutrico;
Fa che ponga in oblio
Mia fugh'e dilli e mio novo desio,
e dilli e mio novo desio.

- Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 - 1527)

Program notes:

Madrigali, originally performed in Los Angeles in 1988, comprises of six ‘Fire Songs’ on Italian Renaissance poems composed by Morten Lauridsen for an a cappella SATB mixed voices choir. Each of the six poems in the cycle contains romantic references to fire, and the music is unified by manipulations of a sonority called the ‘Fire-Chord’, which opens the first piece of the set and is found extensively throughout. Setting text from the infamous Machiavelli, Lauridsen creates a driving sensation of a living flame through mixed meter and dizzying harmonic shifts. The largely binary form of the piece relates to a churning fire or the ever-lasting burn of desire in a poetic sense. Voices frequently enter in imitative polyphony and utilize simultaneous cross-relations, paying homage to the 16th-century Madrigal.

Together at Last from Quarantine Madrigals by Reena Esmail (b. 1986)

Together at last

Voices entwining in a

Communion of song

- Reena Esmail

Program Notes:


Composed in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the title of the larger work from which this piece derives is a play on the "Florentine Madrigal". Though largely meant to be performed virtually and seeing seminal recordings from groups like Conspirare, the Quarantine Madrigals can find a place in the concert hall as well. Throughout the collection, Esmail creates a contrast in texture by the addition, or loss of, voices creating a chiastic structure around the middle piece. Both the first and final pieces of the collection contain all voices of the ensemble to be sung together - with "Together at Last" as a perpetual canon. Esmail's compositional skills are on full display in this piece, her canon exemplifying a beautiful and simultaneously simple yet complex piece of music with a deep pathos.

My love, I feel my soul
Coming back to the fire, where I
Was happy, and more than ever I wish to burn,
And more than ever I wish to burn.
If again you set my heart on fire,
And I'm happy of it
And humbly go back to the ancient yoke,
Let my master
Feel that fire too
Where I burn and my thoughts nourish;
Let him forget
My escape, and tell him about my new wish
And tell him about my new wish.

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