Recorded March 5 & 6, 2022; premiered Saturday March 12, 2022, 7:30 pm. (This recording is no longer available.)
(Bellevue Chamber Chorus Official Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwPGuDvDKaVFo8mf3_eRWqg)
Program Order and Notes:
I. Give Me Back a Sheltering Roof
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child — arr. Jay Althouse
featuring Teddy Wiggins, violin
One of the most haunting African-American spirituals, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” was likely borne out of heart-wrenching tragedy: the forcible separation of parent from child. The “home” referred to in the lyric has alternately been speculated as referring to “heaven” (as a release from the sorrow on earth), or as “community,” or most literally as “Africa.” Because of this ambiguity, there are many arrangements of this particular spiritual, including an early version popularized in the 1870’s by the Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University. In the arrangement we are performing, by Jay Althouse, a violin presents the first mournful phrase, joined by the chorus in growing complexity.
An die Heimat (from Drei Quartette, op. 64, No. 1) — Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
featuring Megan McElroy, piano
Johannes Brahms’ op. 64 is a set of three partsongs for vocal quartet and piano, published in 1874. Its first song, “An die Heimat,” was written much earlier during Brahms’ initial visit to Vienna in 1862. He planned to stay only a few weeks but his stay was extended over six months. Although the visit to his future home city was likely enjoyable, it could be deduced that Brahms was expressing some lingering homesickness for his native Hamburg, with its familiar sights and sounds, in the setting of this poem by Otto Julius Inkermann (1823-1862).
II. My Spirit-Song
Roots — Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978)
“Roots” was commissioned in 2019 by a consortium of choruses (including Bellevue Chamber Chorus) to benefit the programs and services of Chorus America. Composer Ola Gjeilo beautifully sets an original text by Charles Anthony Silvestri. The poem illustrates the images of one’s former home, as well as the memories of love, warmth, and safety that give one an unforgettable sense of belonging. The Bellevue Chamber Chorus premiered this work in a virtual production in the late summer of 2020, which you can view elsewhere on our official YouTube channel.
Only In Sleep (Tikai Miegā) — Ēriks Ešenvalds (b. 1977)
featuring Sophia Parker, soprano
Only In Sleep (“Tikai Miegā”) features a soprano soloist with a cappella choir, and is emblematic of Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds’ style, marked by beautiful melodies and full, lush harmonies. The text by Sara Teasdale speaks of memories of childhood as experienced through dreams. The poem closes with a change of perspective: “Do they, too, dream of me, I wonder, and for them am I too a child?” Ešenvalds underscores this final line of text as the work ends with an extended soprano solo, repeating the last line. This profound question – “am I too a child?” – reveals a sense of self as formed from not just one’s own memories, but what one imagines others think as well.
III. Where You Go, I Will Go
Home (from “Sacred Veil”) — Eric Whitacre (b.1970)
(NOT INCLUDED IN ONLINE CONCERT DUE TO LICENSING RESTRICTIONS)
featuring Erika Pierson, cello
“Home” is the third movement of a larger work, The Sacred Veil, a collaboration between Eric Whitacre and poet Charles Anthony Silvestri. The work tracks the poet’s life with his late wife and their battle with cancer. The text for this movement comes from the moment that Silvestri first knew he was in love: on a second date, having a daytime picnic overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Silvestri was listening to her talk, and recalls thinking, “you feel like home.” This one line is the only line of text for this movement, which Whitacre describes as “compact as possible, hoping to illuminate all the emotional information with minimal, elegant gestures, both music and words.”
Da Hai A! Gu Xiang (The Ocean, My Homeland) — Wang Li-Ping, arr. Yang Hong-Nian
“Da Hai A! Gu Xiang” (“The Ocean, My Homeland”) was originally written by Wang Li-Ping for the 1983 movie “The Calling of the Sea”, and reflects on a man’s connection to the sea, a metaphor for his deep love for his mother and homeland. As with many other works composed during the decade following the Cultural Revolution, it shares themes of optimism and hope for a new country. The treble-voice arrangement by Yang Hong-Nian has gained popularity among children’s and women’s choirs beyond China. Bellevue Chamber Chorus is grateful to have had it introduced to us by a choir member who has a connection to the editor of the piece, Karl Chang, founder of Crystal Children’s Choir.
There Will I Be — Craig Courtney (b.1948)
featuring Teddy Wiggins, violin, Erika Pierson, cello, and soloists David Tummons, Jim Leininger, Karin Swenson-Moore, and Kristine Bryan
The original version of Craig Courtney’s “There Will I Be” was commissioned for tenor-bass chorus with optional strings or woodwind accompaniment. The text comes from the Book of Ruth of the Hebrew Bible, in which Ruth accepts Yaweh as God and tells her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi, “where you go, I will go…your people will be my people, and your God, my God.” The second half of the text comes from the Christian New Testament, the Book of John 15:13. The lyrics explore universal themes of friendship, kinship, love, and the sacrificial nature of giving freely of oneself for others. Soloists introduce the two main themes that become endemic to the entire work.
IV. I Wasn’t Alone
The Waking — Giselle Wyers (b.1969)
The choral compositions of Giselle Wyers, professor of choral music at the University of Washington, have been commissioned and performed by leading ensembles across North America and Europe. “The Waking,” written for the UW Chamber Singers in 2009, sets Theodore Roethke’s poem, “I Strolled Across an Open Field,” with lilting dance-like rhythms, wonderfully describing awakening to the beauties and wonders of nature. The first half of our concert focused on connections with and memories of loved ones as well as the physical places we call home. “The Waking” presents a turn in our narrative, exploring a different sense of belonging: though far from any other people, the poet discovers a new sense of companionship by reveling in the wonders of a beautiful summer day.
Refuge — Elaine Hagenberg
featuring Erika Pierson, cello
Elaine Hagenberg is a choral composer from Des Moines, Iowa, and for “Refuge,” she set the words of poet Sara Teasdale for choir, piano, and cello. The composer describes the piano as representing chaos and a loss of control, whereas the cello embodies heartache and sorrow in uncertain and difficult times. The a cappella section in the second half of the work is a turning point in the work as the tone of the text shifts toward one of hopefulness and beauty. Singing, a “refuge for the spirit,” and “a house of shining words,” connects us to what makes us most human.
Already Home (from the Wizard of Oz) — Andrew Lloyd Webber, arr. Althouse
featuring Pratha Muthiah, alto and Bob Rees, percussion
The novel “The Wizard of Oz,” by L. Frank Baum, has inspired many musical adaptations since it was written in 1900, including the popular 1939 film of the same name. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams collaborated on a new adaptation of the musical in 2011, based on the film version, using most of the original songs with a few additions by Webber and Tim Rice. We present one of these in “Already Home,” an ensemble piece where Glinda the Good Witch assures Dorothy that even though she missed the opportunity to fly home with the Wizard in his balloon, she still has – and indeed has always had – the power to leave Oz.
V. Home of the Human Family
It Takes a Village — Joan Szymko (b.1957)
featuring Larry Richardson, tenor; Bob Rees, percussion; and additional soloists Tori Force, David Varner and Kristen Wright
Pacific Northwest composer Joan Szymko’s work It Takes a Village is described as having “infectious energy” and has been her most frequently performed work since its breakout performance at the 2005 American Choral Directors Association convention by the University of Delaware Chorale. The message is a profound statement about collective social responsibility. In her own words: “In adapting the west African saying, “it takes a village to raise a child,” I sought to embody the cultural concept behind this proverb—that it is truly all the individual parts linked and working together that create and support the whole. The four vocal rhythms in the main portion of the work, each with its own character and function, are essential to creating the unique energy and movement of “Village.” Only when they are sung together does a truly joyful spirit arrive.”
The Hour Has Come — Srul Irving Glick (1934-2002)
featuring Megan McElroy, piano
Srul Irving Glick (1934-2002) was a radio producer, conductor, teacher, and composer over the course of his life. In 1969 he became conductor of the choir at Beth Tikvah Synagogue, Toronto, and nine years later became the choir’s composer-in-residence. Virtually all of his works were written on commission, many incorporating Jewish subjects or folk materials, employing jazz idioms and uniting lyricism with thick, polytonal textures. “The Hour Has Come” is part of a larger work entitled “The Hour Has Come: A Choral Symphony,” a setting of six poems, commissioned by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and premiered in 1985. The title poem was written by Carole Leckner, member of the League of Canadian Poets and the Society of Composers, and Glick’s treatment of it here brings the text to life with the heartbeat that pulses in the repeated text of “yearning,” and the gasping for air as the “soul breathes the spirit of her song.” Exploring a “sense of belonging,” this piece closes the concert seeking to connect with a sense of home that is both larger than the human experience and beyond what the human mind can ever truly comprehend.
Megan McElroy is an active freelance pianist in the Seattle area. Ever since completing a Masters degree in Collaborative Piano at University of Colorado/Boulder, she enjoys collaborating with others, whether it’s Suzuki violin music for little ones, or classical repertoire with other professional musicians in concert settings. She has served as accompanist at University of Washington and as a staff pianist at Seattle Pacific University, and performed at most of Seattle’s major concert halls, including Benaroya Hall, Meany Hall, and live on Classical KING FM and King5 TV. She describes herself as one that “loves to say ‘yes’ to many projects,” and the Bellevue Chamber Chorus is grateful she accepted our call for a guest pianist.
Sophia Parker, soprano, is currently studying voice at UW, and has performed in musical theatre and classical productions in the Puget Sound area. Recent roles include the “Sandman” from Hansel and Gretelin a scene showcase with Music On Site, as well as the witch in Into the Woodswith Ballyhoo Theatre, a non-profit theatre company. She is grateful for the opportunity to sing this beautiful piece with a fantastic choir.
Erika Pierson, cellist, grew up in the Seattle area, beginning cello at age 7. Her cello studies have taken her to Bloomington, Indiana, Berlin, Germany, London, England and Ann Arbor, Michigan under teachers including Richard Aaron, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Markus Nyikos, Eileen Croxford and Erling Blöndal Bengtsson. Erika has performed as a soloist in England, Germany, Spain and the United States. Currently, she spends her time teaching, freelancing in local orchestras, performing in chamber concerts and raising two daughters, two large dogs and chickens with her husband in Kirkland, WA.
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 an educator and elementary music specialist at Chestnut Hill Academy in Bellevue, WA.
Teddy Wiggins, violinist, is an alumnus of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach. He has performed with some of the world’s most celebrated ensembles, such as the Verbier Festival Orchestra and the Grant Park Orchestra of Chicago, where he has played under the batons of Roberto Abbado, Michael Tilson Thomas, John Williams, and others. Mr. Wiggins is a founding member of The Annex Quartet, and he continues to be an in demand performer in view of his enthusiasm and talents for chamber music and community engagement.
Bellevue Chamber Chorus Personnel
Artistic Director Ben Luedcke is the choir director at Seattle First Baptist Church in downtown Seattle and was recently promoted as the new Minister of Music. He is currently finishing his Doctorate of Musical Arts at University of Washington, studying with Dr. Geoffrey Boers and Dr. Giselle Wyers, and he has held teaching positions in the choral, musicology, and English departments.
Before moving to Washington, Ben was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Monmouth College where he conducted the Monmouth Chorale and chamber choir, and taught music theory, music appreciation, and voice. Ben has also served as faculty at Grinnell College, where he conducted both the Grinnell Singers and the Grinnell Oratorio Society, and taught an introduction to music theory and voice.
Ben is known in Madison, Wisconsin for several of his startup organizations: he 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. Likewise, Ben was the founder and artistic director of Madison Summer Choir, a community chorus that performed large orchestral works. Finally, Ben was the founder and conductor of University of Wisconsin Men’s Choir, a student and community chorus.
Ben completed his Masters of Arts in choral conducting at the University of Iowa where he studied with Dr. Timothy Stalter, and he holds a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Vanessa, and their two dogs, Luthor and Oona.
Kristine Anderson, piano: Kristine Anderson graduated with a music performance degree from the University of Montana at Missoula. She is well-known in the Puget Sound region for her artistic and sensitive work with singers as well as instrumentalists ranging from tuba to piccolo.
Equally at home with jazz, pop, and classical, she can adjust her style from Sondheim to Gershwin to Strauss. Her clients include winners in local and national competitions, including the Seattle Young Artist Music Festival, Metropolitan Opera semifinals, and concerto contests. Kristine also serves as accompanist for the Flute and Piccolo Forum, hosted by Seattle Symphony flutist Zart Dombourian Eby. She has been the accompanist for Bellevue Chamber Chorus for the past thirteen seasons. In 2012 she became an employee in the University of Washington Music Department and a staff accompanist. In addition to the Bellevue Chamber Chorus, she accompanies the choir at North Seattle College.
Bellevue Chamber Chorus