Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Aurora Unversity Choral Festival Blogpost #4 Thou art the Sky

On October 21st at Aurora University The Rock Valley College Chamber Singers, directed by the very talented Paul Laprade, and with Valerie Blair, piano, will perform my piece Thou Art the Sky, with texts by the brilliant Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. This group actually premiered the piece on Feb 1, 2008 at the Illinois 2008 MENC (Music Educators National Council, now called NafMe) convention. 

Published by Roger Dean (division of Lorenz)  Catalog # 15/2430R

The text for this song is #67 in Gitanjali (Song Offerings) by the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). Gitanjali’s simple yet deeply profound meditations on God and Nature touched a nerve in pre-World War One Western Europe and the US. As the volume achieved whirlwind popularity Tagore became a household name in wide circles, and for Gitanjali (originally in Bengali, with an English translation he created himself) Tagore became the first Asian winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.

In my setting I have tried to musically match the simplicity and directness of Tagore’s meditation, and have also created a chant-like inner theme to the piece by returning again and again to the line “O thou beautiful”.
I have also set other texts from Gitanjali, including a multi-movement work. Also, Oxford publishes my arrangement of another poem from Gitanjli, When I bring to you Colour’d Toys, composed by John Alden Carpenter and arranged by me for women’s voices and piano.
W.B. Yeats expressed his thoughts in 1911 on Tagore's Gitanjali, here are excerpts of Yeats comments:

"I have carried [Gitanjali]... about with me for days, reading it in railway trains, or on the top of omnibuses and in restaurants, and I have often had to close it lest some stranger would see how much it moved me. These lyrics---which are in the original, my Indian friends tell me, full of subtlety of rhythm, of untranslatable delicacies of colour, of metrical invention---display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my live long. The work of a supreme culture, they yet appear as much the growth of the common soil as the grass and the rushes. A tradition, where poetry and religion are the same thing, has passed through the centuries, gathering from learned and unlearned metaphor and emotion, and carried back again to the multitude.

[Tagore expresses] innocence, a simplicity that one does not find elsewhere in literature makes the birds and the leaves seem as near to him as they are near to children, and the changes of the seasons great events as before our thoughts had arisen between them and us."

Btw, the Illinois ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) chose Thou Art the Sky as the winner of its 2007 Choral Composition Contest.



Thou art the sky and thou art the nest as well.

O thou beautiful, there in the nest
it is thy love that encloses the soul
with colours and sounds and odours.

There comes the morning with
the golden basket in her right hand
bearing the wreath of beauty, silently
to crown the earth.

And there comes the evening over

the lonely meadows deserted by
herds, through trackless paths,
carrying cool draughts of peace in her
golden pitcher from the western
ocean of rest.
But there, where spreads the
infinite sky for the soul to take her
flight in, reigns the stainless white
radiance. There is no day nor night,
nor form nor colour, and never, never
a word.

Tagore and Einstein, 1930, STYLIN'!

The Rock Valley College Chamber Singers

Dr. Paul Laprade

Paul Laprade, conductor, is Full Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Rock Valley College where he conducts the Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, Women’s Choir, teaches courses in music theory, choral conducting, vocal (lyric) diction, music education, and voice, and assists in advising the collegiate MENC chapter. Ensembles under his direction have performed throughout North America, and have performed at the White House for Presidents Clinton (1994), Bush (2001), and Obama (2010).   
                His articles and review appear in several journals, including The Journal of Music Theory, Theoria, and The Choral Journal. Regionally, he has presented papers on choral technique for the IL-ACDA (July 2005), PMEA (2003), IMEA (2006 and 2008), and conducted at ACDA Division and National conventions. Nationally, he has presented papers on the music of Boulez for the Society for Music Theory (Oakland, CA), and on the music of Donald Martino for the national meeting of the American Musicological Association (Baltimore, Maryland).
                An active adjudicator and clinician throughout the eastern United States, Laprade frequently appears as a guest conductor for county, regional, and symphonic choruses. His pedagogical interests focus heavily on the relationships between music perception, movement, and choral rehearsal processes. His research interests emphasize score analysis and rehearsal technique. Laprade was given the Excellence in Teaching award from the Eastman School of Music. 
                A graduate of Rhode Island College, Eastman School of Music, and Westminster Choir College, with advanced degrees in Music Education, Music Performance, Music Theory, and Choral Conducting, Laprade studied choral conducting under Joseph Flummerfelt, James Jordan, Allen Crowell, Donald Neuen, and in workshops with Robert Shaw. Laprade resides in Rockford, Illinois with the lights of his life, his sons Nathaniel and Jonathan; his time and activities with them are the proudest part of his life.

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