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.
I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be back in session with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale! Only two rehearsals into the season, and already I'm excited about the music-making. That is a testimony to the wonderful folks who make up this crew—the faithful souls (and voices!) who show up Tuesday after Tuesday to take part in this amazing thing we call choral singing.
It seems that every year, there is one piece of music that takes me by storm—that piece that reaches out and grabs my emotions in ways that are sometimes beyond explaining. Right now, it seems that that piece is Morton Lauridsen's Sure on This Shining Night. The text is from poet James Agee's 1934 collection Permit Me Voyage. Taken alone, the words are evocative and haunting. But the marriage of this text to the music of Morton Lauridsen is nothing short of breathtaking. There are moments in this setting that make me want to echo Agee's words: "I weep for wonder." Is it the words that are so moving, or is it the musical setting? The answer, I think, is "Yes." What would one be without the other?
And isn't that what choral music is all about? I sometimes remind my singers that, unlike violinists, flutists, and pianists, we choral musicians get the privilege—and the responsibility—of handling words. And what a privilege and challenge that is! Those of us who sing and conduct choral music have the awesome task of being the final link in a chain that began with a poet's words, continued with a composer's setting of those words, and comes to fruition in a performance meant to be heard. And who knows who will hear? Who knows who will be moved during that performance in ways that exceed explanation?
I like being a part of that kind of venture.
New beginnings can be exciting! The first day of school, a new job, or maybe the birth of a child or grandchild. There's something about the freshness of beginning again!
Last night was one of those fresh starts for those of us in the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale. After our summer hiatus, it was back to singing with old friends, and may I say, a good number of new friends too! As the person who has the privilege of the upfront vantage point, I must tell you how excited I was to hear the sounds I heard in that rehearsal room. There was a vibrancy of tone that was hard to miss! It all bodes well for what's ahead this year!
Last night it was music that ranged from the sentimental I'll Be Home for Christmas to the amazingly poignant sounds of Lauridsen's Sure on This Shining Night. Wow! This is going to be fun!
Thanks singers! You made my evening!
It may be July and the mercury may be soaring, but Christmas is around the corner! And those of us who plan Christmas concerts are busy choosing music and getting ready for the most wonderful time of the year! If you're a singer who has been looking for a place to make music with a lot of other great folks, I hope you'll consider the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale. We're auditioning for all voice parts, and especially for tenors and basses. Take a look around our website, and if the Chorale looks like a place for you, we'd love to talk to you! Auditions are being held on August 14 and 21. Just fill out our audition form, or if you have questions, feel free to contact us and ask!
Our childhood memories are often filled with wistful longing as we remember what it was like to see the world as a magical place, filled each day with wonder and adventure—just waiting for us to explore it.
In our 2012 Spring concert, Songs My Mother Taught Me, the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale hoped to reawaken some of those memories for you. Since the concerts fell on Mother's Day weekend, it seemed an obvious choice to take up the theme of parents and children. Whether we are parents or aging adults, we all listen with hearts and memories as children.
The concert music ranged from fun music of childhood (Puff, the Magic Dragon) to thoughtful music about what it means to care for our children (A Mother's Prayer). We were also reminded that many children around the world don't feel safe (Prayer of the Children). We hope that all of the concert music called us to think about what a special gift life is to each of us—whether parents or children.
As always, the Chorale is grateful to have had you in our audience. We hope you enjoyed the music, and that perhaps along the way, you glimpsed again a moment or two of magic from your childhood!
I remember as a boy impatiently marking off days on a calendar until the long-anticipated arrival of Christmas! The excitement was almost more than my little sister and I could bear! Watching for the first snowfall, going on an expedition to find the perfect Christmas tree (never tall enough for my sister and me), and snooping mischievously in closets for presents. All of this was delicious anticipation for us as we awaited the arrival of that magical time called Christmas.
I don't think we adults are too much different—or at least I wish we were more like that. Christmas is a wonderful time to remember that something very amazing really did happen in this old world some two millennia ago! And that there is a reason that Christmas has captivated the imaginations of people, young and old, for centuries.
The Chorale's desire for our Christmas concerts is to invite you into that celebration. Conrad Susa's A Christmas Garland provided a perfect way to joyously welcome the season! This medley of carols was first performed in 1988 in memory of Susa's friend Nikos Kafkalis, who had just passed away. Susa himself describes the recurring Noel! in this piece as the "garland" that strings together the other carols. We hope you enjoyed being called upon to lend your own voice throughout this medley!
I hope that the Chorale's presentation of this Christmas concert served as a gateway into the season for you, helping you remember what Christmas is all about!
Life, Love, and Eternity—those three words encompass the whole range of human existence. Certainly every one of us shares the common possession of life itself as we wake to each new day. Love—whether of a parent to a child, a friend to a friend, or the wonderful experience of falling in love—is a universal need. And then there is the question of eternity—what comes after all of these experiences?
Our Spring 2011 concert contained music that spoke to each of these facets of human existence. Some of it was lighthearted. Some was joyous and celebrative of life itself! And some, like the Requiem, asked the deepest questions a human can ask.
French composer Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) composed his Requiem during the years 1887-1888. Fauré's father had died in 1885 and his mother two years before that, but it is a bit unclear how much the death of his parents had to do with this composition. The work was first performed at the funeral service of a parishioner of the Church of the Madeleine in Paris, where Fauré was engaged as choirmaster.
Fauré's Requiem in its original form had only five movements, leaving out the Offertory and Libera me. These were added in a revision which was first performed in 1893. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that most of us today know the Requiem in its fully orchestrated form, with a rather lush Romantic orchestra. The fact is that this version did not materialize until 1900, and it is even a bit unclear whether Fauré prepared it, or delegated the duty to someone else. In any case, the version you heard in our concert was very close to Fauré's original, more intimate edition for voices and a chamber orchestra.
If you have heard other composers' Requiems, you will know that many of them draw on very dramatic musical devices to portray the terrors of death and final judgment (think of Verdi's work, or that of Berlioz). Fauré's Requiem takes a decidedly different tack, choosing for the most part to dwell on the more comforting portions of the Requiem text.
I hope you enjoyed our concert—and that you, along with us, were able to experience the full range of human emotion in Songs of Life, Love, and Eternity.