In this season of social distancing, I'm offering a series of virtual micro-concerts for anyone to enjoy. On the first Wednesday of every month, I’ll post one fine performance of notable music for women’s voices. The selections and performing groups will be varied and eclectic. Most will be in the 3-5 minute range. Each post will include an audio recording, brief notes, text & translation and, when practical, a PDF copy of the score in case you want to follow along.
About the Music
There are two versions of this piece. One is for mixed chorus and the other is for trebble voices (SSSAAA.) The most unique thing about this stunning piece is the use of tuned water glasses. This provides an atmospheric element that evokes the feeling of gazing into a vast starry sky. In addition to singing the words of Teasdale’s poetry, sections of the choir sometimes sing “Mmmm…” or “Ahhh…” which, along with the predominantly pentatonic harmonies throughout, adds to the textural effect.
(reprinted from my May 26, 2020 blog.)
The Baltic and Scandinavian regions are marked by long, cold winters and short but highly celebrated summers. Their landscapes include vast tundra and almost limitless forest lands. This is reflected in much of the music and poetry of these places. Themes of darkness and light, winter, night, and stars in the sky are frequently taken up.
Since the last half of the Twentieth century, there’s been a significant flowering of choral music composition in these northern European countries. Music for women’s voices, in particular, is being produced in abundance, with great diversity and exquisite quality. Much of this superb new music is rarely performed in the United states.
About the Composer
Ēriks Ešenvalds is one of the most sought-after composers working today, with a busy commission schedule and performances of his music heard on every continent. Born in Priekule, Latvia in 1977, he studied at the Latvian Baptist Theological Seminary (1995–97) before obtaining his Master’s degree in composition (2004) from the Latvian Academy of Music under the tutelage of Selga Mence. In 2011 he was awarded the two-year position of Fellow in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Ešenvalds has won multiple awards for his work, including the Latvian Grand Music Award three times (2005, 2007, and 2015), First Prize from the International Rostrum of Composers, the Year’s New-Composer Discovery of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Officer in the Order of the Three Stars, the highest state decoration of his home country Latvia, for merits in the field of culture.
About this Performance
This performance is by Stella Nova (Nelson College for Girls) Conducted by Rebecca Monopoli.
Stars is a poem by American Lyric poet, Sara Teasdale (1884-1933).
Alone in the night On a dark hill With pines around me Spicy and still, And a heaven full of stars Over my head White and topaz And misty red; Myriads with beating Hearts of fire The aeons Cannot vex or tire; Up the dome of heaven Like a great hill I watch them marching Stately and still. And I know that I Am honored to be Witness Of so much majesty.
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Mitchell Covington is an award-winning composer and conductor who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent adjudicator for choir competitions and festivals and has led choir tours and festivals throughout Europe. Mr. Covington has several choral compositions in print with major U.S publishers and his music has been performed by choirs throughout the U.S and Europe. Mr. Covington is the Founding Artistic Director of Voci Women's Vocal Ensemble.
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