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A Bridge Onward - 2022
by Howard Meharg, Founder/Associate Conductor
Dr. Nicole Lamartine, Conductor

One of the most enjoyable things about putting a Chor Anno program together is choosing the music. While Nicole and I didn't look specifically for choral works that tell the story that says "onward and upward," we ended up with pieces that actually did that this year.

 

Last year's program was called "Resilience." It seemed appropriate for we had been forced to skip 2020 altogether because of Covid, a terrible pandemic that took the lives of far too many people. One quote summed up our sense of the past three years...It was "I'm getting tired of being part of a major historical event." Another person said, "it's time to move on past being resilient...time to move onward and upward."

So that's our story for 2022. Finding the exact title for this "book" we are writing was difficult. We knew it probably needed something about reaching up. Maybe that's why we keep coming back to the "star" references. Anyway, look at the following as a book, complete with headings for chapters. Every chapter and title is part of the continuing story! OK, call 'em program notes, but I like the story! (The titles are in caps.)

Chapter 1 - Love Abounds
CARITAS ABUNDAT with plainsong by Hildegard von Bingen from about the year 1150 forms the melodic part, complete with modern harmonies composed by the very much alive Nancy Grundahl, has but one message...Love Abounds. That message provides the moral rudder guiding us onward throughout this program.

Love abounds in all things.
From the depths, to the heights, 
To the heights of the stars!

Love abounds in all things,
Love bequeaths to the Holy One
The kiss of peace

 

Chapter 2 - Lost on this Lowly Ground
AT THE ROUND EARTH'S IMAGINED CORNERS - a piece by Williametta Spencer from 1968 is based on poetry by the famous English poet of about 1600, John Donne. Things are as they are, but Donne wrote with high hopes and a solid belief. He said it like this:

 

At the round earth's imagined corners,
blow your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
From death, you numberlesse infinities
Of soules, and to your scattered bodies goe,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall overthrow,
All whom warre, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despaire, law, chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God and never taste death's woe,
But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space,
For, if above all these, my sinnes abound,
"Tis late to aske abundance of Thy grace,
When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,

Teach mee how to repent; for that's as good
As if Thou hadst seal'd my pardon, with Thy blood.

 

INSANAE ET VANAE CURAE by Franz Joseph Haydn speaks to the insanity of busy lives and those of us who fail to slow down and look to the heavens for peace. Here is Haydn's contribution to our story: (translated from the Latin)
 

Vain and raging cares invade our minds,
Madness often fills the heart, robbed of hope,
O mortal man, what does it profit to endeavour at worldly things,
if you should neglect the heavens?
If God is for you, all things are favorable for you.

 

LITTLE MAN IN A HURRY or if one decides to go with the poem's writer, e. e. cummings, then it's "little man in a hurry," for cummings normally chose to use only lower case in his poetry.  The song is written by contemporary composer Eric Whitacre. It's a huge contrast musically from the previous work by Haydn, but fits perfectly into the notion that we stay far too busy.  Whitacre takes the cummings poem which reminds us that we need to slow down and become aware of all that is around us. And it takes bravery to become quiet in this busy world.

 

little man in a hurry, full of important worry,
halt, stop, forget, relax, wait.

little child who have cried, who have failed, who have cried,
lie bravely down,
big rain, big snow, big sun, big moon, 

little man in a hurry...STOP!

 

Chapter 3 - Longing for Home
NON NOBIS DOMINE was written by contemporary composer, Rosephanye Powell. It simply takes the words of the motto of the Knights Templar which translate to:

 

"Non Nobis Domine, Non Nobis, Sed Nomini Tuo Da Gloriam - Not In Our Name Lord, Not In Our Name, But In the Name Of Your Glory".

Many people find comfort in their religious faith, looking to such ancient texts to provide a home-base for this faith.

 

CARRICKFERGUS is an Irish folksong arranged for choir by Joshua Pacey, a member of Voces 8. Carrickfergus is a relatively small city about eleven miles out of Belfast.  The "Ballygrand" mentioned in the lyrics is probably a reference to a place in Scotland 80 miles across the North Sea...probably the burial place of the poetic "speaker's" dearly beloved. Our conductor, Nicole, sings the beautiful solo lines accompanied by the choir. The longing for home is palpable.  It's so easy to see why many of us wax nostalgic for the familiar during such a period of upset as the pandemic through which we have come. The comfort of home is vital to each of us.

I wish I was in Carrickfergus
Only for nights in Ballygrand.

I would swim o'er the deepest ocean
Only for nights in Ballygrand.
But the sea is wide and I can't swim over,
Nor have I the wings to fly.
If I could find me a handsome (capable) boatman
To ferry me over to my love and I.

My childhood days bring back sad reflections
Of happy times there spent long ago.
My boyhood friends and my own relations
Have all passed on like the melting snow.
So I'll spend my days in this endless roving;
Soft is the grass, my bed is free.
Oh to be home now in Carrickfergus
On the long road down to the salty sea.

 

Chapter 4 - A Glimmer of Grace
ALWAY, SOMETHING SINGS is based on poetry by Ralph Waldo Emerson and set to music by Dan Forrest, whose music we look to frequently because we love it so much!  Emerson clearly believes that even in the "darkest, meanest things" one can find hope, for that glimmer of grace exists...always.

 

Let me go wher'er I will
I hear the sky-born music still
It sounds from all things old,
It sounds from all things young,
From all that's fair,
From all that's foul
Alway, something sings.

It is not only in the rose,
It is not only in the bird,

Not only where the rainbow glows,
Nor only in the song of woman heard,

But in the dark, but in the darkest, meanest (mundane) things,

There alway, something sings

 

Tis not in the high stars alone,

Not only where the rainbow glows,

Nor in the cup of budding flow'rs.

It is not only in the rose,

Or in the robin's mellow tone,

It is not only in the bird,
Nor in the bow that smiles in show'rs

But in the dark,

In the darkest, meanest things.

Alway, something sings.

 

THE LORD IS IN YOUR MIDST is a piece I (Howard Meharg) wrote 35 years ago. I laid it aside, only to "unearth" it a few weeks ago. My intent, since I had never heard it sung by a full choir, was to ask Chor Anno to sing it for me once just to hear my own "creation." Much to my happy surprise, they liked it and Nicole insisted it be included in this year's program. As was said earlier, many people find great solace, especially in difficult times, in their faith. The text for this piece (taken from Zephaniah 3:14) definitely fits into the idea of a "glimmer of grace." I especially like the lines where it says "You shall fear evil no more." And later, "He will renew you in His love." Here are the words:

 

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion,
Shout, O Israel.
Rejoice and exalt with all your heart
O daughter of Jerusalem.
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you.
He has cast out your enemies.
The King of israel, the Lord is in your midst,
You shall fear evil no more.

On that day it shall be said in Jerusalem,
Do not fear O Zion,
Let not your hands grow weak, O Jerusalem,
The Lord your God is in your midst.

He will rejoice over you with gladness,

He will renew you in His love.

He will exalt over you with loud singing,
As on a day of festival.

 

Chapter 5 - Rejoice
LOBET DEN HERRN is one of wonderful creations of none other than Johann S. Bach. A comment from a listener sums it up well "Glorious. Technically superb and full of joy!" Nicole and I felt we had to program this one for it captures the spirit of what we hope is the turning point in this dark period. The translation from the German follows:

 

Praise the Lord, all the heathens
And celebrate him, all the peoples!
For his grace and truth
Reign over us for ever.
Alléeuia !

 

Chapter 6 - Looking to the Quiet Stars
CHANT TO THE NIGHT SKY is a marvelous piece written by our friend Ken DeJong.  Ken wrote this as a commission for the Capital City  Chorus of Olympia, Dan Colgan, director. In an interesting turn of events, Dan had to cancel  (because of Covid) the concert where this piece was to be premiered. Dan Colgan is now a member of Chor Anno. So this wonderful work with poetry by Jeanne Lohmann (1923-2016), is sung for the first time in our 2022 concerts!

 

I suppose it's needless to say, but we love the line "teach us the quiet of the stars." Here is the complete text:

Teach me to sing,
teach me ancient songs,
Let there be music in me past words.

Roughen my language,

Clear me from falsehood.

Teach me the quiet of the stars

and the duff under the redwoods.

Let me hear the many, many voices of the sea.

Let the sea be loud in my ears.

Teach me songs I don't know

Bring memory back in music of the drums,

the pounding feet, the circles of dance.

Call the druids home.

Call the wise women from the sea,

teach me songs.

O LUX BEATA TRINITAS is by Will Todd, a composer who makes his home in the UK. His music is rapidly becoming well known in all genres...and world-wide. Todd uses plainsong  chant. The organ (played by our own Dan Colgan), as well as the choir, often provide a stunning backdrop for the chant.  Whether from the viewpoint of those of the faith community or that from those who see the "dawning of a new day," O Lux speaks to us of hope.  Here is the translation from the Latin:

O Trinity of blessed light,
O Unity of princely might,
The fiery sun now goes his way;
Shed Thou within our hearts Thy ray.

To Thee our morning song of praise,
To Thee our evening prayer we raise;
Thy glory suppliant we adore
Forever and forevermore.

All laud to God the Father be;
All praise, Eternal Son, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete.

BRIGHT MORNING STARS is a setting of a traditional Appalchian folk hymn by our friend Shawn Kirchner. It keeps the mountain flavor of the region with both the plaintive melody and the lyrics. It's not uncommon for composers, poets...artists of all kinds as well as travelers, explorers, and theologians...all those who tend to be searchers...to look to the stars for guidance. Consider the north star, the Big Dipper (the drinking gourd), and all the rest. Here are the simple words to "Bright Morning Stars:"

Bright morning stars are rising,
Day is a-breaking in my soul.

O where are our dear fathers?
Day is a-breaking in my soul.

They are down in the valley praying,

Day is a-breaking in my soul.

O where are our dear mothers?
Day is a-breaking in my soul.
They have gone to heaven shouting,

Day is a-breaking in my soul.

O where are our dear children?
Day is a-breaking in my soul.
They're upon the earth a-dancing.
Day is a-breaking in my soul.

Chapter 7 - Stars Guide Onward
AD ASTRA (TO THE STARS) was written by Jacob Narverud for tenors and basses. If we need further evidence that the stars provide the navigation tools, this is it! Here are the words:

First the Latin:
Ad astra per aspera, Sursum.

Movere deinceps. Sine cura, post omnes.

And the English:
To the stars through difficulties. When you're tired and troubled, and you have lost your way, don't let hard times lead you astray. Look upward. Move forward. Leave all cares behind!

YONDER COME DAY is a combination of  familiar songs in a wonderful arrangement by Paul Rudoi. What a fitting reference he provides with the heavens providing guidance in the coded songs such as "Steal Away," and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."  It also provides ample connection to our previously mentioned concept of "heading for home."  

Chapter 8 - Peace is Mine
PEACE FLOWS INTO ME is based on lyrics by the poet, Sara Teasdale with the music by a former member of Chor Anno, now living in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia...Paul Aitken. Paul was commissioned by the Laramie County School District to write this piece for the retirement of Sean Ambrose, a choral colleague and friend of our conductor, Nicole. The poem is:

Peace flows into me as the tide to the pool by the shore.
It is mine forever more

It will not ebb like the sea.

I am the pool of blue that worships the vivid sky;

My hopes were heaven high.

They are all fulfilled in you.

I am the pool of gold when sunset burns and burns and dies.
You are my deepening skies.

Give me your stars to hold

I am the pool of gold

They are all fulfilled in you!

Peace flows into me.

CODA

Sure, the "final frontier" may point toward the symbolism of the stars, but we are reminded again and again that our everyday lives  are actually filled with ups and downs and often contain a certain restlessness. That's not bad! It says, "I'm alive. I have things to accomplish. I'm eager to see what challenges life brings."

We may long for home, long for a peace within. (We can certainly do without the extraordinary worries of a pandemic..) But there is also the peace of accomplishment, of a job well done...even though it might be difficult and filled with a bit of anxiety.

We urge you through our music today to remember that we can "get through this!" Whatever "this" is. We do hope that our concert has been uplifting and enriching to you.  It's helped us move "onward and upward" and we would be thrilled to know that this has been true for you, too.  That's the real message of our musical story.