May Concert: “The Bellevue Spirit of Music Past, Present and Future

Recorded May 19, 2024; published Saturday June 1, 2024

Program Order and Notes:

I. In earth’s mighty firmament

The Heavens are Telling (from “The Creation”) — Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

featuring Bellevue Chamber Chorus alumni singers
Jane Wasell, soprano, Jim Leininger, tenor, Frank Trujillo, bass
Fred Lokken, guest conductor

In celebration of forty years of singing, Bellevue Chamber Chorus closes our
season with a concert that highlights music of the past, present, and future. Joseph
Haydn’s The Creation is the quintessential historical work to capture the essence
of “music before times.” In this excerpt, “The Heavens are Telling the Glory
of God,”
Psalm 19 highlights the triumphant sounds emanating from the skies,
making a joyful noise for all of creation. The chorus presents the title text first
in a homo-rhythmic texture, and then finally in a grand contrapuntal web. For
a composer of the classical era, such complex choral writing was considered an
homage to the sacred music of the past, as it had more in common with the music
of Handel and Bach than other en vogue contemporaneous genres, such as opera
and the symphony.

The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.
The day that is coming speaks to the day,
The night that is gone to following night.
The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.
In all the lands resounds the word,
Never unperceived, ever understood.
The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.
~~Psalm 19

Muusika — Pärt Uusberg (b. 1986)

Pärt Uusberg is a living Estonian composer and choral conductor who, like several
other Baltic composers, has achieved international acclaim for his beautiful melodies and lush harmonies. The poem “Muusika,” by Juhan Liiv (1864-1913), answers the question, “where did the first music come from?” Although the harmonies employed by Uusberg are within twentieth century style, the flexible meter and steady pulse of the melody resemble chants of the early Catholic church. At the same time, the melody’s narrow range and series of repeated notes shares traits with modern minimalism. The combination of these musical elements is the antithesis to the pomp and circumstance of Haydn’s Creation, and instead offers an introspective and philosophical origin story.

Kuskil peab alguskokkukõla olema,
kuskil suures looduses, varjul.
On tema vägevas laotuses,
täheringide kauguses,
on tema päikese sära sees,
lillekeses, metsakohinas,
emakõne südamemuusikas
või silmavees –
kuskil peab surematus olema,
kuskil alguskokkukõla leitama:
kust oleks muidu inimese rinda
saanud ta –
~~Juhan Liiv
Somewhere the original harmony must exist,
hidden somewhere in the vast wilds.
In Earth’s mighty firmament,
in the far reaches of swirling galaxies,
in sunshine,
in a little flower, in the song of a forest,
in the music of a mother’s voice,
or in teardrops –
somewhere, immortality endures,
and the original harmony will be found.
How else could it have formed
in human hearts –

Lockung — Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901)

Josef Rheinberger was a German composer known for his sacred music with hundreds of compositions for organ and chorus. “Lockung” is unique in Rheinberger’s output, as it bears a secular text and a piano joins the choir, not an organ. The text comes from German poet and novelist Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (1788-1857), and here Eichendorff delivers a prototypical German romantic text with themes of nature, the passing of time, nostalgia, longing, mysticism, and the supernatural. The narrator illustrates the music of the natural world, and asks “can you hear the mad songs from former times?” Rheinberger sets the opening of each stanza in a light manner that conjures the wonder found in the natural world; however, the musical tension increases as the mermaids coax, and Rheinberger’s setting does not shy away from the coded sexual language present in many literary genres of this era. More broadly, with its references to “looking down,” Eichendorff ’s poem is likely symbolic of this life of human civility and extravagance, and being lured away into the cool ground where one may find peace, transcendence, and release.

Hörst du nicht die Bäume rauschen
Draußen durch die stille Rund?
Lockts dich nicht, hinabzulauschen
Von dem Söller in den Grund,
Wo die vielen Bäche gehen
Wunderbar im Mondenschein
Wo die stillen Schlösser sehen
In den Fluß vom hohen Stein?

Kennst du noch die irren Lieder
Aus der alten, schönen Zeit?
Sie erwachen alle wieder
Nachts in Waldeseinsamkeit,
Wenn die Bäume träumend lauschen
Und der Flieder duftet schwül
Und im Fluß die Nixen rauschen -
Komm herab, hier ist’s so kühl.

~~ Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff
Can’t you hear the forest rustle
outside through the quiet round?
Aren’t you tempted to listen
down from the balcony to the ground
where the many brooks flow
wondrously in moonlight -
where the silent castles look
into the river from the high rock?

Do you remember the mad songs
from former, beautiful times?
They all awake again at night,
in the loneliness of the forest,
when the dreaming trees are listening
and the lilac has a sultry scent
and in the river the mermaids murmur:
come down, here it is so cool.

II. Day is breaking in my soul

The Gift to Sing — Marianne Forman

Marianne Forman’s piece “The Gift to Sing” sets a text by writer and civil rights
activist James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938). Johnson was a lawyer by trade; he
was the first African American to be admitted and pass the Florida Bar Exam, and
he was a leader of the NAACP. Johson had an artistic side as well: he wrote lyrics
in several musical theater collaborations, and is well-known for having written the
lyrics for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is now widely regarded as the Black
National Anthem. On the surface, although the lyrics of “The Gift to Sing” do not
address racial justice in America, one can hear it boiling to the surface as the choir
sings, “I brood not over the broken past nor dread whatever time may bring. . . but
with glad defiance in my throat, I pierce the darkness with a note and sing.” Forman does a masterful job of capturing the simultaneous soft intimacy and extroverted
grandeur of singing, elements which have surely given hope and empowerment to
countless civil rights activists throughout American history.

Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.

~~ James Weldon Johnson

Bright Morning Stars — arr. Shawn Kirchner (b. 1970)

Shawn Kirchner is an American composer and arranger with a special interest in
folk music and group singing. Kirchner’s arrangement of “Bright Morning Stars” is
a perfect arrangement that preserves the beauty of the original Appalachian folk
song, while at the same time providing contrast of color and mood. Although the
verses address those that have gone before us, the text of this piece centers the
narrator in the present tense: after loss and sorrow, it is new life – literally children
dancing – that can forever warm one’s heart, and the cycle continues in this life and
the next.

Bright morning stars are rising,
Bright morning stars are rising,
Bright morning stars are rising.
Day is a’breaking in my soul.

Oh where are our dear fathers?
They are down in the valley praying.
Day is a’breaking in my soul.

Oh where are our dear mothers?
They have gone to heaven shouting.
Day is a’breaking in my soul.
Oh where are our dear children?
They’re upon the earth a’dancing.
Day is a’breaking in my soul.

Bright morning stars are rising,
Bright morning stars are rising,
Bright morning stars are rising.
Day is a’breaking in my soul.

~~ traditional Appalachian folksong

Over My Head — arr. Adam and Matt Podd

featuring Bellevue Chamber Chorus alumni singers
and Bob Rees, percussion

The African American spiritual “Over My Head” likely originated in the 19th
century, and it was first recorded in 1941 by the Southern Sons. The tune was
later popularized by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Marie Knight, two of the greatest
black performers to have their recordings of gospel songs reach a wide audience. In 1961, civil rights activist Bernice Johnson Reagon amended the lyrics to include, “I
hear freedom in the air,” and since then most arrangements of the song include this
call for justice. Adam and Matt Podd’s arrangement succeeds with a masterful and
authentic piano accompaniment while maintaining the simple joy of singing.

Over my head, I hear music in the air.
Over my head, I hear music in the air.
Over my head, I hear music in the air.
There must be a joy somewhere.
Over my head, I hear singing in the air. . .
Over my head, I hear freedom in the air. . .
There must be a joy somewhere.

~~ African American spiritual

III. I shall find the crystal of peace

Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal — arr. Alice Parker (1925-2023)

Julia Bezems, student assistant conductor

Alice Parker’s arrangement of the 1850’s hymn “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal”
elevates the early American tradition of shape-note singing. Shape-note singing
comes from the Appalachian tradition of bringing communities together to sing
four-part hymns, notated on staves with geometric note heads to facilitate musical
literacy. This arrangement adds syncopated rhythms, canon, and characterized
articulation to bring this four-part hymn to a new level of artistry. The text of the
verses paints the picture of the promised land and the hope of joining loved ones
who have gone on before. The ebullient and ever-building refrain – “Hallelujah,
praise the Lamb!” – emulates the worshipful spirit of the early Americans and their
hope and faith in the future of eternal life.

Hark, I hear the harps eternal
Ringing on the farther shore,
As I near those swollen waters
With their deep and solemn roar.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah,
praise the lamb!
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
glory to the great I AM!
And my soul, though stained with sorrow,
Fading as the light of day,
Passes swiftly o’er those waters,
To the city far away.

Souls have crossed before me, saintly,
To that land of perfect rest;
And I hear them singing faintly
In the mansions of the blest.

Can We Sing the Darkness to Light? — Kyle Pederson (b. 1971)

featuring Mahoko Tsukada, violin and Nathan Greenmun, cello

Kyle Pederson is a Minneapolis-based composer and pianist, and he wrote both
the music and the text for his piece, “Can We Sing the Darkness to Light?” In
his preface, Pederson writes “the text of the piece invites the listener to imagine a
world without weapons of war – where human experience is defined not through
continued judgement of others, but through the lens of mercy and compassion.”
Pederson employs a thin texture to capture the stark austerity of violence, which he
then contrasts with the warm harmonies when singing of a possible future. More
than an anti-war anthem or peace song, Pederson’s work asks the difficult question,
“can we see the other as our brother? . . . can we sing the darkness to light?” After
an energetic build and powerful musical climax, Pederson leaves us with no clear
answer, as the thin texture of the opening music returns, and the falling melodic
line of the title text does not find an easy resting place.

What if instead of more violence,
we let our weapons fall silent?
No more revenge or retribution;
no more war or persecution.
It could be beautiful.

What if instead of our judgement,
we soften our hearts that have hardened?
Instead of certainty and pride
we love and sacrifice.
It could be beautiful.

Can we see the other as our brother?
Can we sing the darkness to light
sounding chords of compassion and grace?
Set the swords of judgement aside,
let mercy’s eyes see the other human face.

~~ Kyle Pederson

Refuge — Elaine Hagenberg (b. 1979)

featuring Nathan Greenmun, cello

Elaine Hagenberg is becoming one of the most widely performed American composers of accessible sacred and secular choral music. In her piece “Refuge,” Hagenberg underscores a clear contrast between the two stanzas of Sara Teasdale’s text. In the first half of the piece, the relentless piano accompaniment and the mournful cello embody crushed dreams, anger, and despair. However, in the last line of the first stanza, the music takes a decisive turn: at the first reference to singing, the minor key dissipates, and the warm a cappella harmonies are sustained against the cello’s melodic line. The last lines of Teasdale’s poem illustrates her spiritual path and a possible future: leaving behind the weight of sorrow, singing is not merely a comfort or distraction, but singing is itself a soul-building lifeline whose essence lives on forever.

From my spirit’s gray defeat,
From my pulse’s flagging beat,
From my hopes that turned to sand
Sifting through my close-clenched hand,
From my own fault’s slavery,
If I can sing, I still am free.
For with my singing I can make
A refuge for my spirit’s sake,
A house of shining words, to be
My fragile immortality.

~~ Sara Teasdale

I Hear America Singing — arr. André Thomas (b. 1952)

featuring Mahoko Tsukada, violin, Nathan Greenmun, cello, and Bob Rees, percussion

André Thomas is an internationally acclaimed American conductor, arranger, and
composer. He is best known for his many arrangements of spirituals, and is held in
high regard for his scholarship regarding performance practice in today’s colleges,
universities, and churches. His amalgamation of lyrics comes mostly from the
spiritual “Walk Together Children,” as well as the first line from Walt Whitman’s
poem of the same title, “I Hear America Singing.” Thomas’ piece aptly captures
the early American band style which owes a lot of its musical heritage to unnamed
black musicians, and Thomas’ orchestration has a lot in common with the great
African American composer William Grant Still. The spirit of singing is alive into
the future, both of this life and the next, as the chorus exclaims, “we’re going to
sing of truth and love. . . walk together hand in hand together in peace.”

I hear America singing of its greatness.
I hear America singing strong.
I hear America singing of its beauty.
I hear America singing today.

Oh, walk together, children.
Don’t you get weary.
There’s a great camp meeting
in the promised land.
Sing together, children. . .
We’re going to sing of truth and love.
Walk together hand in hand
together in peace.
We’re going to sing and never tire.
There’s a great camp meeting –
and America’s singing!
A great camp meeting in the promised land!

~~ African American spiritual

~~ Program notes by Ben Luedcke and Julia Bezems


Guest Artists

Image of Artistic Director Emeritus Fredrick Lokken
Dr. Fredrick Lokken was Artistic Director / Conductor of Bellevue Chamber Chorus from 2001 to 2019. During his tenure the Chorus
performed a diverse repertoire of over 700 works ranging from the
Renaissance to contemporary music (including three commissioned
pieces), and from choral/orchestral masterworks to international folk
music and vocal jazz. He also led the ensemble in the release of two
CDs, two tours of Europe, and two appearances at the Kathaumixw
International Choral Festival in British Columbia, where they were
awarded first prize for adult mixed choirs in 2008. In his final
performance with the Chorus, they were one of six regional choirs invited to participate in a special tribute concert to composer Morten Lauridsen during the Seattle Sings Choral Festival in October, 2019. Dr. Lokken also served on the music faculty at Shoreline Community College for over 20 years as vocal music instructor and director of choirs.
Bob Rees, percussionist, graduated from Eastern Washington
University with degrees in Music Education and Percussion
Performance and a Master’s degree in Music and Music Education
from Anderson University. Originally from Spokane, Bob relocated to
Seattle where he’s been an integral part of the area’s music
community for more than twenty years. Bob is a Yamaha national
soloist winner and a Jack Straw Artist Support grant recipient. Bob is
now a full-time educator and elementary music specialist at Chestnut
Hill Academy in Bellevue, WA.
Mahoko Tsukada, violinist, is currently a senior at Redmond High School. She is planning to major in violin performance at Boston University, under
Professor Lucia Lin. Recently her and Nathan Greenmun’s quartet, Ravel in the Moment, took second place at the Washington State Solo and Ensemble competition.
Nathan Greenmun, cellist, is currently a senior at Redmond High School. Continuing to pursue cello performance at the collegiate level, he has been accepted to prestigious institutions such as Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Peabody Conservatory at John Hopkins among others. He has now committed to SFCM to study under Richard Aaron, professor at the Juilliard school for over 20 years.

Bellevue Chamber Chorus Personnel:

Ben Luedcke began as Artistic Director of the Bellevue Chamber Chorus in 2019, and he brings a variety of conducting and leadership experiences to the organization. Ben is the Minister of Music at Seattle First Baptist Church in downtown Seattle, and the Artistic Director of the Masterworks
Choral Ensemble
in Olympia. He is currently finishing his Doctorate of Musical Arts in choral conducting at University of Washington, and he has held teaching positions at UW in the Choral, Musicology, and English departments.

Hailing from the Midwest, Ben completed a Bachelor of Music Education at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and he left a mark on that choral community as both a voice teacher and as the conductor and founder of several startup organizations. Ben was the co-founder and
director of Voces Aestatis, a Wisconsin-based professional choir that specialized in the a cappella repertoire of the sixteenth century, as well as the director and singer in two early music chamber ensembles, Half and Half and Musica Apéritif. For ten years Ben was the founder and artistic director of Madison Summer Choir, a large community chorus that performed choral orchestral works. Finally, Ben was the conductor and co-founder of the University of Wisconsin Men’s Choir, a student and community tenor/bass ensemble.

Ben completed his Masters in Choral Conducting at University of Iowa, and subsequently served
as faculty at Grinnell College, where he taught voice and conducted both the Grinnell Singers
and the Grinnell Oratorio Society. Additionally, Ben served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at
Monmouth College where he taught voice and conducted the Monmouth Chorale and chamber

When not making music, Ben is most often hiking with his wife and his two dogs, and otherwise exploring Washington’s many amazing trails, trying new craft beers, and binging good science fiction.

Minju Kim, pianist, joins Bellevue Chamber Chorus this season. A native of South Korea, she has been active as a soloist, chamber musician and collaborative pianist. Minju won numerous awards, including Sidney Wright Accompanying Competition, Korean Music Association Competition, and Korea-Germany Brahms Association Competition. Her avid interest in chamber music led her to play at Bowdoin International Music Festival and Music Academy of the West as a fellow in collaborative piano. Also, she served as a chamber pianist for the chamber groups playing piano trios in Heifetz International Music Institute. For the last two years, Minju was a lead collaborative pianist at Northwest Girlchoir. Currently, Minju is a collaborative pianist at Shoreline Community College, and frequently performs in concerts, radio programs and competitions with local musicians. Minju holds degrees in piano performance from Seoul National University in Korea (B.M.), Indiana University (M.M. and P.D.), and University of Texas in Austin (D.M.A), as well as a M.M in collaborative piano from New England Conservatory.

Julia Bezems is excited to join the Bellevue Chamber Chorus this season as their Student Assistant Conductor. Hailing from Allentown, PA, Julia holds Bachelors degrees in voice performance and computer science from the University of Michigan, and she is now active as a choral conductor and ensemble singer in the Seattle area. While at the University of Michigan, she performed frequently as a soprano with the Chamber Choir and as a soloist with the University Baroque Orchestra. Since moving to the Seattle area in 2022, she has sung with Seattle Pro Musica, Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble, and the Northwest Symphony Orchestra; and she will join Radiance vocal ensemble as a soprano this season. She serves as the co-leader of the Seattle branch of Crescendo North America, an international organization for Christian musicians, and she freelances as a choral conductor for projects with Crescendo and other community engagements. Julia works as a software engineer at Microsoft, and she enjoys hiking and studying theology.

Bellevue Chamber Chorus

Maria Bayer
Julia Bezems
Kristine Bryan
Debra Defotis
Jenn Evora
Kristine Gilreath
Melissa Malouf
Kathy McMillan
Katherine Threlkeld
Jane Wasell
Toma Aliyeva
* Elena Camerini
Claire Gajary
Rachel Keo
* Arisha Kulshrestha
Anita Lenges
Pratha Muthiah
* Lauren Nelson
Karin Swenson-Moore
Kristen Wright
Patrick De Leon
Andrew Desmond
Imran Goychayev
Melanie Grube
Michael Grube
Jim Leininger
Yan Smolyak
David Varner
Jamie Walch

* on hiatus
Bill Baxter 
Allan Chartrand
Dennis Defotis
Mark Liebendorfer
Gabriel Malouf
James McTernan
* Fabien Mousseau
* Eric Mullen
Roddy Nir
Jeff Pierce
John Schleg

Bellevue Chamber Chorus, founded in 1984, performs a minimum of three major concerts each season, encompassing a variety of choral literature from classical standards and contemporary works to world music, Broadway hits, and vocal jazz. The Chorus often joins other ensembles in performances of major choral/orchestral works, such as Mozart’s Vespers and Requiem, Faure’s Requiem, Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Orffs Carmina Burana, Brahms’ Requiem, Rutter’s Mass of the Children, and Ariel Ramirez’ Misa par la Paz y la Justicia. The ensemble has premiered works by regional composers, including commissioned works for the Washington State Centennial Celebration, the grand opening of the Theatre at Meydenbauer Center, a special 20th anniversary season commissioned piece, That Music Always ‘Round Me, by Seattle composer John Muehleisen, and co- commissions of pieces by Andre Thomas, Eric Whitacre and Ola Gjeilo. The Chorus has released three CDs, “Timeframes”, “Retrospective”, and “Christmas Visions, Winter Dreams”.

Bellevue Chamber Chorus tours often and has performed in Carnegie Hall, various locations in Europe, the International Music Festival (2000) in Sydney, Australia, and twice at the invitational Kathaumixw International Choral Festival in Powell River, British Columbia, where they won first place in 2008 in the adult mixed chorus category. Other performances include the Leavenworth International Choral Festival, the international “Rolling Requiem” in memory of September 11th, as one of the regional choruses in the NEA sponsored American Masterpieces Choral Festival in Seattle, and in Kelowna, B. C. as part of the Okanogan Choral Society Series. The Chorus was selected as one of six choirs to perform in a special GSCC event “Welcome Home Morten Lauridsen” in October 2019. The Chorus will travel to perform in the “World Choir Games” in New Zealand in the summer of 2024.

Bellevue Chamber Chorus has active memberships in the Bellevue Downtown Association, Greater Seattle Choral Consortium (GSCC) and Chorus America. The Chorus is supported in part by the Bellevue Arts Commission and 4Culture.