Songs of the Heart

Saturday, May 7

5:30PM 

 

Kaitlin Simonson, conductor 

Dan Meinhardt, piano

Annabel Gordon, cello

Nicole Wright, violin

Peter Manheim, percussion

Special thanks to our anonymous donors for making this concert possible. We couldn't do it without you. 

Concert Program 

Full Moonlight Dance

Karen Beth

This canon has been a staple for treble choruses since Libana recorded it in the early 1980’s. The full moon has great significance in paganism. Some sources site that the full moon can illuminate the things in our lives that are interfering with our spiritual advancements. It is also considered the best time to do magic. 

Under the full moonlight we dance, 

spirits dance, we dance, 

joining hands we dance. 

Joining souls, rejoice. 

Songs of nuns

This set of songs spans several centuries of women in the cloisters who typically did not choose that life for themselves. Some women embraced their religious life, while others felt trapped. The first piece, Caritas abundat, uses text from Hildegard of Bingen. She was canonized as a saint in 2012 and had a major impact in the fields of poetry, composition, medicine and the lives of women in convents. Her visions that she saw since childhood were documented and recognized as prophetic visions. The text for this song comes from Liber Divinorum Operum- her final book of visions and the most complex. It is paired with the traditional chant, Caritas abundat. 

Sulpitia Lodovica Cesis was a prime example of a woman of noble birth who was sent to a convent in her youth. She was the daughter of an Italian count, a lutenist, and a composer who was unafraid to break with the strict rules of the church and often included brass instruments like cornets and trombones in her compositions. Stabat mater and songs like it would have been performed by nuns behind metal grates to hide their faces.

The final song in this set is a modern setting of a poem from an anonymous Spanish nun sometime between the 13th and 16th centuries. This particular young woman was not thrilled with the prospect of being cloistered so young. 

Caritas abundat

Michael John Trotta 

I am the great and fiery force, 

That breathes life into all things: 

I am what awakens and supports life 

And enkindles all living things 

I am the great and fiery force, 

That breathes life into all things: 

Everything in the cosmos 

Is encircled with my wisdom. 

I am the beauty in the fields, 

The force, that moves like a graceful wind 

I shine in the waters, and burn in the sun, 

Glimmering in the stars. 

Caritas abundat in omnia

(Grace abounds for everyone) 

Stabat mater

Sulpitia Lodovica Cesis (1577-after 1619

 

Stabat Mater dolorosa

Iuxta crucem lacrimosa

dum pendebat Filius. 

Cuius animam gementem 

constriantem, et dolentem 

pertransivit gladius. 

O quam tristis et afflicta 

fuit illa benedicta

Mater unigeniti. 

Quis est homo qui non fleret 

Christi Matrem si videret 

in tanto supplicio? 

 

Sancta Mater istus agas 

Crucifixi fige plagas

cordi meo valide. 

Tui nati vulnerati 

cruce hac inebriari 

ob amorem filii. 

Quando corpus morietur

fac ut anime donetur

Paradisi gloria. 

 

The sorrowful mother stood 

weeping beside the cross 

while her son was hanging there. 

Her grieving soul 

sad and dolorous

was pierced through as by a sword. 

O how sad and afflicted 

was that blessed 

mother of an only son. 

Who is the man who would not weep 

if he saw the mother of Christ 

in such distress? 

 

Holy Mother, hear me, 

and inflict the wounds of the cross 

deeply in my heart. 

Your son, covered with wounds. 

desired to suffer for me; 

may I share his pains. 

May his wounds hurt me, 

may I become intoxicated from the cross, 

for the love of your son. 

When my body dies 

may my soul be granted 

heavenly glory.

Now That I'm Young

Libby Larsen b. 1950

 

This text was written between the thirteenth and late-sixteenth centuries, during a time in which well-born young women of marriageable age were, as daughters, bound by law and culture to the decisions of their fathers or their guardians. If a daughter was not marriageable, either by circumstance or inclination, few alternatives were available to her. One option was that she involuntarily join a nunnery and live out the rest of her life cloistered. Many such women found solace, spirituality, and a haven for their humanitarian and intellectual pursuits by doing so. Others bitterly protested their fate, writing poetry and journals, which they knew were never to be read, seen, or heard. The words of these women were in effect silenced to the world outside the cloister’s gates. 

 

–Libby Larsen 

October 2004

 

Now that I’m young I want my fun, 

I can’t serve God being a nun.

Now that I’m young and come of age, 

Why be a nun in a convent caged?  

I’m young, I want my fun, 

I can’t serve God being a nun!

Songs of prayer

This set of songs we dedicate to those suffering from the painful and tragic effects of war. O vos omnes is a traditional latin text that comes from the prophet Jeremiah. After prophesying of the destruction of his people and then watching it happen, he was filled with unimaginable sorrow. It was after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC to the Babylonians that this text was penned. 

Sergei Rachmaninoff left his from his beloved Russia following the Bolshevik revolution. He was no stranger to questioning the decisions of the leaders of his homeland. The two songs we will sing tonight bookend a set of six. Captivity is the first and Angel is the last. When we began working on these songs, the war in Ukraine had not yet begun. As we have seen the devastating loss and marvelous resilience, these two songs seemed destined for their place on this program. 

We will close this set with a prayer for Ukraine. We invite you to pray and meditate with us as we sing. This piece was composed by John Rutter and provided free of charge to anyone who wanted to sing it. Many choirs across the globe have offered their prayers. Our performance has been adapted for treble voices, cello and organ. 

O vos omnes

Miklós Kócsar 1933-2019

O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam, 

attendite, et videte 

si est dolor, 

sicut dolor meus! 

 

O all you who walk by on the road

Pay attention and see: 

If there by any sorrow

like my sorrow 

Captivity

Sergei Rachmaninoff 1873-1943

Poem by Nikolai Tsyganov (1797-1831)

“Little nightingale with your head beneath your wing,
Why do you eat nothing and why do you not sing?”

“Ages ago I sang in spring in a wood beneath the stars.
Now I only hang my head in a cage with golden bars.
Should I sing? My mate is alone and sighing for me.
Should I sing when my nestlings are calling and crying for me?”

“Through the open window behold the open sky.
Be happy, little nightingale. Spread your wings and fly!”

The Angel

Sergei Rachmaninoff 1873-1943

 

Poem by Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841)

The heavenly song of an angel in flight
was quietly filling the night.
The clouds and the moon and the stars in a throng
were listening as he sang the song.

He sang of the sinless spirits in bliss
in gardens of paradise.
He sang of the greatness of God,
and his guileless praises pervaded the sky.

The angel embraced a young soul in his arms
to set in this harsh vale of tears.
The sound of the song lingered on in the soul,
remaining alive through the years.

Confined to the face of the wearisome world,
the soul ached with wondrous desire;
the sounds of the earth could never replace
a song of the heavenly choir.

Ukrainian Prayer

John Rutter b. 1945

 

Lord, protect Ukraine. Give us strength, faith, and hope, our Father. Amen.

Songs to empower

Women Should be Pedestals and I Will Be Earth are the first and last of a song cycle by Gwenyth Walker. The text for these pieces is poetry by May Swenson who was the daughter of Swedish parents. She was born in Logan, Utah and relocated to New York City in the 1930's. Her poems are stunning with a precision and accuracy that is set so perfectly by Gwenyth Walker. 

Song of Miriam is a choir favorite with text by Rabbi Ruth Sohn. As you listen, notice how the tempo gradually slows as the narrator finds solace in song and self expression. It is truly a song of the heart. 

Still I Rise is an anthem. Rosephanye Powell sets the text of the great Maya Angelou in a gospel setting. 

Women Should Be Pedestals

Gwenyth Walker b. 1947

Women 

May Swenson 1913-1989

Women                                 Or they

   should be                              should be

      pedestals                              little horses

         moving                                 those wooden

            pedestals                              sweet

               moving                                 oldfashioned

                  to the                                    painted

                     motions                                 rocking

                        of men                                  horses

                        the gladdest things in the toyroom

                           The                                       feelingly

                        pegs                                     and then

                     of their                                 unfeelingly

                  ears                                     To be

               so familiar                            joyfully

            and dear                               ridden

         to the trusting                      rockingly

      fists                                    ridden until

   To be chafed                        the restored

 

egos dismount and the legs stride away

 

Immobile                            willing

   sweetlipped                         to be set

      sturdy                                 into motion

         and smiling                         Women

            women                                 should be

               should always                        pedestals

                  be waiting                              to men

I Will Be Earth

Gwenyth Walker b. 1947

I Will Be Earth
May Swenson 1913-1989

I will be earth, you be the flower,
You have found my root, you are the rain,
I will be boat, and you the rower.
You rock me and toss me, you are the sea.

How be steady earth that is now a flood.
The root is the oar afloat where has blown our bud.
We will be desert, pure salt the seed.
Burn radiant love, born scorpion need.

 

Song of Miriam

Elaine Hagenberg b. 1979

Song of Miriam 

Rabbi Ruth Sohn b. 1981

I, Miriam, stand at the sea
and turn
to face the desert
stretching endless and
still.
My eyes are dazzled
The sky brilliant blue
Sunburnt sands unyielding white.
My hands turn to dove wings.
My arms
reach
for the sky
and I want to sing
the song rising inside me.
My mouth open
I stop.
Where are the words?
Where the melody?
In a moment of panic
My eyes go blind.
Can I take a step
Without knowing a
Destination?
Will I falter
Will I fall
Will the ground sink away from under me?

 

The song still unformed–
How can I sing?

 

To take the first step–
To sing a new song–
Is to close one’s eyes
and dive
into unknown waters.
For a moment knowing nothing risking all–
But then to discover

 

The waters are friendly
The ground is firm.
And the song–
the song rises again.
Out of my mouth
come words lifting the wind.
And I hear
for the first
the song
that has been in my heart
silent
unknown
even to me.

Still I Rise

Rosephanye Powell b. 1962

Though I have been wounded, aching heart full of pain.

Still I rise, yes, still I rise.

Jus' like a budding rose, my bloom is nourished by rain.

Still I rise, yes, still I rise.

 

Haven't time to wonder why, though fearful I strive.

My pray'r and faith uphold me 'til my courage arrives.

Still I rise as an eagle, soaring above ev'ry fear.

With each day I succeed, I grow strong an' believe

 

That it's all within my reach; I'm reaching for the skies,

Bolstered by courage, yes, still I rise.

Yes, it's all within my reach; I'm reaching for the skies,

Yes, still I rise.

 

Gentle as a woman; tender sweet are my sighs.

Still I rise, yes, still I rise.

Strength is in my tears and healing rains in my cries.

Still I rise, yes, still I rise.

Plunging depths of anguish, I determine to strive.

My pray'r and faith uphold me 'til my courage arrives.

Though you see me slump with heartache;

Heart so heavy that it breaks.

 

Be not deceived I fly on bird's wings, rising sun, its healing rays.

Look at me, you see a woman; Gentle as a butterfly.

But don't you think, not for one moment,

that I'm not strong because I cry.