Festival Chorus

Festival Chorus

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why Music?

Below you will find the very eloquent and moving "Welcome Address" by Karl Paulnack, Director of the Music Division of the Boston Conservatory. It is so beautiful I had to share it!

You may find the original here http://www.bostonconservatory.edu/music/karl-paulnack-welcome-address

Karl Paulnack Welcome Address

One of my parents' deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn't be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother's remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school—she said, "you're wasting your SAT scores!" On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they loved music: they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren't really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the "arts and entertainment" section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it's the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

One of the first cultures to articulate how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you: the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.
One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940 and imprisoned in a prisoner-of-war camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose, and fortunate to have musician colleagues in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist. Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.
Given what we have since learned about life in the Nazi camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music? And yet—even from the concentration camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn't just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, "I am alive, and my life has meaning."
In September of 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. On the morning of September 12, 2001 I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn't this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day.
At least in my neighborhood, we didn't shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn't play cards to pass the time, we didn't watch TV, we didn't shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, on the very evening of September 11th, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang "We Shall Overcome". Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.
From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of "arts and entertainment" as the newspaper section would have us believe. It's not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can't with our minds.
Some of you may know Samuel Barber's heart wrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don't know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn't know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what's really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

Very few of you have ever been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but with few exceptions there is some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there's some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn't good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can't talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn't happen that way. The Greeks. Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.
I'll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in a small Midwestern town a few years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland's Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland's, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier—even in his 70's, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn't the first time I've heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.
When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: "During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team's planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute cords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn't understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?"

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. The concert in the nursing home was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.
What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year's freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:
"If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you'd take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you're going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You're not here to become an entertainer, and you don't have to sell yourself. The truth is you don't have anything to sell; being a musician isn't about dispensing a product, like selling used cars. I'm not an entertainer; I'm a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You're here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don't expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that's what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mid-November Update

As November draws to a close and we make the turn into the "holidays", we start to make a final push in preparations for our Christmas Choral Concert.

Believe it or not, tomorrow night's rehearsal represents our last Thursday meeting in November! Luckily we do have an extra rehearsal to help prepare for the Bach this Saturday, November 19th from 9-Noon.  Those that were present for the last Saturday rehearsal undoubtedly found it to be tremendously helpful. Please make every effort to attend this important rehearsal.

A reminder that in previous blogs (see Magnificat Resources) I noted helpful resources in learning the Bach Magnificat. In particular I would like to point your attention towards CyberBass.com which has midi files of just your part available.

This coming Sunday we are celebrating "Thanksgiving" and in accordance will be singing Lloyd Larson's "O Give Thanks to the Lord".  The following Sunday marks the start of Advent and the beginning of the New Year in liturgical terms. On Sunday, November 27th, 2011 we will be singing the sublime "God So Loved the World" by John Stainer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November and December Schedule

Sanctuary Choir Schedule
November/December 2011

Thurs 11/10 - Rehearsal 7-9pm
Sun 11/13 -   Worship, 9am call time Almighty and Everlasting God - Orlando Gibbons   (4pm Concert)
Thurs 11/17 - Rehearsal    
Sat 11/19 -    Rehearsal with Dr. Wicks 9-Noon
Sun 11/20 -   Worship        O Give Thanks to the Lord - Lloyd Larson
Thurs 11/24 - No Rehearsal (Thanksgiving)
Sun 11/27 -   Worship         God So Loved the World - Sir John Stainer
Thurs 12/1 -  Rehearsal
Sun 12/4 -    Worship Will We Know Him - Don Besig
Thurs 12/8 -  Rehearsal
Sat 12/10 -  "Dress Rehearsal" 9-Noon
Sun 12/11 -  Children's Musical (no choir at 9:30 service)
                    Christmas Choral Concert at 7pm (6:30 call time)
Thurs 12/15- Rehearsal
Sun 12/18-   Worship   Omnes Generaciones (from Magnificat)
Thurs 12/22- Rehearsal
Sat 12/24-    Worship at 6pm (5:15 call time, please carpool or park in alternate lot)
Sun 12/25 -   Worship at 10am, No Sanctuary Choir (see Juan if you are interested in singing)
Thur 12/29-   No Rehearsal
Sun 1/1 -       Women's Choir (all Sopranos and Altos welcome to sing) 9am call time

Please note that as of this date we have 4 remaining rehearsals on the Bach Magnificat before we join together with the soloists and orchestra.

Our anthem for this Sunday
Almighty and Everlasting God - Orlando Gibbons

Brand new Ticonderoga pencils (the best in the world) go to the person(s) who can tell me how this version differs from ours (excluding the audio).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

English Translation

This translation is line by line but not word for word.
For more information see the Bach Cantatas website

1. Chorus (S1, S2, A, T, B)
Magnificat anima mea Dominum
My soul doth magnify the Lord.

2. Aria (S2)
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.

3. Aria (S1)
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae;
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent

For he had regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth shall call me blessed

4. Chorus (S1, S2, A, T, B)
Omnes generationes.
All generations.

5. Aria (B)
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen eius.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is his name.

6. Aria (A, T)
Et misericordia a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
And [his] mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.

7. Chorus (S1, S2, A, T, B)
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo, dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

8. Aria (T)
Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.

9. Aria (A)
Esurientes implevit bonis et divites dimisit inanes.
He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.

10. Aria (S1, S2, A)
Suscepit Israel puerum suum recordatus misericordiae suae.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel.

11. Chorus (S1, S2, A, T, B)
  Sicut locutus est ad Patres nostros,
Abraham et semini eius in saecula.

As he promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed for ever.

12. Chorus (S1, S2, A, T, B)
Gloria Patri, gloria Filio,
gloria et Spiritui Sancto!
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper
et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, glory be to the Son,
and glory be to the Holy Ghost!
As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Magnificat Videos

Here is my best attempt at finding videos for each of the chorus movements which pair recordings with the sheet music so you can follow along. If anyone finds better editions of these videos please let me know.

Magnificat (opening movement) - This doesn't have the music but it is a performance in the Thomas Kirche in Leipzig which was Bach's longest running and most important church position.

Omnes generaciones - This video is remarkable because it shows the elaborate layering of the entrances and then pairs that with the biblical number equivalents in the generations/lineage of Jesus. When we step back and see the forest from the trees we see what a true genius Bach was.

Fecit Potentiam - Not my favorite video because the tempo of the recording is a bit brisk for learning purposes and the music is shown in the various "C" or "K" clefs which make it difficult to read. The general idea with those clefs is that the middle of the K always falls on middle C.

Sicut Locutus Est - Couldn't find a recording with the music so I've included this performance video of soloists singing this movement. The tempo is manageable on this recording and having one on a part clears up the texture.

Gloria Patri - Another performance video, just be glad I don't look like this when I conduct.

Lutherania (1/2) - this video does include the music for each movement but it is the entire work (with solos) and is split into two videos.

Lutherania (2/2) - Second "half" of this video, picks up at "Fecit Potentiam"

Magnificat Resources

This list of Bach "Magnificat" resources is focused on the websites which will aid in note learning.

Cyber Bass - This website has midi recordings (should play on any computer) of each voice part for each movement at a very manageable tempo. The page is a bit busy with ads and what not but it shouldn't be too hard to find the information you need.

Ultimate.com - Another midi parts site, easier to navigate however these parts have silence when your part is not active so it can be a bit confusing, particularly on the opening movement which has 31 measures of rest before the first choral entrance.

Impressario - This german website also has parts but what makes this one noteworthy is that they are available for download as mp3 files which could easily be transferred to your ipod or even "burned" to a CD. For those of you who are feeling confident, you may also practice with the accompaniment only version.

Sheet Music - A PDF of the complete piano/vocal score, great resource if you didn't bring your music home with you.

J. R. Jennings - This site has both midi files and scores available however, most of the scores are the complete version rather than the vocal/piano (reduction) that we are used to seeing. The thing I like about this website is that midi files are a bit more elaborate and make an attempt to sound more like the real instruments.

The next post will be of YouTube videos of each of the movements with music scrolling (classical karaoke).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This week, the first of November, 2011


I am glad you have found the blog for the Sanctuary Choir of First United Methodist Church, Chula Vista. This site was created with the singers and other music volunteers in mind so that we might share resources and information more freely.

The internet is a huge if not overwhelming source of information and entertainment and we are attempting to focus and filter that information to be helpful to the needs of our singers. If you are one of those singers, congratulations on navigating your way to this site. If you are some choral aficionado (nerd) that just happened upon this blog we hope that you will find this a helpful list of resources and inspiration in your own musical journey.


This Thursday (November 3rd) we will be taking a look at "Fecit Potentiam" from the Bach Magnificat. I have included this video from our new "favorite" interpreter Ton Koopman. I will also include another video with the music (different edition) scrolling along to aid the learning process.

In a later posting I will include links to various Bach/Magnificat resources.

Important reminder: Rehearsal with Dr. Stan Wicks this Saturday, 9-Noon. This is a crucial rehearsal!