Oh, this is my twilight, the early twilight of evening. At midnight it rose, this, my brightly rising star. There it is, and so high and early it has risen.
Preview the program notes for our December concert. Tickets on sale now!
The theme for the Chorale’s 2016-2017 season is “music of the spheres,” a semi-metaphysical, semi-scientific notion, originating with the ancient Greeks. The ancients saw a close connection between music, mathematics, and astronomy, and understood that as astronomical objects move in the heavens, they create a form of music, based on the proportions of their orbits. According to one ancient source, “Pythagoras draws on the theory of music and designates the distance between the earth and the moon as a whole tone, that between the moon and Mercury a semitone, between Mercury and Venus the same…”
Since that time, composers have often found inspiration in the heavens, if in a more artistic way, as the pieces on tonight’s program Vidimus Stellam (“We Have Seen His Star”) demonstrate. Most literally, we understand this star to be the Star of Bethlehem, and so we begin tonight’s program with a19th century American shape note tune, Star of the East, followed by an arrangement by modern composer William Averitt. But “star” can be any star that might appear at twilight, as in the Russian folk song “Evening Star.”Or a heavenly object to which we might pray for peace, as in Eleanor Daley’s setting of Ave Maris Stella.Or, as the text from Josef Haydn’s Creation more boldly proclaims, “The heavens are telling the Glory of God, the wonder of his works displays the firmament.”
On the second half of the program we present a 5-movement Christmas cantata, Vidimus Stellam, by Kevin Siegfried, the Chorale’s Composer-In-Residence, that looks at stars, and the light and darkness that surrounds them. It begins, “O Rising Star, splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness.”It concludes, “We have seen his star in the East, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord.” These performances mark the premiere of a revised and expanded version of this work.
In addition to touring the heavens, this program is also a tour, in fact a tour de force, of many vocal styles, challenging the choir with an extraordinary variety of vocal timbre ranging across many choral genres. The spareness of monastic chant in the Siegfried reflects the forward, articulated early music style in Gabrieli’s In Ecclesiis, and the classical style of pieces by Pachelbel and Haydn.The rural, nasal shape note sound of Star in the East contrasts with the lusher, modern choral sound of the Averitt and Daley. The rough Russian traditional pieces contrast with the equally resonant sound of the Russian Orthodox Church service, in Svete Tihiy by Alexander Kopylov. Hyo-Won Woo’s O Magnum Mysterium concludes with an astonishing and brilliant choral firestorm.
We hope you’ll join the Chorale for its concerts in March and June 2017 to explore together “music of the spheres,” at the intersection of music, astronomy and mathematics.In March, we welcome back the Washington Saxophone Quartet in a program featuring a piece set for 40 different parts combined in four separate choirs.In June, we feature another new composition by Kevin Siegfried and a work by Vincenzo Galilei, the father of astronomer Galileo Galilei.