Jake Runestad: The Hope of Loving (Yield to Love; Wild Forces)

Performed March 10, 2024; James Knox Sutterfield, conductor.

Yield to Love, inspired by the writings of Rabi’a al-Basri

I know about love the way the fields know about light,
the way the forest shelters us.
We are vulnerable like an infant.
We need each other’s care or we will suffer.
How will you ever find peace unless you yield to love?

Wild Forces, St. Francis of Assisi

There are beautiful, wild forces within us.
Let them turn millstones inside
filling bushels that reach to the sky.

The Hope of Loving is a multi-movement work commissioned by Seraphic Fire and their Artistic Director, Patrick Quigley. Composer Jake Runestad writes of this piece:

I am a hoarder of poetry, and one of my favorite collections is Love Poems From God—mystical poems by Daniel Ladinsky inspired by famous writers from around the world. This book is a composer’s dream with colorful, powerful, and succinct writings that talk of living fully, deep spirituality, self-contemplation and love. When starting my work on this new composition, I opened Ladinsky’s book to find a treasure trove of quaint parables and sage advice for us all. The Hope of Loving (2015) for chorus, soloists, and string quartet, uses a selection of writings inspired by spiritual mystics throughout history to explore the idea of love and its manifestation in our lives. My hope is that this music might introduce you to meaningful texts, connect you with an element of your own human experience, and foster your compassion for the story of another.

— Jake Runestad

While some pieces are built around a melodic motif, The Hope of Loving is built around a single interval, a perfect fourth. This interval is most obvious when it occurs melodically, immediately identifiable in the opening phrase, which recurs throughout the piece; however, Runestad also employs it harmonically, building chords that are quartal (built of stacked fourths) rather than triadic (built of stacked thirds) as tonal western music traditionally is. Quartal harmony often does not sound excessively dissonant, but it is distinctive and tends to feel unresolved.

The first movement, “Yield to Love,” sets a poem inspired by the work of Rabi’a al-Basri. Enslaved as a child, she gained freedom later in life and became one of the most influential Sufi mystics and a Muslim saint. As mythology accumulated around her, many writings and poems were attributed to her, though their origin is disputed, and contemporary scholars believe there are no extant writings that are legitimately hers. Nevertheless, her legacy and the works attributed to her have had a lasting impact, including on perhaps the most famous Persian poet, Rumi. The music is spare, mostly unison lines with chant-like rhythms, and the movement serves as a sort of introduction or epigraph for the work as a whole both musically and textually.

“Wild Forces” is distinct from the other movements with its driving rhythms and boisterous energy. The text, by St. Francis of Assisi, exhorts us to embrace and harness the “beautiful, wild forces within us” to produce an abundance of nurturing sustenance so bountiful that it reaches even to heaven. (Other sources translate the second half as “Let them turn the mills inside and fill sacks that feed even heaven.”) The driving rhythms, canons, and triple meter create a sense of circular energy to depict the millstones, and high, bright chords seem to “reach to the sky.”

Adolphus Hailstork: Arise, My Beloved

Performed December 9, 2023; James Knox Sutterfield, conductor.

Arise, my beloved, my fair one, and come away;
Arise! Flowers appear on the earth. Arise!
For lo the winter is past, Flowers appear on the earth,
The time of singing is here. The voice of the dove is heard in our land.

As an expression of indomitable hope, we present Adolphus Hailstork’s Arise My Beloved. Having grown up as a chorister at All Saints Cathedral in Albany, Hailstork describes himself as a “cultural hybrid” of predominantly white, Eurocentric music education and Black cultural and musical heritage. With text from the Song of Songs, this piece is bursting with complex, rhythmic vitality, exclaiming with delight that “lo, the winter is past,” and “flowers appear upon the earth.”

Matthew Culloton (arr.): Silent Night

Performed December 9, 2023; James Knox Sutterfield, conductor.

Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child.
Holy Infant so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing, “Alleluia!
Christ the Saviour is born!”

Silent night, holy night! Son of God love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!

Silent Night likely needs no introduction, but it may surprise some to know that UNESCO declared this ubiquitous Christmas carol an “intangible cultural heritage” of the social practices of Austria in 2011. From their citation: “The song addresses the human desire for all-encompassing peace, conveys a feeling of fellowship, and promotes interpersonal exchange and mutual understanding. It has a transgenerational, unifying effect and brings together people of different age groups, faiths, and ethnicities, all of whom regard this song as part of their own festive culture.”

Matthew Culloton’s arrangement provides just enough embellishment to this classic to make it a choral anthem rather than a communal carol without obscuring its simple beauty.

Schubert: Mass No. 6 in E-flat (Gloria – cum sancto spiritu)

Performed on June 11, 2023; James Knox Sutterfield, conductor.

Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.

With the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The Mass no. 6 in E-flat major was one of Schubert’s final compositions, written just a few months before his death. It was commissioned by the Alserkirche in Vienna, the same church where Schubert had been a torchbearer at Beethoven’s funeral scarcely a year earlier. Though he completed the piece before his death, it was not premiered until the fall of 1829, conducted by his older brother Ferdinand, who was himself a teacher and composer and had played first violin in the Schubert family string quartet that the younger Franz also played in and wrote for as a boy. Overall, the Mass in E-flat is a monument to Schubert’s mature musical style and a significant marker of the evolution of early Romantic music.

The “Cum Sancto Spiritu” fugue is one of the two crown jewels of this Mass. As with the other great fugue to come at the end of the Credo, it is massive and harmonically daring. Despite the length, Schubert expertly imbues it with contrast and development that leaves listeners (and sight-readers) wondering where it will go next.

Haydn: Te Deum No. 2 in C

Performed on June 11, 2023; James Knox Sutterfield, conductor.

Te Deum laudamus, te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem, omnis terra veneratur.

Tibi omnes Angeli, tibi coeli et universae potestates,
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim, incessabili voce proclamant,
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra majestatis gloriae tuae.

Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae majestatis,
Venerandum tuum, verum et unicum Filium,
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.

Tu Rex gloriae Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu, ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.

Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes in gloria Patris.
Judex crederis esse venturus.

Te ergo quaesumus, famulis subveni,
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.

Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine,
et benedic haereditati tuae.

Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus Te,
Et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum,
et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.

Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos,
quemadmodum speravimus in Te,
In Te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in aeternum.

We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father everlasting.

To Thee all angels cry aloud, the heavens and all the powers therein,
To Thee cherubim and seraphim continually do cry,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of Thy glory.

The glorious choir of the apostles praise Thee,
The noble army of martyrs praise Thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge Thee,
The Father of an infinite majesty,
Thy honourable, true, and only Son,
And the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

Thou art the King of glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
Thou, having taken upon Thee to deliver man,
didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb.
When Thou hadst overcome the sting of death,
Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.

We therefore pray Thee, help Thy servants,
whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.

Make them to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save Thy people,
and bless Thine inheritance.

Govern them and lift them up forever.
Day by day we bless Thee,
And we praise Thy Name forever,
yea forever and ever.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.

O Lord, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let Thy mercy be upon us,
as our hope is in Thee,
O Lord, in Thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded.

Welcome, and thank you for joining The Kent Singers as we bring our 50th season to a celebratory close!

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Te Deum no. 2 in C major serves as a suitably festive opener for this occasion. The Te Deum is a hymn of praise from Christian liturgy, and, though it is a regular part of Matins or Morning Prayer services in some denominations, it can be appended to other services on special occasions. Because of this use of the text, many composers have written celebratory settings of the Te Deum like this one, which was commissioned around 1799 by Empress Maria Theresa, wife of Francis II, who was the last Holy Roman Emperor and first Emperor of Austria. Haydn was highly successful and popular but jealously guarded by his wealthy and powerful employers, the Esterházy family, so it was rare that they allowed him to compose music for others—even an empress. Haydn, who composed many short Mass settings, was no stranger to fitting a great deal of text into a compact piece of music. He often resorted to “telescoping” the text of the Credo by having different voice parts sing different sections of text at the same time to get through it faster (a technique used by other composers as well, and often in conflict with the wishes of the clergy). There is almost no such telescoping in this piece, though. Indeed, much of the text is sung homophonically (all parts singing at the same time), providing much clarity and showcasing Haydn’s sensitivity to the text.

Overall, the music is characteristic of Haydn, who was known for both his technical prowess and his inventiveness. (His contributions to musical forms were so influential that Haydn is often credited as “father of the symphony” and “father of the string quartet.”) Structurally, this piece is divided into a three-part form, something Haydn helped popularize to the extent that it grew to be standard: outer fast sections with a slower middle section. For added contrast, the middle section is also in the minor mode. The opening theme, heard in the brief orchestral introduction and then sung in unison by the choir, is a quote of one of the Gregorian chant melodies historically used for the Te Deum hymn. While Haydn quickly moves to newly composed material and four-part harmony, he frequently returns to a unison texture at the beginning or end of a section, which has a striking effect. Baroque-style fugues were well out of musical fashion by this time, but Haydn often incorporated them into the final section of a piece, as he does here before a final coda full of harmonic surprises. No doubt his audiences forgave him the anachronism because of the exciting freshness of the rest of his music. He was a master of subverting expectations, and his themes develop rapidly, often bringing a sense of playfulness to the music despite its careful structure.

Handel: Messiah – All they that see him; He trusted in God

Performed June 12, 2022; James Knox Sutterfield, conductor; Paul D’Arcy, tenor.

27. Arioso for Tenor
All they that see him laugh him to scorn; they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying:
(Psalm 22:7)

28. Chorus
“He trusted in God that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, if he delight in him.”
(Psalm 22:8)

George Frideric Handel’s Messiah holds a singular place in the choral canon. It is a fixture of many choirs’ annual seasons–whether in full or in part–particularly in December. In New York City alone, there are often more than 20 performances of the piece in that single month. The Oratorio Society of New York has performed it annually since 1874, and the tradition of annual repetition goes all the way back to Handel himself. The 1743 premiere in Dublin was a tremendous success, and though Messiah initially met with a less enthusiastic reception in London, by 1750, Handel began leading yearly charitable performances at London’s Foundling Hospital. Reflecting on the work’s already monumental success by the end of the 18th century, music historian Charles Burney wrote that Messiah “fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan, and enriched the succeeding managers of Oratorios, more than any single musical production in this or any country.”

James Mulholland: A Red, Red Rose

Performed March 17, 2012; James Knox Sutterfield, conductor; Tom Morris, piano.

A Red, Red, Rose, Robert Burns

O my luve’s like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June:
O my luve’s like the melodie, that’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, so deep in luve am I
I will luve thee still, my dear, till a’ the seas gang dry.

I will luve thee still, my dear, while the sands o’ life shall run.
Till the seas gang dry, my dear, and rocks melt with the sun!

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, so deep in luve am I,
I will come again my luve, tho’ it were ten thousand mile!

A Red, Red Rose and Highland Mary both come from American composer James Mulholland’s set of Four Robert Burns Ballads. Robert Burns is generally considered the national poet of Scotland. Though he wrote great poetry in the Scots language, he also wrote in a “light Scots dialect” that was accessible to broader English-speaking audiences and has influenced writers, musicians, and even political and social thought well beyond the borders of his homeland. “A Red, Red Rose” is one his best known poems, set here with equal parts urgency and tenderness.

Bach: St. John Passion – Die Kriegsknechte aber; Lasset uns den nicht zerteilen

Performed June 16, 2019; James Knox Sutterfield, conductor; Andrew Fuchs, tenor.

27a. Evangelist
Die Kriegsknechte aber, da sie Jesum gekreuziget hatten, nahmen seine Kleider und machten vier Teile, einem jeglichen Kriegesknechte sein Teil, dazu auch den Rock. Der Rock aber war ungenähet, von oben an gewürket durch und durch. Da sprachen sie untereinander:

27b. Chorus
Lasset uns den nicht zerteilen, sondern darum losen, wes er sein soll.

27a. Evangelist
The soldiers however, that had crucified Jesus, took his clothing and made four parts, one part for each soldier, the same also with his robe. The robe, however, had no seam, being woven from top to bottom. Then they said to each other:

27b. Chorus
Let’s not divide this, rather let’s toss for it, to see whose it will be.

The St. John Passion is a work of both high drama and deep intimacy. The tenor Evangelist acts as narrator, carrying the bulk of the story in the words of Martin Luther’s translation of the Gospel According to St. John. The other principle dramatic roles are sung by two basses, relaying the words ascribed to Jesus and Pilate. Most of the other spoken text in the Passion narrative comes from crowds—soldiers, citizens, or a collection of high priests—and these words are given to the chorus, often with virtuosic writing to capture the fervor described in the narration. Dubbed turba choruses, from the Latin for crowd, these choruses could easily be characterized as turbulent, a word derived from the same root.

As the soldiers play dice in “Lasset uns den nicht zerteilen” (27b), Bach “plays” with his fugue, changing the order of the entrances of the voices and changing the intervals at which they enter in ways that are indescribably difficult to execute as a composer.

Stephen Paulus: The Day Is Done

Ash Swamp, painting by Ann Quackenbos
Ash Swamp, painting by Kent Singer, Ann Quackenbos

Performed March 17, 2019; James Knox Sutterfield, conductor.

The Day Is Done, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes over me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain,
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, come read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Read from some humble poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Then read from some treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice,
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall be banished like restless feelings
And silently, silently, silently,
Silently steal away.

Concluding the first section of our program, The Day Is Done is a perfect illustration
of the style for which Stephen Paulus was so beloved: homophonic, strophic settings
in a warm harmonic language that is familiar yet identifiably Paulus’s own. The
Longfellow poem describes an evening’s reminiscence with vivid similes and asks
for poetry to fill the night with music and banish “the cares, that infest the day.”

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