The Choir has been working hard on music for this weekend’s Family Concert, entitled “The Write Stuff.” It will feature the three winners of our second competition for young composers, including a 9th grader, and two college students: a sophomore and a senior. It’s been a joy to encounter their music – all three compositions are very well-written, especially considering the age of their authors! Likewise, it’s a thrill for them to hear the notes they carefully crafted on the page come to life through the voices of The Choir (and, in one instance, through the instruments of the orchestra).
Two of the pieces are a capella, that is, unaccompanied. Michael McAndrew’s Midnight sets an evocative poem in lush, jazzy, 8-part harmonies, demonstrating a sophisticated knowledge of chord progression and voice leading. Michael Battipaglia’s Nos Von Unum, is a prayer setting, with harmonies that evoke the music of the Russian Orthodox church (at least to this singer). Both composers attend Moravian College and are compositions students of Larry Lipkis, the Composer in Residence at Moravian College and all around musical raconteur (about whom, I’ll have more, in a minute). Christopher Ostertag’s The Light of Zion has Come is a neo-Händellian romp for choir and orchestra, with a particularly challenging trumpet part. How exciting for our target audience to hear the music of students, some just a few years older than them, performed in this context.
The concert will also feature performances of music by some of our favorite composers when they were quite young. Benjamin Britten penned his gorgeous Hymn to the Virgin when he was a mere 17 years old. This a capella piece was written for two choirs, and we’ll be singing it antiphonally in Zoellner, with a large group on stage, and a semichorus halfway back in the auditorium. We’ll also sing a few movements of Bach’s wonderful Easter cantata, Christ lag in todesbanden, which he wrote when he was 22.
Finally, in a segment entitled “Composing from the Ground Up,” several young instrumentalists will demonstrate the process of improvising over a ground bass, in this case the bass of Bach’s Chaconne in D for solo violin. They’ve been working with Larry Lipkis on this early compositional technique, and it will be fascinating for the audience to see new music come vividly to life before their very eyes! There will be other audience interaction, and this concert is an excellent first experience of classical music for younger folks.
The Choir is passionate about its educational outreach, and the Family Concerts were conceived as part of this important mission. They last an hour, and have lots of singing, playing (in every sense of the word), and developmentally-appropriate explanation. Tickets will be available at the door, the fun starts at 3:00 pm at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University, this coming Sunday, January 27th. Bring your children, neighbors’ children, grandchildren, etc.!
Read Steve Siegel’s preview in the Morning Call, here.