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Concert Program


Arr. Ethan Sperry


David Lang 





Dane Carten 


Giselle Wyers

Shawn Kirchner 

Past Performances


The Little Match GIrl Passion

       II - It Was Terribly Cold

       III - Dearest Heart

       IV - In an Old Apron


The Waking

On My Way

*World Premeire

Desh, arr. Ethan Sperry


Program Notes: 

India has a rich and deep musical tradition dating back thousands of years. Like the West, India has a large and structured set of music schools and conservatories whereby students learn to become virtuosos from a young age. Unlike the West, however, Indian musical training revolves around aural tradition and improvisation – something that Ethan Sperry in his arrangement of Desh employs liberally. Desh is an Indian Raga, which are effectively arranged modes often beginning with an allap or a slow, introductory section to later be juxtaposed with a faster, more improvisatory section. Sperry’s allap is a lullaby: chanting over the word “Mola” or “sleep” in a seven-beat cycle as the choir performs vocal percussion to emulate Dumbek drumming, and overtone singing to simulate the droning effect of a shruti box. Both sections utilize Sollakattu (sometimes known as ta-ka-di-mi) syllables; a pedagogical tool used in India to teach rhythms, and the second half of the piece sees expanded use of the Raga and fast, syncopated rhythms. 


Selections from The Little Match Girl Passion, David Lang



"It was terribly cold and nearly dark on the last evening of the old year, and the snow was falling fast. In the cold and the darkness, a poor little girl, with bare head and naked feet, roamed through the streets. It is true she had on a pair of slippers when she left home, but they were not of much use. They were very large, so large, indeed, that they had belonged to her mother, and the poor little creature had lost them in running across the street to avoid two carriages that were rolling along at a terrible rate. One of the slippers she could not find, and a boy seized upon the other and ran away with it, saying that he could use it as a cradle, when he had children of his own. So the little girl went on with her little naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the cold. So the little girl went on. So the little girl went on."


"Dearest heart
Dearest heart
What did you do that was so wrong?
What was so wrong?
Dearest heart
Dearest heart
Why is your sentence so hard?"


"In an old apron she carried a number of matches, and had a bundle of them in her hands. No one had bought anything of her the whole day, nor had anyone given her even a penny. Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along; poor little child, she looked the picture of misery. The snowflakes fell on her long, fair hair, which hung in curls on her shoulders, but she regarded them not."

Program notes: 

ang’s minimalist composition centers on Hans Christian Anderson’s 1845 children’s story, which depicts the dreams and visions of an impoverished child who freezes to death while selling matches on a street corner; her soul is then carried to heaven by her grandmother. Lang’s musical setting of the story works to, in his own words, depict the “shocking combination of danger and morality” in the narrative, drawing out the motifs of “horror and beauty” in the story, which are “constantly suffused with their opposites.” Anderson’s original text invokes Christian Ideology, though without Biblical scripture. Lang was, however, inspired by the broader historical tradition of musical Passions, which utilized texts from the Gospels to depict the final days of Christ. Lang goes so far as to paraphrase text from the libretto of Bach’s 1727 Saint Matthew Passion, placing it into a more secular context. Lang utilizes repeated melodic cells in the alto voice as the fabric of his work, featured prominently in the selections chosen for this concert. The combination of Glockenspiel and voices adds a childlike innocence, and a haunting reminder of the story’s conclusion.

Forgiveness, Dane Carten


"Show me eyes like scars

to soothe and seethe the thoughts

thrice far and smoothly breathe

           calm vision light - ajar and free,

this vision gift that's deep as dust,

and hard as feather leaves;

              sweet nectar light of lust and color


              this stroke of sight's delivery."​​

Program notes:

As I was searching for text for a new composition in 2019, I stumbled upon a long-time friend’s poetry book and devoured it. Emanuel Wolff’s MooNlight HoWling spoke to me in its dark corners, surrealist takes on reality and visceral accounts of battles with mental illness and the struggle of existence therein. Forgiveness especially so; the first stanza of which painted an image of loss, of regret, and of reconciliation. My composition then took on a programmatic aspect – coming off the back of a rather volatile end to a long-term relationship, where the final moments were tear-filled and impassioned. The structure of the piece is somewhat antiquated, recalling the imitative texture of 17th-century motets which I saw as vignettes, each motive as the recall of a memory. motives, then, would need to be built upon and recalled, as reminiscences mounted. The building to, and climax of, the work feels like an explosion of emotion; the final death knell before forgiving someone for a tumultuous love, and the quiet ending (cadencing in a different key than we started in) as giving up the ghost, and pressing forward into a new chapter.

The Waking, Giselle Wyers​​

"I strolled across

An open field;

The sun was out;

Heat was happy.


This way! This way!

The wren's throat shimmered,

Either to other,

The blossoms sang.


The stones sang,

The little ones did,

And the flowers jumped

Like small goats.


A ragged fringe

Of daisys waved;

I wasn't alone

In a grove of apples.


Far in the wood

A nestling sighed;

The dew loosened

Its morning smells.


I came where the river

Ran over stones:

My ears knew

An early joy.


And all the waters

Of all the streams

Sang in my veins

That summer day."

Program Notes: 

This delightful setting of Theodore Roethke's poem “I Strolled Across and Open Field” gloriously describes awakening to the beauties and wonders of nature. A departure from the gloom of winter and loss of love, The Waking in this set acts as the optimism born from the rebirth and blooming aspects of spring. Giselle Wyers’ setting amplifies these effects with a bouncy, compound meter underpinning much of the work, and a lilting, almost nostalgic theme introduced in the short piano opening and echoed by the sopranos and altos in unison. Her modal harmonic language coupled with highly satisfying use of chromatic alterations and resolutions helps solidify the image of the renewing abilities of spring. Ostinato juxtaposed with powerful, declamatory text setting build to a massive climax with rising melodic lines whereby one could imagine a timelapse of a flower budding and opening its petals to the greater world outside.

On My Way, Shawn Kirchner​​

"When I am gone 

Don't you cry for me
Don't you pity my sorry soul
What pain there might have been

Will now be passed

And my spirit will be whole.

I'll be on my way, I'll be on my way
I'll have left my feet of clay upon the ground

I will be glory bound
I'll be on my way

When I am gone 

Please forgive the wrong that I might have done.
There'll be no room for regrets up there above,
Way beyond the blue.

When I am gone,

don't you look for me in the places I have been.
I'll be alive but somewhere else, I'll be on my way again.
I'll be on my way, I'll be on my way.

I'll lift my wings and soar into the air

There'll be glory everywhere,

I'll be on my way.

I'll be on my way, I'll be on my way
I'll have laid my frown and all my burdens down
I'll be putting on my crown
I'll be on my way.

I'll have left my feet of clay upon the ground
I will be glory bound
I'll be on my way."

Program Notes: We close our concert with an inspirational memorial song that moves from a sense of sorrow into great joy.  Kirchner’s piece begins with a slow opening, sung by a soloist, capturing a feeling of reverence before a light, banjo-inspired piano accompaniment launches the spirit-freeing rest of the piece. The rising arpeggio motive set on the words “I’ll be on my way” lifts the soul equally as the pitch, adding a sense of optimism so commonly heard through much of Kirchner’s choral music. The composer has said of his own work: "I've reflected 'at a distance' on I'll Be On My Way in the years since its writing---and what I come to more and more is that it is about freedom, spiritual freedom. The idea of motion, of release, of energy, of flight, of light, even, and the speed of it---somehow all of those energies are present in the words and notes of I'll Be On My Way." Our concert concludes with this piece as a stark reminder that even in the darkest of times there is light, for shade cannot exist without it – we need only to look for illumination.

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