Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Transitional moments of beauty

A little more about my programming decisions for the ACDA conference - this one concerning the final two pieces.

Harry was right in his comment . . Nunc is a fabulous ending piece. However, it is the performance and transition from "Esti dal" to "Nunc dimittis" that is really going to be cool . . . we go from a children's lullabye into the historic Song of Simeon.

We'll use this translation for Esti dal:
As I lay down for the night by the edge of the woods,
I pull my blanket up to my chin.
I put my hands together,
Thus imploring you, my good Lord

My Lord, grant me a place to stay,
For I’ve grown tired of wandering,
Of hiding,
Of living in a foreign land

My Lord, grant me a good night
Send me your blessed angel
To give courage to the dreams in our hearts.
My Lord, grant me a good night.
and then we sing the Nunc dimittis . . . translated here:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
There's more, though. I want you to get my personal story behind the "Esti dal." I "discovered" the piece while i was reading this blog, by composer Michael Kaulkin. I was reading it one evening while I was putting the girls to bed. Then - and now - we help the triplets fall asleep by staying with them in their room each night until they drift off to sleep. It is a very sweet time - one that is almost 'holy' to any parent - and I read this blog during that 'winding down' time with the girls. I was very moved by Kaulkin's story - and I still am every time I read it.

Here's what Kaulkin has to say about Esti dal:
Esti Dal is a very short and simple piece that offers its lovely melody three times. The first and third statements are given by the sopranos, accompanied by sustained humming from the lower parts. The middle statement blossoms with majestic counterpoint, and during this part Philo moves his hands expressively, much as a conductor does, and visibly moved by the slight ritard at the end of the verse. I, of course, am thrilled.
So . . . when we are performing Kodaly's incredible work . . . I'll be thinking about several things simultaneously:

1. the incredible beauty of the moment - my beautiful choir singing this beautiful lullabye.
2. the love I have for my three girls and the sweetness of our bedtime ritual
3. the wonder of technology - that I can be inspired and moved by a father's love for his son - a composer i've never met - sharing his love for music with his son
4. the tie with the Song of Simeon - the words are said to have been uttered by a man holding the infant Jesus - thanking his heavenly father that he had seen "God's salvation for the world" in the eyes of that little baby.

The translation that we'll use for Esti dal is Mr. Kaulkin's . . .

It will be his words that I meditate upon in the interpretation of Kodaly's music.


Anonymous said...

I'm really glad that we give our songs this much thought. I think it says a lot about us that we put this much time and effort into interpretation, and I think it always takes our sound to a completely new level and helps us grow to be a better choir.

I think songs performed in that manner are the type of songs that stir up emotions in people and change the world. Which should really be a constant goal for any choir if they're going to perform for people. We should want to change lives for the better with our music.

It's a really great feeling to be a part of a group that works to do that.

To be honest, after being in the UAB choirs for a year, it would be an extremely strange thing to me to just "sing a song" without giving its background or history any thought at all. That's a really positive thing in my opinion.

You know, originally I was just going to make some sort of snide, joking remark about Dr. Copeland crying during the concert. But I somehow ended up with something else. Well, hopefully our concerts will be able to bring out an emotional response similar to that in our audiences. It would be a pretty neat thing to move people in that way.

Chris Barbee

Philip L. Copeland said...

Thanks for those words, Chris.