Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Aurora University Choral Festival Blogpost #2 Loosin Yelav

This is blogpost number two about the upcoming October 21st choral festival at Aurora University showcasing my choral music. Today I'll be discussing Loosin Yelav, the Armenian folk song which the Waubonsee Community College Choir, under Mark Lathan (see more down below) will be singing.

Loosin Yelav (The Rising Moon)

SA/solo violin/piano Cat #679       Santa Barbara Music Press

sbmp score and recording

SATB/solo violin/piano Cat. #698        Santa Barbara

sbmp score and recording

I was asked by Mary Alice Stollak, a great conductor (now retired) from Michigan, and recipient of two Grammy awards(!) to arrange this song for her choir at that time, the amazing Michigan State University Children's Choir (the top group is usually high school girls plus some boys with uncharged voices). Mary Alice, early on in her career as a soprano soloist had performed the version of the song by Italian avant-garde 20th century composer Luciano Berio, which is part of his set of folk songs from different countries. Mary Alice felt that this lovely tune would be delightful in choral arrangement. She asked me to do it for her choir and I agreed.

One of the things I tried to accomplish in my setting was to give the illusion of space--- in a sense, the expanse of space as we raise our eyes off of what is in front of us (texting on a cellphone perhaps?) and behold amazing things way up in the sky--like the Moon! One way I did this was to create a rising introduction in the solo violin part; create a rubato, floating feeling in the voices (in the slower sections); and write a piano part which would utilize the whole keyboard, including stretching all the way up to the top of the keyboard. Of course, in the more dancelike sections of the piece that expansiveness doesn't exist. There we're just having fun dancing!!

A rough translation of the text:

The moon has risen over the hill,
over its summit,
its red, rosy face
brilliantly illuminating the earth.

O dear moon, with your dear light
and your dear round and rosy face.

Before darkness reigned
covering the earth; 
but now the light of the moon has chased it away
into the dark clouds.

O dear moon, with your dear light
and your dear round and rosy face.

This piece has proven to be quite popular with singers and audiences. It has been performed on a number of continents, including a wonderful performance directed by the famous conductor Andre Thomas at a festival in England. The piece is easily learned as the Armenian is not difficult. When I visit choirs and work on the piece we mostly have to work together to create two different worlds-- that floating in the sky rubato and then the exhilarating little folk dance that pops up. It's usually pretty easy to get young singers to have fun with this piece.

Here again is the video I shared  a few days ago. This was created by a parent of a young singer performing in a festival choir I was conducting in Pennsylvania. I love the amazing images of Armenia in this little video.

Here is a perfomance at a recent Georgia All-State conducted by the wonderful Jeffery Ames from Belmont University:

Here is the Berio version sung beautifully:

Ready for some more fun? Along with fellow Italian modernists such as Bruno Maderna, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio (1925-2003) enjoyed a highly successful career as a composer in the second half of the 20th century. Here is the amazing third movement of his Sinfonia composed in 1969, featuring the Swingle Singers. This is a truly wild segment of the piece-- a bizarre musical collage thrillride through the Symphony #2 Scherzo of Mahler plus quotes from other composers: Ravel, Debussy, Brahms, and many more!

If this music mystifies you, you can Wikipedia Berio Sinfonia and read a decent explanation of what's going on!

The Waubonsee Community College Chorale

Dr. Mark Lathan

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Dr. Mark Lathan received his Bachelor's degree in performance from Northern Illinois University in 1983, where he studied trumpet with Ron Modell and jazz arranging with Frank Mantooth. Earning his Ph.D. in 2001 from UCLA, Lathan studied composition with Roger Bourland, David Lefkowitz, and Ian Krouse. While at UCLA he received the Henry Mancini Award in Film Composition and studied film scoring with Jerry Goldsmith.

He counts among his compositions numerous compositions and arrangements for jazz and chorus, as well as several film scores and a number of concert pieces including two choral cantatas, Inheritance of Love and Song of Hope.  Lathan's various compositions have been published by C. L. Barnhouse, Doug Beach Music, Yelton Rhodes Music, and Art of Sound Publishing. He was a contributing arranger for Louis Bellson's Sacred Concerto which was released on the Percussion Power label in 2005. Two of his arrangements appear on the CD release "Above and Beyond" by the Los Angeles Flute Quartet and his Trumpet Concerto was premiered by Mark Baldin and the Rockford, IL Symphony in 2009 as part of their 75th Anniversary Season Celebration.  "Echale Todas Las Ganas" ("Give It All You Got"), a commissioned composition for Wheeling High School?s Jazz Band I, was premiered at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in December 2013.

Lathan is currently in his thirteenth year as Music Professor at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL where he directs the Waubonsee Chorale and teaches theory, composition, trumpet, and humanities.

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