Friday, October 9, 2015

Aurora University Choral Festival Post #6 God's Nature

On October 21st, at the Aurora University Choral Festival featuring my works, the Aurora University Chamber Choir, directed by Dr. Lisa Fredenburgh, will perform the final movement of my piece God's Nature. This piece was actually commissioned a couple years ago by another conductor who will be performing at the Oct. 21st concert, Paul Laprade.

Paul had asked me to write a celebratory work to commemorate the union of two historic churches in Rockford, where he lives. The two churches were the Second Congregational UCC and the First Presbyterian Church--combined now they are often referred to as Second/First Church. 

The entire piece, God's Nature, has a title with a dual meaning. It refers to God and his Creation, the earth we live on--it also refers to the nature of God's love for humankind. How do we know of his love, how can we sense God's purpose?  

The movements, and some ideas I sketched out as I worked on the pieces and finished them:

God Be in My Head: Our perception of God, and how God is within us. A bit of an introductory movement. The voices and strings mostly work together. The piano is a bit in another world, but eventually joins into the ensemble more. The goal was to achieve a slightly surreal setting and some mystery as the piece launches- get people to listen- draw them in.

For the Beauty of the Earth: Nature's beauty- a lyrical movement in a John Rutter sort of style- and actually a reworking of a setting (never premiered) I did in 2005 which I think I have really improved on by adding the string instruments and added writing quality from eight more years of choral composing/creativity/voice leading and voicing experience, etc. All is pretty and happy.

Lord of the Winds: A shift to doubt, worry, fear of abandonment- set up by the powerfully dissonant instrumental intro. A short, yet powerful text by Mary Coleridge, the great-grand niece of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Click to read this fine text.

Shall we Gather at the River/Jerusalem my Happy Home. Shift to the joy and peacefulness of nature, the river symbolism, and then excited hopes of arriving in heaven/Jerusalem etc. Lots of nature images in the poetry. I like the shift to hope and the simplicity of joyous pentatonic melodies plus the rather Coplandesque harmonies I place with those pentatonic lines. 

The texts for the movement being performed on October 21st:

  1. Shall we gather at the river,
    Where bright angel feet have trod,
    With its crystal tide forever
    Flowing by the throne of God?
    • Refrain:
      Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
      The beautiful, the beautiful river;
      Gather with the saints at the river
      That flows by the throne of God.
  2. On the margin of the river,
    Washing up its silver spray,
    We will talk and worship ever,
    All the happy golden day.

  3. Jerusalem, my happy home,
    Name ever dear to me,
    When shall my labors have an end
    In joy and peace with Thee?
  4. Quite through the streets with silver sound
    the flood of life doth flow,
    Upon whose banks on e'vry side
    the wood of life doth grow.
  5. O Christ, do Thou my soul prepare
    for that bright home of love,
    that I may see thee and adore
    with all Thy saints above.
  6. Thy vineyards and thy orchards are
    Most beautiful and fair,
    Full furnished with trees and fruits,
    Most wonderful and rare.
  7. Jerusalem, my happy home,
    my soul still pants for thee,
    Then shall my labors have an end
    when I thy joys shall see.

  1. Under the leadership of Lisa Fredenburgh, the Aurora University Chorale and Chamber Choir perform both on campus and away serving the AU community and communities throughout the Midwest.  She has held previous conducting posts at University of Central Missouri, Meredith College in Raleigh, NC and with the Opera Company of North Carolina and Capitol Opera Raleigh. She holds a DMA and two MM degrees from the University of Arizona where she studied under Maurice Skones, Thomas Hilbish, Jerry McCoy and Kenneth Jennings. Her BA in music education was earned at Luther College, under Weston Noble.  

Dr. Lisa Fredenburgh
Fredenburgh often serves as guest conductor, lecturer and clinician locally, nationally and abroad.  She has conducted All-State Choirs in Tennessee, Georgia, New York, Arkansas, and North Carolina.  She has conducted and taught master classes in the Dominican Republic, Panama and in Bolivia.  She is a frequent presenter at national-, regional- and state-level professional organizations in the fields of Women’s Choral Music, and the Music of Latin America.  She currently serves as Central Division Chair for the Women’s Choir Repertoire & Standards Committee for the American Choral Directors Association and was formerly a member of the steering committee for the 50th Anniversary National Convention in 2009.  

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