Various performances of “Midnight Clear”

Over the last little while, I’ve been sent, and found, a few performance of “Midnight Clear” on YouTube.  I thought I’d share some of these with you.  All of them brought a smile to my face and I’m glad that people really seem to enjoy this piece!  Merry Christmas.

The Lebanon Valley College (Annville, PA) Concert Choir:

Glendale Community College Choral Concert:

The University of the Arts Chorus:

I know it’s July . . .

. . . but I’ve been listening to a lot of Poulenc recently including one of his masterpieces Un Soir de Neige (A Night of Snow).  This was one of the first pieces I learned when I first joined BYU Singers and has left a lasting impression on me.  At first, I really didn’t like the piece, I couldn’t understand what it was about, nor what I was supposed to feel from it.  The ending sort of threw me off as well.  Looking at the text, it seemed to get more dark and more depressing in each movement and seeemed to contain absolutely no hope.  I just didn’t get it.

I felt motivated to find meaning in this piece, and to somehow, at least, understand why Poulenc wrote it.  As we rehearsed the piece, we took time to stop and talk about what it all means.  Many members of Singers already seemed to have it down as to what it meant, and why it was important to them.  Listening to them and Dr. Staheli helped me gain some perspective about the work.  We decided to make a promotional video in order to help our audience understand what we were learning about the piece so that they would understand the piece before coming to our concert.  Here’s the video:

I now love this piece, and am so glad that I had the opportunity to dive into this piece and get it under my skin.  It is a severely depressing and very dark bit of music.  I really do feel that the poetry and music don’t provide a drop of hope.  While I firmly believe that there is always hope, there have been moments when it feels completely gone.  This really is one of the greatest choral works of the 20th Century.  Right along side it is Poulenc’s Figure Humaine (The Human Figure), but that’s another story.

Yeah, I know it’s July.

Preparing for ACDA

We’re getting ready to sing at ACDA in Chicago next month. We’re working super hard on all our material. Dr. Staheli has picked some very hard music for us. Even the so called “easy music” has great challenges. We don’t want to present some half-baked program. We’ve been working hard on this music since September. Above is our impromptu performance of “There is Sweet Music Here” by EJ White. Beautifully crafted and organic, but very difficult. It’s what we call “naked music” because it shows every wart and flaw in our singing. There’s no place to hide.

See you in Chicago.

Henryk Górecki (1933-2010)

For those not familiar with Górecki, he was a Polish composer who became one of the leading musical voices of our time.  He spent much of his life struggling and writing without much success until his Symphony No. 3 (or “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”) became an overnight success on England’s record charts decades after he’d written it.  For more about that watch this clip from a BBC documentary:

For some reason, we have a difficult time putting his music into any sort of genre, but most compare him to “holy minimalists,” like Arvo Pärt, or John Tavener. All three composers spend time writing in a serialistic style and then abandoned this to find a different voice, and this is what most of them are known for. To hear the powerful, stirring second movement of Górecki’s 3rd Symphony watch this video: