Greg Wheatley, Musical Director of the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale, shares his thoughts about past and future concerts, musical works we've performed, and the many joys of choral music.
Ready for a quiz? When it comes to Broadway, just how much do you know? If your pencil is ready, here we go! You'll find the answers after the questions. Don't peek!
- What is the longest-running show on Broadway?
- We don't normally think of the Pulitzer Prize when it comes to Broadway musicals. But at least one production has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Can you name it?
- Which Broadway musical is adapted from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail?
- Put these productions in order of their appearance on Broadway:
The Music Man
Fiddler on the Roof
- What popular Broadway production borrows its story line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?
So, how did you do? Here are the answers:
- The longest-running Broadway show (and it's still running) is Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. To date, there have been more than 12,000 performances!
- Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950. There have been a handful of other musicals that have won the award—most recently, Hamilton.
- The answer is Spamalot, which like Monty Python, is a parody on the legend of King Arthur. And if you're thinking, "I just don't get the humor in shows like Monty Python," well, you're not alone! It takes a special kind of person! But enough about that!
- In order of appearance: Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The Music Man (1957), and Fiddler on the Roof (1964).
- In a masterful re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is set in 1950s New York City. The setting may be modern, but the audience can easily see Shakespeare's tragic story unfold.
Maybe this little quiz has whetted your appetite for hearing some of the wonderful tunes from these Broadway productions! Here's some good news: music from each of these shows (and others) will be featured in the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale's spring concert Some Enchanted Evening: Favorites from Broadway. The Chorale, Ensemble, and selected soloists will present an evening of some of the memorable tunes from over the years on Broadway.
We hope you'll plan now to be in our audience! The concerts will be Friday, May 12 at 7:30 pm, and Saturday, May 13 at 3:00 pm at College Church in Wheaton. For more information, see the details on this website!
Something amazing happened on Christmas Eve in 1914. It was, of course, the early days of World War I. On the western front, Allied and German forces were dug in, each in their own muddy trenches. On Christmas Eve, some of the German troops decided to decorate their trenches with candles and Christmas trees. Then, floating on the frosty air came the voices of soldiers singing Christmas carols. Before long, their Allied counterparts answered with carols of their own, and so began an amazing moment. Reports say that soldiers actually left their trenches to walk into No-Man's Land and exchange gifts with the enemy. You can see some of this scene depicted in the 2005 film Joyeaux Noel (you'll find it on YouTube)
If you're like me, this story tugs at your heart. Don't we long for a world where enemies are reconciled, where wrongs are made right? I've been thinking about this moment in history as the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale prepares for our upcoming Christmas concerts. Isn't this part of the reason that we find words like these so meaningful?
Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
(Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love.
(Joy to the World)
Peace will pervade more than forest and field:
God will transfigure the violence concealed
Deep in the heart and in systems of gain,
Ripe for the judgment the Lord will ordain.
(The Dream Isaiah Saw)
The Christmas truce of 1914, as amazing as it was, turned out to be temporary. Sadly, the soldiers soon went back to their hostilities. We long for a more permanent armistice, a true pax Dei. And this is exactly what the angels sang about in the sky over Bethlehem: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests. Christmas is God's annoucement of a truce between heaven and earth--between God and man--for all who will receive it as a gift.
I consider it a privilege to meet with more than 60 other people on Tuesday nights and sing words like the ones above (all of which, by the way, will be sung in our concerts). We need the hope they bring! I hope you will make plans to be with us when we sing them--and many others--in our Wintersong 2016 concerts. See details on this website, and make plans now to join us. I think you'll be glad!
I like that phrase! Gloria in excelsis Deo—Glory to God in the Highest! As you probably know, it's a Latin phrase that comes from the song the angels sang to the shepherds as they announced the birth of Jesus the Messiah:
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
People who study such things tell us that this jubilant text has been in use since the second century. Imagine it! Singing these words puts us in a long line of singers that may date back as much as 1800 years!
The Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale is excited about singing the popular Gloria written by prolific composer John Rutter. This brilliant work will form the centerpiece of this year's Wintersong Christmas concert. Do you like brass? You won't want to miss this concert! Rutter's Gloria is a virtual display piece for choir, brass, and organ. After this quarter hour of listening, if you aren't ready for Christmas, we'll refund your money!
But that's not all! Our concert will also feature quieter moments, such as the stunning Emily Crocker setting of Do You Hear What I Hear?, and another Rutter composition, this one a hauntingly beautiful setting of the lullaby Dormi Jesu (Sleep, Jesus). And we've reserved something big and festive to end our concert—and it just might include a singalong!
We think that our two Wintersong concerts are a great way for you and your family to enter the Christmas season! Why not put these dates on your calendar right now? They'll be here before you know it!
Friday, December 2 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, December 3 at 3:00 pm
Both concerts will be held at College Church in Wheaton, a beautiful space for singing, both acoustically and visually. You can find ticket information on the main page of this website.
I know I speak for the entire Chorale when I say that it will be wonderful to have you in our audience!
|Greg Wheatley, Music Director (L), with René Clausen|
World-renowned composer and conductor René Clausen thrilled our audience with his "composer chat" prior to the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale's concert this past weekend. During that concert, the Chorale premiered Clausen's choral work The Cloths of Heaven.
Dr. Clausen addressed the audience, talking about his background, how and when he began to compose music, and what it means for him to write. He expressed his appreciation to the Chorale for their commissioning and performing of this piece.
Clausen said that "a piece of music is like looking at a picture which can change color depending on when you are viewing it . . . in the light or dark." He explained that in writing The Cloths of Heaven he used a lot of contrast of men's and women's voices. The Cloths of Heaven is a setting of a text by William Butler Yeats.
It was a real honor to have Dr. Clausen with us for these two concerts. For us, this represents the culmination of a year-long process of seeing a new piece brought to life, written by a wonderful composer just for the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale. Over the last several months, as the Chorale rehearsed René's piece, we knew he was a gifted composer. After meeting him this past weekend, we now know him as a most gracious man. What a joy to have him with us!
One of the great joys of the Christmas season is all of the wonderful music that attends the celebration. The music of Christmas has long been some of my favorite music--that includes the standard carols as well as some of the classic works like Handel's Messiah, and the lighter things like Jingle Bells. And for the past 17 years or so, it's been my priviliege to get to celebrate Christmas with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale, a fine group of folks who love to sing!
This year's Wintersong promises to be another wonderful opportunity to sing and to hear the music of Christmas. The chorale has been in rehearsal since the day after Labor Day, working on things like Vivaldi's Magnificat. This 13-minute piece is a setting of Mary's canticle--"My soul doth magnify the Lord." It's a sparkling little piece, complete with the kind of writing for choir and strings that you'd expect from the composer of the better-known Gloria. And speaking of strings--we have another amazing group of string players, and a pair of oboists that I know you'll enjoy!
In addition to the Magnificat, the chorale will sing beautiful settings such as Kim Andre Arnesen's Cradle Hymn, and well-known standards such as Jingle Bells and Joy to the World. I'm especially excited about Dan Forrest's setting for choir and four-hand piano of Angels from the Realms of Glory! And as always, we'll invite you to sing some carols with us!
Wintersong: Christmas with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale is a great way to begin your celebration of this most wonderful time of the year! We hope to see you at one of our concerts: Friday, December 4 at 7:30, or Saturday, December 5 at 3:00. Both concerts are at College Church in Wheaton. Tickets are available now by visiting the chorale's website: www.gewchorale.org
I hope to see you soon!
Birthdays are wonderful occasions! They're a time to celebrate with family and friends, and to enjoy being together! The Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale is about to celebrate a birthday—our 30th. And YOU are invited to the celebration!
We hope you'll be in our audience on either Friday, May 8 (7:30 pm) or Saturday, May 9 (3:00 pm) as we present There Is Sweet Music. Both concerts will be at College Church (corner of Washington and Seminary in Wheaton). Music for this concert includes the beautiful title song, There Is Sweet Music Here. The setting of this Tennyson poem is by Greg Gilpin, and provides an evocative musical setting for the text. There's also a rollicking arrangement of Bound for the Promised Land, complete with four-hand piano accompaniment, and a beautiful setting by Ola Gjeilo of St. Augustine's prayer from more than 1500 years ago! The chorale will be joined by saxophonist Howard Whitaker and French horn player Corin Droullard.
We think you'll enjoy this concert! Why not make plans to celebrate with us? Tickets are available here on this website. Or you may phone 630.415.3066. We'll look forward to seeing you!
Preparation for the chorale's spring concert Come Join the Dance has been ongoing for weeks. Not only have the singers been rehearsing, but a few miles to our southeast, the junior dancers of the Salt Creek Ballet have been plying their craft, under the able direction of Emily Moser. This group of talented young women will dance to three of the chorale's pieces this coming weekend.
As I stood conducting the chorale in rehearsal earlier this week, my back to the dancers, I could hear their synchronized steps resounding on the hardwood behind me. And it struck me once again: there is great joy in artistic collaboration! There we were--two distinct groups working in two different mediums. Our stock in trade is the world of sounds--notes, words, dynamics. Their tools are beautifully crafted movements. There is something special about bringing those two worlds together, in what can only be called artistic synergy, each enjoying the fruits of the other's labors. And then, together, offering those labors to an audience. I found myself thinking, "We really need to do this more often."
I hope you'll be there to enjoy it! The junior dancers of the Salt Creek Ballet will join the chorale in Copland's Stomp Your Foot (from The Tender Land), John Ferguson's delightful setting of Lord of the Dance, and the rollicking Gilbert and Sullivan finale from The Gondoliers. And along the way, there's plenty more music to make you want to Come Join the Dance! Won't you? Concerts are this Friday, May 9 at 7:30 and Saturday, May 10 at 3:00. Both concerts are at College Church in Wheaton. Tickets are available at this website, or at the door.
It seems that there is a special day for just about everything these days! On top of the usual--birthdays, anniversaries, and the like--we have things like National Popcorn Popping Month, World Smile Day, National Pig Day, and If Pets Had Thumbs Day (I'm not making that up!). If you're the fun-loving type, these are just crazy excuses to celebrate! If you're the cynical type, some of them could be ways for greeting card companies to generate revenue (though it's hard to see National Pig Day catching on).
Well, here's one I think is well worth celebrating. October is National Arts and Humanities Month. In honor of the occasion, here is a list of 10 things you could do to celebrate the place of the arts in our lives:
1) Take half a day and go to the Art Insitute. Browse around and find some of those famous paintings you've always heard about and seen in books.
2) Turn off talk radio in your car and listen to a symphony, or a choral work.
3) See the banner on the right side of this web page to learn more about Wintersong, the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale's 2013 Christmas concert.
4) Take time to finally read one of those books you were supposed to have read in Great Books in college. You know the ones: Les Miserable (even if you have seen the movie), or War and Peace (OK, that one is long!)
5) Buy a musician a coffee.
6) Ask a member of the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale to talk to you about Wintersong.
7) Ask a member of the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale to sell you a ticket to Wintersong.
8) Dig out that trumpet that's been in storage since your high school graduation. See if you can remember any of the fingerings, and if you're really brave, try to blow that trumpet.
9) Go to our Facebook page (www.facebook.org/gewchorale) and "like" us.
10) Whatever you do, mark December 6 or 7 on your calendar as the dates for Wintersong.
Please feel free to pass this on to others--and we do hope to see you at Wintersong!
Let's face it--most of us use language carelessly. I'm not talking here about coarse language or inappropriate words (though we could discuss that too!). What I have in mind is the fact that we increasingly seem to favor simple words--words we can grasp quickly and easily--over more colorful words that might necessitate our slowing down and pondering their meaning. I think some of this can be attributed to the rise of social media. When a Tweet only allows you 132 characters, you just aren't going to waste them on a word like "dissimulation." Fair enough. But I wonder what we've lost in ruling those more difficult words out of school.
This morning I've been looking at the amazing 15th century poetry which composer Stephen Paulus set as his Wonder Tidings. It is a poem of the Incarnation:
What tidings bringest thou, messenger,
Of Christ's birth this jolly day?
A babe is born of high nature
The Prince of Peace, that ever shall be
Of heaven and earth he hath the cure
His lordship is eternity
Such wonder tidings ye may hear,
That man is made God's peer
Whom sin had made but fiend's prey.
A wonder thing is now befall;
That King that formed the star and sun
Heaven and earth and angels all
Now in mankind is new begun:
Such wonder tidings ye may hear,
An infant now of but one year,
That hath been ever and shall be ay.
That seemeth strange to us to see,
This bird that hath this babe yborn
And Lord concieved of high degree
A maiden is and was beforn;
Such wonder tidings ye may hear,
That maiden and mother is one in fere,
And she a lady of great array.
Thou loveliest gan greet her child,
Hail, son! Hail, brother! Hail, father dear!
Hail, daughter! Hail, sister! Hail, mother mild!
This hailing was on quaint manner:
Such wonder tidings ye may hear
That hailing was of so good cheer
That man's pain is turned to play.
In pondering some of the words in this poem, one could ask: "So why not just say it straight? That on Christmas we celebrate the birth of God's Son? Period. Why use such flowery language?" Ah, but there's the catch! An event this awesome (awesome in its original sense, not the 21st century version) requires that I stretch language almost to the breaking point if I'm to capture the wonder of the event. So the poet says:
A wonder thing is now befall;
That King that formed the star and sun
Heaven and earth and angels all
Now in mankind is new begun.
That, in a quatrain, is the Incarnation! The God who made everything has now descended all the way into our humanity and been born in Bethlehem. And the poetry not only describes the event, but clothes it in such wonderful language that it virtually takes our breath away!
What a gift language is, especially when it is put into the service of expressing such lofty truth in such beautiful poetry! And then there is the music--in this case, the setting of composer Stephen Paulus. I hope you'll make plans to hear the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale sing this and many other pieces at Wintersong, our 2013 Christmas concerts (see this website for details).
That hailing was of such good cheer
That man's pain is turned to play.
Every choral director knows the feeling. Music is chosen, auditions for new singers are done, and the first rehearsal of the new season is planned. Now comes that moment when more than 50 singers gather in the rehearsal room to get caught up on each others' lives, make new friends, and then settle in (perhaps a bit too talkatively for the director's taste!) for the maiden voyage of the new choral season. It's been a long time since the final piece of the spring concert was sung, and we directors are anxious to get back at it. We hope our singers feel the same, and before too many measures have flown by in that first rehearsal, it seems they do! Parts of that new piece begin to come together (already!) and you begin to hear glimpses of what it could sound like after 10 more reharsals--with snow on the ground!
If you're guessing the previous paragraph was autobiographical, you're right. The Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale has opened shop on the 2013-2014 season with our first rehearsal for Wintersong: Christmas with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale. I'm excited about the music that will comprise these concerts--music like John Rutter's new anthem All Bells in Paradise and Stephen Paulus' Wonder Tidings. With harp, oboe, and percussion joining our usual piano and organ complement, I'm looking forward to the colors of these concerts. I think singers and audience alike will emerge from one of our concerts with a fresh awareness of the Christmas season and what it's about.
Thank you, singers and players of the GEWC, for a great first rehearsal! There's much more to come! And for those of you reading this who are long-range planners--mark December 6 and 7 on your calendars. Wintersong will be a great place to be!
Sitting comfortably on my back porch this afternoon, I’ve just finished listening to Morten Lauridsen’s setting of O Magnum Mysterium. If you don’t know this piece, stop right now, click over to Spotify or your favorite music service, and listen to it. You’ll be in good company—this piece, along with a handful of others from Lauridsen, have become the best-selling choral pieces from the publisher Theodore Presser in its more than 200 year history. In fact, Lauridsen has the distinction of being the most-frequently performed American choral composer. Kind of makes you sit up and take notice, doesn’t it?
Let me say right up front that the reason I’m writing about this is simple: the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale will sing this setting of O Magnum Mysterium in its Chistmas concerts this year. We last sang this piece in 2005, and it’s time to do it again. It will find its place this Christmas in a grouping of pieces that look at the events of the manger: Mary’s perspective as she looks on in wonder at the newborn Son, her gentle lullaby, set beautifully by John Rutter, and then O Magnum Mysterium. The text for this piece is an ancient one with its origins in the Christmas Day Matins service:
O great mystery and wonderful sacrament,
That animals should see the newborn Lord lying in a manger.
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy
To bear Christ the Lord!
The musical setting is vintage Lauridsen: lots of close harmony that doesn’t seem to resolve according to traditional rules, but which adds up to create a shimmering tapestry of color that invites us in to its sonic world to contemplate the mysteries it communicates. Challenging to sing? Yes. But in the end, worth it all because of the wonder we singers experience, and the wonder we hope to communicate to those listening.
And that’s just one of the chorale’s pieces for Christmas. I could get excited about this—and it’s still August!