Sunday, September 30, 2007

Martin's insights on Miskinis' "O Sacrum"

Martin sent me an email where he discusses "O Sacrum Convivium" by Miskinis. I think he has remarkable insight on the work:

I have been thinking about "O Sacrum Convivium" a lot. You have hinted at it in class, and you know, of course, that the song -both the lyrics and the musical techniques/features- are totally about the sacrament and the mystery of the eucharist. Rarely have I heard or sung a piece of music that so beautifully draws an accurate musical picture of the most holy sacrament and the concept of transubstantiation.

There is so much more beyond what we see on the surface. I mean, musically. The composer, whom I have come to respect a lot through previous pieces we have sung in choir, must be a man of deep faith as well as incredible intellectual understanding of the sacraments. The text stems, like many (most) other medieval Latin chants honoring the Holy Eucharist, from the feather of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the great doctors and mystics of the church. The most famous of his songs of veneration of the most holy sacrament is the "Pange Lingua", which you are wel l familiar with, I am sure. The last two verses "Tantum ergo sacramentum" and "Genitori genitoque" of it are still sung today at Vespers in the Catholic Churches worldwide. The others you will only hear on Holy Thursday at the end of the Liturgy as the holy eucharist is taken out of the church (stripping of the altar). Another famous one of St. Thomas Aquinas is the "Adoro te devote" which we sang during communion at Patrick's and Holly's wedding, remember? Great author, and brilliant mind that Thomas!

The same is true for the composer. He, too, must have been well familiar with the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Thomas Aquinas draws heavily from the book of Revelations, of course. And if you have a moment, I would like to offer a very short selection from Revelations that I envision to be the source or image that I find reflected in the music (form, dynamics, contrasting middle section, meter change, continuum, even that very last note in the soprano, etc.). Have you noticed, for example, which word in the entire sung text "sticks out" the most? I would contend it is the latin word for mind: "mens". Ironically, "mens" is both complementary and opposite to "anima" (soul). The whole nature of the composition changes from that "anima-style" pulsating, etarnal, infinite adoration of the heavenly hosts, the elders, the angels and archangels as described in Rev. Chapter 4 and 5 to a more decisive, human-mind-driven, resolute tone.

The beginning of the piece is so soft and subtle that one can't really tell when it starts. All of a sudden one notices: it's there, the music has started. I believe that the intention may have been to suggest that the veneration has been forever ongoing, we are just now tuning in and getting a taste of it. It is eternal, not temporal. And it knows no rush, does it? I mean how much more floating and timeless can music be? There is no concept of time in eternity. Then comes the sudden break of that continuum, and the contrasting middle section takes off. And what about those meter changes in the contrasting middle section? Coincidence? Hardly! To me, it is intentional irregularity. As we celebrate the Eucharist, the commemoration of Christ's passion (Rev: the lamb that appears to be slain...), the full communion of God and man, where the earth reaches up to heaven, and the heaven opens up to the earth, our mind and reason struggles to comprehend the mystery of the sacrament. Our human struggle to understand what is beyond the capacity of the human mind is contrasted against the peaceful and never-ending adoration in the heavenly kingdom.

You used the image of "...the priest who keeps breaking the bread" in rehearsal one day. That is the part of today's sacred liturgy that commemorates the Lord's Supper, to which the church sings (or prays) the "Agnus Dei". What might be a more fitting image (in my own humble opinion) is the act of transubstantiation, the most holy moment of the mass, during which the priest holds the bread upward (usually as high as he can) as an offering to God.

The fact that this is the most sacred moment in the liturgy is underlined by several gestures that non-Catholics will easily notice: the kneeling, the sounding of bells and the use of incense (3 x 3 swings). That is what Catholics believe to be the moment of transubstantiation: we offer bread to God, and receive Christ in his true essence, who is consumed in the act of holy communion. In that sense, a translation of "sumitur" as "received" is one that takes a little bit of liberty. "Sumitur" might more fittingly be translated as "consumed": Christ is consumed, not just received.

Be that as it may, I feel that I might be boring you. Here I wanted to send you the links to Brahms and Gaudeamus Igitur, and now what ??-- Well, I guess I got carried away... Anyways, that "O Sacrum convivium" and the Stanford piece (GREAT English Cathedral music!!! So much like Hubert Parry's hymns and choral settings!) might well be my two favorites this semester. Two great selections - as are all others.

Martin gives us some info -- Gaudeamus Igitur TTBB

I found the following links about "Gaudeamus Igitur" that you might find interesting (I can see that smirk on your face as you read the second paragraph of the first link...). Hope you enjoy.

Here's a little bit on the background of the ancient tune and Student tradition of "Gaudeamus Igitur".

An interesting read on how the tune as we know it today rose to its present day popularity (Brahms):

If only you were a little more proficient in the German language, the German version of Wikipedia has soooooo much more interesting detail about the song:

Wither the UAB ACDA Student Chapter?

Choir students,

Kevin Beck, Charles Henry, and Clay Rector (and I'm sure some others) started an ACDA student chapter at UAB a few years ago. It's been mostly inactive since it's inception and I need to know if there is any interest in reviving it.

I am supposed to respond to the national office at some point in the near future to give them an idea of whether we are doing anything or not with the student organization.

You can learn a little about it by looking at student chapter websites here, here, and here.

If you want to re-activate ours, let me know by Monday, October 7. I find it to be a very worthy organization. If I hear of no interest, I'll tell the national office that we are inactive.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

You gotta love college football

I confess, I love it. College football is so fun to watch!

Tonight's Auburn-Florida game was really awesome, with a twice-kicked field goal from Freshman Wes Byrom and redemption for Brandon Cox.

I tend to pull for the team that isn't supposed to win and I have completely enjoyed Auburn's losses to Mississippi State and South Florida. Tonight, however, I was pulling for Auburn and Tommy T.

It was an tremendous day in college football. I'm already looking forward to next Saturday.

Fall Concert 2007

UAB Chamber Singers

Simple Gifts Arr. René Clausen (b. 1953)

Trois Chansons Achille-Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Dieu qu'l la fait bon regarder!

Quant j'ai ouy le tabourin

Yver, vous n'estes qu'un villain

Four Shakespeare Songs Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (b. 1963)

3. Double, Double Toil and Trouble

UAB Men's Choir

In omnem terram Giovanni Francesco Anerio (1567-1630)

Gaudeamus igitur Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

A Hymn To God the Father John Ness Beck (1930-1987)

UAB Women's Chorale

Salve Regina Miklós Kocsár (b. 1933)

Rose Trilogy Eleanor Daley (b. 1955)

3. The Lost Rose

Regretting What I Said . . . Arr. M. George, R. Allen

UAB Concert Choir

Regina Coeli Romuald Twardowski (b. 1930)

O sacrum convivium Vytautas Miškinis (b. 1954)

Justorum Animae, Op. 38, No. 1 Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

Lay a Garland Robert Pearsall (1795 – 1856)

Silence of Time Arr. Darmon Meader (b. 1953)

Black Is The Color Arr. René Clausen (b. 1953)

Song of Triumph Dale Grotenhuis (b. 1931)

The Lord's Prayer Arr. Jerry Jordan (b. 1946)

If I Got My Ticket Arr. Robert Shaw (1916-1999)

Free Wake Up Service

Some of you might find this VERY beneficial on early morning concert days:

Use Wakerupper to...

Tick Set a wake-up call at a specific time
Tick Remind yourself of important events
Tick Remember to take medication on time
Tick Escape from a boring date or meeting
Tick Remind child or spouse to do chores
Tick Tell someone that you love them

...and a whole lot more!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Straw Poll Results

If the straw poll was indicative of what will happen, UAB's Concert Choir is headed to Ireland soon.

Definite YES: 25
Probably Yes: 26

That's 51. I think we did France with 35.

I think things are looking REAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllll good.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'll Love You Forever

I'm sure many of you know it by heart:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.

It was the first book I read to my girls, way back at the beginning. I hadn't read the book before . . . had never heard anything about it . . . and I was in tears at the end.

It happens every time.

And it happened tonight--I struggled through the last few pages trying to disguise the emotion in my voice.

Claire was already asleep, Catherine barely had her eyes open. Caroline, however, listened very closely. She made the connection with the new baby at the end of the story . . . and she made the connection, I think, when I looked at her and told her that she would always be my baby.

She smiled, leaned forward, and gave me a hug . . . and then a sweet kiss.

It was a beautiful end to a perfect day. I hope you all get to taste the sweetness of parenthood . . . there is nothing like it.

Friday rehearsal schedule

I just sent this email to the choir:


I was very pleased with rehearsal today . . . you sounded fantastic, worked hard, and had fun. That's my idea of a great day.

My apologies about being confusing about this Friday's rehearsal. I think we need it to ensure success with our first performance on Saturday.

Here's what I expect for the rest of the semester:

9/21 all will rehearse
9/28 men will rehearse, women off
10/5 everyone off
10/12 all will rehearse
10/19 all will rehearse
10/26 everyone off
11/2 everyone off
11/9 everyone off
11/16 everyone off (Copeland out of town)
11/23 university holiday
11/30 all rehearse

I think that schedule gives you six Friday's for the two Saturday's. To finish making good on that, I'm giving you these two days off next week:

Wednesday, September 26
Thursday, September 27

Mark it down, everyone. And tell your friends.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Likely Hotel in Cork

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Christmas at Alys dates:

Dress rehearsal on Saturday, December 8. 7-10 p.m.

Performance on Sunday, December 9th. 3:00 p.m.

Other dates:

September 22, 2007 9:00 a.m. UAB Concert Choir sings at UAB Scholars Symposium
October 14, 2007 UAB Concert Choir at Trinity Methodist We'll sing for both services!
October 20, 2007 Fall Choirs Concert
November 1, 2007 ACDA College Choral Festival
December 8, 2007 Dress Rehearsal: Christmas at the Alys
December 9, 2007 Christmas at the Alys
January 12, 2007 Sing at UAB Honor Choir

Brahms Requiem Week. Rehearsal times:
Monday, Feb. 11, 2008 7-9 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008 7-9 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008 7-9:30
February 15 8 p.m. Brahms Requiem
February 16 8 p.m. Brahms Requiem

February 25, 2008 ACDA Invitational Choir Festival
April 18, 2008 UAB Spring Choir Concert

Friday, September 14, 2007

New Lincoln Center Podcasting Featuring Vocal/Choral Music

Thanks to John Neal of A Cappella News for pointing me to this news:

Next Monday, September 17, Lincoln Center launches its first podcast series, Vocal Chords, focusing on the vocal and choral performances that are part of its popular Great Performers concerts this fall.

A special podcast devoted to the choral and opera masterworks and inspiring soloists that highlight the fall Great Performers season. Beginning September 17, a new installment will be issued every two weeks featuring interviews with a wide variety of artists.

Of special interest to choral directors:

Conductor Colin Davis opens the series with two consecutive podcasts featuring his insights on Mozart's Requiem (Monday, September 17) and Haydn's The Creation (Monday, October 1). Both programs are offered in anticipation of his October 17-21 performances with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Avery Fisher Hall.

On November 26, countertenor Robin Tyson of the English vocal ensemble The King's Singers discusses their Christmas program of works by Górecki, Palestrina, Reger and others which will take place on December 8 at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.

You can find the podcast website here. Happy listening!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007



You might enjoy a couple of podcasts that I've been a part of recently.

Here's one featuring the music of Anuna:

More here.

Here's one of Miliken University's choir.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pavarotti - Nessun Dorma

A more fitting homage to the master.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Giving Tree

One of my favorite parental tasks is reading to my beautiful girls at bedtime. Tonight, I read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

It is a beautiful story about a tree's love for a boy throughout his life and how the tree eventually gave all she had to give.

I wonder how many of you know the book?

There's even a Wikipedia site about some of the interpretations of the text.

Life is good. Love is beautiful. And the tree was happy.

Pavarotti near death

Full story here.

ROME (Reuters) - Luciano Pavarotti's health has deteriorated sharply and the 71-year-old tenor is at home, unconscious and suffering from kidney failure, a television station reported on Wednesday.

Family and friends went to Pavarotti's home to be near the singer, considered one of the greatest tenors of his generation, E' TV Antenna Uno television station in Modena, the tenor's home town, reported. In July 2006 Pavarotti underwent surgery in New York for pancreatic cancer and retreated to his villa in Modena.

He had to cancel his first planned public reappearance a few months later. Taken to hospital with a fever last month, Pavarotti was released from hospital in Modena on August 25 after undergoing more than two weeks of tests and treatment. Italy's AGI news agency said cancer specialists were treating Pavarotti at home, and described his condition as "very serious".

Music Ed in Kaleidoscope

The article.

Students need more music education
By: Eric Lafiore, Columnist

Over the summer, I took Music 120 with Dr. Denise Gainey. During one of our lectures, she posed a sentiment that got me thinking. The topic was whether our schools are doing enough to educate students in music, not complicated theory but basic musical knowledge that a youth could intake and, hopefully, have blossom over the years.

There is music education in schools, but mainly in those with middle to upper economic backing and usually in higher grades. You don’t see music classes being included in regular school curriculums, state or nationwide, with math, science, English, etc.

One would assume that the main reason for this emphasis on these certain subjects, and a lack of music education, is monetary. Also, some argue that the core curriculum funded in public and private schools is more vital to job security in the future.

Where does this leave music?

There obviously are musicians, music educators, or both making a living from the principled foundations that are gleaned from music history, theory and practice. As is anything in life, the more one learns, the better equipped one will be to deal with life’s challenges.

As the cliché goes, “With knowledge comes power.” Knowledge also has the capacity to fight off the nasty side effects of ignorance. So, I went back to Dr. Gainey to get more of her thoughts on the issue, along with those of UAB’s Dr. Philip Copeland.

I took away the following from our talk. Music training, in the past, integrated one into society and created an aesthetic experience. Students cannot verbalize what they are hearing, since most mainstream music doesn't challenge the ear (i.e. same words, similar harmonic progressions, etc.).

Unintentionally, educators have created a musically illiterate society, with budget cuts being a major reason. Broadly, today’s music is associated with sex or what's hot in pop culture, rather than beauty.

In certain middle schools, students are exposed to a wide-array of musical options, without focusing too much on any one area in particular. Many students want to be the star but don’t want to put in the work to get to that point.

Fewer students are coming in exhibiting the ability or discipline necessary to play the piano, which is the key root to learning music. Looking at the broader picture, one can argue that music education is needed, whether the audience is elementary children or college seniors.

If students are not able to experience music as much as all the other things that grapple for primacy in today’s world, they truly are missing out.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

All-Bran Construction Worker

Well, I guess you can find anything on YouTube. Here's the commercial I referenced in class today. I'm having trouble remembering how it related to an outstanding choir singing beautiful music . . . I guess you had to be there.