A wild romp through a variety of styles, sounds, and textures, from madrigals to Conrad Susa to Composer-in-Residence Daniel Afonso’s can’t-help-but-tap-your-feet Brazilian folk-song, a world premiere on these concerts (fun and very Brazilian, complete with body percussion, finger snapping, and clapping)—and meet the composer!
The program features great masterpieces of the choral repertoire, including Conrad Susa’s beloved Landscape II, works by Renaissance composers, past audience favorite Christopher Marshall’s A Voice from Heaven, and works new to Bay Area audiences. Some pieces are dark and despairing, some lush and soaring, some with driving rhythms, some with loose flowing melodies. And the texts are similarly wide ranging.
Of Susa and his beloved Landscapes and Silly Songs, based on poems by Garcia Lorca, Solomon comments “Susa [who recently died] was a brilliant Bay Area composer, and one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. From this collection, Landscape II is my favorite, one of the finest works for chamber choir from the 20th century. It has a spectacular range of colors and textures, the harmonies are beautiful, and the music undulates in a unique way. His nuanced text setting is extraordinary: For ‘The field of olive trees open and folds like a fan,’ the music also opens and folds. For ‘the grey air curls,’ the music swirls and curls. For ‘The olive trees are charged with shouts’ the voices race to a huge crescendo and then suddenly vanish, fading into the distance.”
When the Choral Artists first performed this piece, they sang from Susa’s manuscript─as was customary at the time, before computer-generated files became the norm. Susa’s manuscript was written with an italic pen. One of the singers at the time remembers: “His flowing italic pen writing added to the emotional experience for me: the score undulated visually like the music and the story in the text.”
Eastwood World Premiere
“Born in 13th century Andalusia, Spain, Ibn ‘Arabi’s works reflect the extraordinary cross-fertilization of Jewish, Islamic, and Christian philosophies found there,” says Composer-Not-in-Residence Wayne Eastwood about the poet who inspired his world premiere, A Garden among the Flames. “I have had Ibn ‘Arabi in my sights for some time, and this concert theme seemed an opportunity to see what I might present of his amazing views. The poet’s proposition that Love succors all religious thought, surely radical even by 13th c. standards, sounds nowhere more dissonant, yet nowhere more prescient and profound, than in our own discordant, polarized time.” Says Magen Solomon: “Eastwood’s new piece is highly virtuosic, and at times sounds like a multi-layered Renaissance motet, with different rhythmic meters occurring simultaneously in different voices.”
William H. Harris shows sacred love in Faire is the Heaven, a double-choir work, set to several stanzas by 16th century poet Edmund Spenser. Magen Solomon says: “This is a very richly scored piece, romantic, lush, and harmonically sinuous. It has a wonderful sense of motion as the two choirs “talk” to each other. Although well known in the UK, it is rarely heard here.”
Also on the program are works by contemporary Americans Fred Squatrito, Robert Starer, Timothy Kramer, and Robert Beckhard.