Fall Concert: “Why We Sing”

Recorded November 11 & 12, 2023; published Saturday November 25, 2023

Program Order and Notes:

Let the Music Fill Your Soul Jacob Narverud (b. 1986)

featuring Amie Stewart, horn

Jacob Narverud’s piece, “Let the Music Fill Your Soul,” utilizes an energetic
dance-like accompaniment and a festive horn part to welcome all listeners. Dr. Robert Bode wrote the text and is a longtime conductor and vocal music pedagogue. Having served at University of Missouri at Kansas City and recently retired as director of Seattle’s Choral Arts, the welcoming spirit of choral music is alive in Bode’s text.

Come in, you sisters and brothers,
Come in, you cousins and daughters,
Come in, you seekers and doubters,
Let the music fill your soul.

Come in, you seers and dreamers,
Come in, you movers and shakers,
Come in, explorers and climbers, 
 the music make you whole.

Close your eyes and breathe together,
Sit beside a perfect stranger,
Open to the Life around you,
Let the music fill your soul.

Come in, you heroes and artists,
Come in, you scholars and rebels,
Come in, you singers and lovers, 
Let the music make you whole.

Close your eyes and breathe together,
Sit beside a perfect stranger,
Open to the Life around you,
Let the music fill your soul.

                                         – Robert Bode

Exultate Deo Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594)

Palestrina’s five-voice motet – “Exultate Deo” – celebrates the power of music when praising God in song. Despite Palestrina living and working in Rome at a time where instruments would not have been used in church services, Palestrina employs several clever techniques to illustrate the text, including a march-like rhythm to “bring forth the drum,” and a brass-like cacophony of rapidly rising lines to “blow the trumpet.”

Exultate Deo adjutori nostro; 
jubilate Deo Jacob.
Sumite psalmum, et date tympanum; psalterium jucundum cum cithara.
Buccinate in neomenia tuba, in insigni die solemnitatis vestræ.
Sing joyfully to God our strength; sing loud unto the God of Jacob
Take the psalm, bring forth the drum, the pleasant harp, and the lute.
Blow the trumpet in the new moon, at the time appointed for our feast day.

                              – from Psalm 81

Warum, from Vier Quartette (Op. 92) Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Johannes Brahms is well known for his small chamber pieces, and this excerpt – “Warum” – comes from one of several opuses of vocal quartets with piano. Much like Palestrina, Brahms often selects melodic contours and rhythms that fit with the literal meaning of the text: the opening line of the quartet seems to reach for the heavens as the imitative vocal lines leap and rapidly ascend into the upper reaches of the vocal range. In contrast, Brahms selects a lilting meter and sultry tone for the remaining lines of poetry: even the gods are not immune to the power of song, which pulls at the heart and stirs the passions.

Warum doch erschallen himmelwärts    
      die Lieder?
Zögen gerne nieder Sterne, die droben 
      Blinken und wallen,
Zögen sich Lunas Lieblich Umarmen,
Zögen die warmen,
Wonnigen Tage Seliger Götter
Gern uns herab!

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 
Why then do songs resound 
They would gladly lure down the stars, 
      which gleam and wander above;
they would entice Luna’s lovely 
and invoke the warm, blissful days of 
      blessed gods -
gladly would they do this!


If Music Be the Food of Love David Dickau (b. 1953)

featuring Julia Bezems, Student Assistant Conductor

Henry Heveningham’s poem, “If Music Be the Food of Love” borrows the first
line from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but is otherwise an original poem. In this text the narrator is in love with a singer: as he watches from afar “pleasures invade both eye and ear,” however, his affections are not returned as “the treat is only sound.” David Dickau sets the well-known text in a neo-romantic style, with long phrases and expressive harmonies that create a constant ebb and flow of energy and tension. As in many musical settings of this text, rather than conclude the piece with a desperate request to be saved in the arms of the beloved, Dickau repeats the first line of text for a more triumphant conclusion: “Sing on!”

If music be the food of love,
Sing on till I am fill’d with joy;
For then my list’ning soul you move
With pleasures that can never cloy,
Your eyes, your mien, your tongue declare
That you are music ev’rywhere.

Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
So fierce the transports are, they wound,
And all my senses feasted are,
Tho’ yet the treat is only sound.
Sure I must perish by our charms,
Unless you save me in your arms.

            – Henry Heveningham (1651-1700)


Music of Living Dan Forrest (b. 1978)

featuring Amie Stewart, horn and Jiyeon Yeo, violin

Dan Forrest’s “The Music of Living” features both violin and horn soloists with
a relentless piano accompaniment. The poem reflects the transformative power of music, as the full human spectrum of emotions is valued: rather than fear the sad songs, to be an artist is to embrace all life has to offer. Rather than hide from pain or grief, “the music of living” is that small voice that compels one to make new songs, to risk falling, and to rise and keep trying.

Giver of life, Creator of all that is lovely,
Teach me to sing the words to your song.

I want to feel the music of living;
And not fear the sad songs, but from them make new songs
Composed of both laughter and tears.

Giver of life, Creator of all that is lovely,
Teach me to dance to the sounds of your world.

I want to move in rhythm with your plan.
Help me to follow your leading.
To risk even falling, to rise and keep trying,
For you are leading the dance.

            – Anonymous

When Music Sounds John Rutter (b. 1945)

John Rutter’s “When Music Sounds” contains a footnote “in homage to J.S. Bach.” The music is marked by a sustained vocal melody paired with an accompanimental bass line and constant treble pulse reminiscent of many Baroque compositions. In comparison to many of today’s more dense compositions, the thin texture paints an image of one transported to some unearthly dreamworld to gracefully drift among the clouds, perhaps as if enchanted by the hypnotic music itself. The accompaniment only pauses during a short a cappella section and tirelessly spins out note after note: perhaps the ever-present undulation is meant to embody the passing of time and the composer’s – and Bach’s – lifelong dedication to their craft.

When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,
And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;
Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees
Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.

Why the Caged Bird Sings Judith Shatin (b. 1949)

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in Ohio soon after the American Civil War to his formerly enslaved parents. Judith Shatin sets Dunbar’s most famous poem, titled “Sympathy,” though commonly known as “Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Maya Angelou continued the metaphor, writing her own poem, “Caged Bird” and named her autobiography after Dunbar’s poem. Judith Shatin employs the piano to emulate the rattling of the cage. Meanwhile, the dissonant chords and sharply attacked notes portray the violent and murderous acts that Black Americans have had to endure, and the desperate sighs in the vocal lines underscore the ongoing struggle for racial justice in the United States.

(Text available here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46459/sympathy-56d22658afbc0)

Armistice 1918 (Everyone Sang) Craig Carnahan (b. 1951)

Craig Carnahan’s “Armistice 1918” sets the poem by Siegfried Sassoon, “Everyone Sang,” which was written in April of 1919, shortly after the end of World War I. Craig Carnahan writes:

I was drawn to the contrasting moods found in the poetry – at times ecstatic and exuberant, and at other times subdued and reflective. There is joy that the war has ended, but sadness at the tremendous loss. Throughout, two images dominate: the communal power of voices united in song and the unbridled joy of freedom embodied by birds in flight. This, then, is a celebration of the resiliency of the human spirit, building to the powerful closing “...and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.” Ultimately, Sassoon leaves us to savor this sublime sense of the eternal – of the song that has no end.

(Text available here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57253/everyone-sang)

How Can I Keep from Singing? Robert Lowry (1826-1899); arr. Taylor Davis (b.1980)

featuring Amie Stewart, horn and Jiyeon Yeo, violin

The uplifting text and simple melody of “How Can I Keep From Singing?”
has been the subject of multiple choral arrangements, including this one by Taylor Davis with violin and oboe (adapted for horn). The original music was written by American Baptist minister Robert Lowry, and the text, originally titled “Always Rejoicing”’ and attributed to “Pauline T.,” seems to have been first published in 1868. The final verse was added and popularized in the 1950s by Pete Seeger and other folk revivalists. Perhaps no song better captures the essence of Why We Sing: “though darkness round me close. . . no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging.” How can we possibly keep from singing?

My life flows on in endless song above Earth’s lamentation,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife I hear the music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul; how can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars, I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness round me close, songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heav’n and earth; how can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble sick with fear and hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near, how can I keep from singing!
To prison cells and dungeon vile our thoughts to them are winging,
When friends by shame are undefiled, how can I keep from singing?

            – Pauline T.

~ Program notes by Ben Luedcke


Jiyeon Yeo is a talented violinist with a rich educational background, holding degrees from prestigious institutions including an Advanced Music Program certificate from Carnegie Mellon University, a Bachelor and a Master of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Jiyeon has been serving as assistant principal second with the Erie Philharmonic and as principal second with the Westmoreland symphony orchestra prior moving to Seattle. She has worked with Daniel Barenbohem, Rachel Barton Pine, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Manfred Honeck. Her prior teachers included William Preucil, Chris Wu and Andres Cardenes.

Amie Stewart, French horn (no bio provided)

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 Master’s 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 choir.

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
Kristine Gilreath
Melissa Malouf
Kathy McMillan
Katherine Threlkeld
* Jane Wasell
Elena Camerini
Claire Gajary
Arisha Kulshrestha 
Anita Lenges
* Rachel Macias
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
Bill Baxter 
Dennis Defotis
Mark Liebendorfer
Gabriel Malouf
James McTernan
Fabien Mousseau
* Eric Mullen
Jeff Pierce
John Schleg

* Board members ** Executive Director