Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Promise of Living

We've been singing some Copland lately...on tour especially, where we closed our concerts with two choruses from his opera THE TENDER LAND. Its story centers on family members at a farm in the midwest, as daughter Laurie graduates from high school and ultimately leaves her family behind to see what the world has in store for her.

The chorus "The Promise of Living" closes act I. We performed it on tour with our chamber orchestra, and have now decided to use it as our "anthem" for this spring's commencement exercises at Butler. Though its theme is farm life and bringing in the harvest, it is very meaningful in a graduation setting as well. I like it as a metaphor for our lives "in the academy," as our university president Bobby Fong likes to call it. working together we'll bring in the blessings of harvest.

The lyrics are by Horace Everett:

The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving

Is born of our loving our friends and our labor.

The promise of growing with faith and with knowing

Is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.

The promise of loving, the promise of growing

Is born of our singing in joy and thanksgiving.

For many a year we’ve know these fields

And know all the work that makes them yield.

We’re ready to work, we’re ready to lend a hand.

By working together we’ll bring in the blessings of harvest.

We plant each row with seeds of grain,

And Providence sends us the sun and the rain.

By lending a hand, by lending an arm

Bring out the blessings of harvest.

Give thanks there was sunshine, give thanks there was rain,

Give thanks we have hands to deliver the grain.

O let us be joyful, O let us be grateful to the Lord for his blessing.

The promise of living, the promise of growing

The promise of ending is labor and sharing and loving.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Butler Tour-Final Pics Post

Got home last night (late). Great to be back, enjoying the warmth of so many terrific memories. More pics below. Thanks for following!

First morning in Napflion, Greece

Men of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia at Epidaurus

Kendra, Taylor, Megan and Dr. Kelton touring the tombs at Mycenae

'Bones performing with the Wind Ensemble at Parliament House in Napflion

Dan and Eric at the Parthenon

Final performance venue: Sant' Ignacio Church in downtown Rome

Monday, March 21, 2011

Butler Greece & Italy Tour--It's a Wrap!

Writing this from the departure lounge in Munich, awaiting our Chicago-bound flight. It's been a fantastic trip!

This will be a short post, and I'll try to put up some pics. Yesterday, Henry Leck and I took a group of singers on a walking tour of downtown Rome...Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Pantheon. In the midst of it all was the Rome Marathon, so we ended up ducking under the police tape and dodging the runners several times as we criss-crossed the route. Coming back to the subway station to catch the train back towards our hotel, we heard an Italian community brass band playing "Stars and Stripes Forever" on the Spanish Steps!

Yesterday afternoon, the singers sang Mass at the Vatican, an inspiring and wonderful experience. We performed 5 pieces for a large crowd, including numerous cardinals. The Vatican staff runs the services very adroitly, and we were hustled from our waiting area to the choir loft very quickly.

I'll re-post with more details, but for now some pics.

Advisor (ES) and Advisee (Max Wellman) in Rome

Team Butler inspects the Trevi Fountain

Red (Casey Brege) and Black (Rachel Wendte) in Bologna

Sunbeams across the Bronze Canopy in St Peter's Basilica

Singers preparing to perform at Mass at Vatican

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Butler Tour-Florence and Bologna Concert

Just a quick post...will put up a few more pics. Had a great concert last night in Bologna, singing our final two selections with members of the University Choir and Orchestra. Large and appreciative audience.

Spent a few hours (!) in Florence, where the architectural and sculptural beauty is quite overwhelming. And, had a huge serving of chocolate mint and nutella flavored gelato mixed together. Yum!

Aboard the ferry boat, cruising from Patras, Greece to Ancona, Italy

Brunelleschi's famous Dome in Florence

Butler Tour Choir performs in Bologna

And we are joined by our new "Bolognese" friends for the finale


NOTE: On Sunday, March 20, at 5 pm local time (12 noon EDT) we will be singing for Mass at the Vatican. We will perform four motets in Latin, and it's supposed to be a pretty important day in the Catholic church. We've been told that the Cardinal from Rome will be in attendance this day. The Vatican website seems to have a list of events that are streamed and/or carried live via radio, if you are interested in following us.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Butler Tour Thurs March 17

Looong day today...arrived via overnight ferry boat in Ancona, Italy, after very stormy and turbulent crossing. One big wave sent ALL the dishes, glasses and bottles of booze crashing to the floor in the bar. Most of the trip, however, was pretty calm and actually relaxing...a welcome relief from the fast pace of the rest of the tour thus far. (And remind me to tell about the attempted stowaways we witnessed crawling under our busses while we waited for our boarding passes!)

We arrived in Bologna around 5 pm today, and took a walking tour of the beautiful old city downtown. Following dinner in a cafeteria at the University of Bologna, we headed to an old church, now owned by the University and used by its music students, for rehearsal for tomorrow's performance. We were joined for the last hour by 10 string players and about 100 singers, all of whom folded in to our ensembles for rehearsal of "The Promise of Living" and "Stomp Your Foot" from Copland's opera THE TENDER LAND.

I rehearsed the chorus and chorus+orch on Stomp Your Foot, even getting to practice my Italiano by asking the men to sing one passage "un poco piu suave, per favore" (!)

Following rehearsal, we drove to Montecatini, where we are spending the next two nights. Tomorrow, before our concert, we have a half day trip to Florence.

Now, since this connection seems to be working quickly, let me try to post a few pics.

Our visit to the magnificent theater at Epidaurus

Graduate Choral Conducting Students Leeann Ashby and Greg Sanders admire the view from atop the Mycenean Acropolis

Stan Derusha conducts the Butler Chamber Orchestra in concert at Napflion

"Fraternity Brothers" Max Wellman and Henry Leck enjoy a post-concert meal and cheer

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Butler School of Music Tour-Greece and Italy

As I write this post, I'm sitting onboard the Blue Star I, our overnight passenger ferry enroute from Patras, Greece to Ancona, Italy. We left port about 90 minutes ago, so we've had a chance to have a snack and a beverage, and settle in to our (small!) cabins. [Note: our wifi connection here is quite slow, so I'm going to resist the urge to try to post any photos at this time.]

Last Saturday, members of the Butler Chorale, University Choir, Butler Symphony Orchestra and Butler Symphonic Wind Ensemble departed campus for our week-long adventure. We are a large group, so we were split into three different transatlantic flights. Despite that fact, we all arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Amalia in Napflion (two hours southwest of Athens) within an hour of each other.

Monday was our first full day, and sightseeing included the amphitheater in Epidarus (where we sang an impromptu concert to test the amazing acoustics of this phenomenal setting), and the Acropolis at Mycenae. It was a beautiful sunny day, with snow capped mountains visible off in the distance. Temperatures were in the low 60's with a gentle breeze...just perfect!

Monday evening, the Wind Ensemble and the Chamber Orchestra shared a concert. The performance took place in the town of Napflion, in what served as the first House of Parliament for Greece in the early 19th century. It was a small space, with very live acoustics. The concert was great...a terrific start to our week of performances.

Tuesday was our day in Athens, where we got to see the two year old Acropolis Museum, just at the base of the Parthenon. It's a beautiful museum, and the top floor is designed to the same dimensions of the actual Acropolis, with a recreated frieze to show an "installed" version of beautiful sculpture one would have seen on the actual building.

Tuesday evening the Chamber Choir and Butler Chamber Orchestra performed, again in the Parliament Hall. The Choir's performance was received enthusiastically, and featured works by Rutter, Handel, Durufle, Kurt Weill and Butler graduate composition student Shane Monds.

Following the performance, a number of us opted to stay in town for a late pizza dinner on the square. Henry Leck, Father Charles Allen and I, joined by our students Greg Sanders, Nora Burke, Pete Weldy, Becky Shields, Tim Jans, Max Wellman, Jacki Thering talked and laughed heartily until the wee hours!

On Thursday, we'll take our busses to Bologna where we'll rehearse for Friday's concert. More updates to come.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meet Our Scholar-in-Residence

Meet Vance George, Emmy-winning Conductor Emeritus of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, world traveler, foodie, and Hoosier! We first met Vance when he came in 2005 to conduct our acclaimed performance of the Vaughan Williams DONA NOBIS PACEM. His innate musicianship, inspiring leadership, vocal expertise and wit endeared him very quickly to the Choir. We are delighted to welcome him back as Scholar-in-Residence for our B MINOR MASS performances in April.

Be sure to arrive a little early on concert night, since Vance will be interviewed at our pre-concert talk, starting at 7:15 pm in the Wood Room at Hilbert Circle Theatre. Vance will draw upon his years of study and performance of this work, having conducted it and prepared it for Robert Shaw.

In preparation for Vance's visit, I have asked him to share some of his thoughts and reflections about the work.

Eric: Tell us about your first experience with the MASS IN B MINOR.

Vance: Robert Shaw took the work on tour. I also studied it with Shaw's teacher, Julius Herford. One can only stand in awe at this extraordinary work and extraordinary composer.

E: Do you have a favorite movement in the work?

V: Probably the closing movment Dona Nobis Pacem, though Confiteor is so amazing with the many canti firmi, imitative themes, but then there's the Crucifixus...perhaps for pure mysticism the Crucifixus. I can't choose. Sorry.

E: When conducting or preparing the chorus for the Mass in B minor, what unique challenges does it pose? What lessons does it teach us?

V: It is structure that the conductor must study, understand and teach the chorus and even more the orchestra. the thematic and contrapuntal ideas are so beautifullly worked out.

E: As we know, this is a work surrounded in mystery--why did he write it, why did he choose to create a "Catholic" complete mass setting, the fact he probably never heard the whole thing performed at once, etc. Do these unanswerable questions influence your approach to the work? Are any of your interpretive decisions impacted by them?

V: It may have been finished for a church in leipzig, that remains a controversy. My thought is simply he had to compose it. He wrote The Art of the Fugue, the Goldberg Variations and the Well-Tempered Clavier. He wrote how many cycles of cantatas. It was simply what he did and it was easy for him. No one in music history has come close to Bach's comfortable playfulness in composition, exhausting every concept of counterpoint and composition. And then there are the Passions.

E: Do you have a favorite performance or rehearsal memory of the work?

V: Every rehearsal was a joy to prepare for the performances here in San Francisco. It was however John Nelson's performance when I first came to San Francisco that was for me the most moving. (note from Eric: many in the ISC will remember Maestro John Nelson, the former ISO music director who took the orchestra and Symphonic Choir on tour to Washington DC and New York City.)

E: Some conductors utilize large ensembles for performances of this work, some use very small...even to the point of one singer per part. Do you have a preferred approach?

V: Well one per part I find curious musically and aurally. He wrote the Art of the Fugue and did not specify which instruments should be used in performance. So I think this speaks to the B minor, a very complex work and as it unfolds it moves from 5 part chorus and arias and duets to a six part chorus. The more divisi you make the weaker the effect unfortunately. It would seem a thicker texture would increase the intensity of the work but, this is not true in the mass and thus how to make the work grow in intensity.