WITH JOYFUL HEART online program
Program with Text and Translations | Musicians | Ensemble Bio | Artistic Leaders
To Our Audience | About the Composers | Our Board | In Memoriam | In Honor of
WITH JOYFUL HEART
An Afternoon of Choral Favorites
GMChorale & Harmonia
Elm City Girls' Choir & Saecula Singers
Sunday - November 14, 2021 - 4:00pm
Santo Fragilio Performing Arts Center at Middletown High School, Middletown, CT
The program will be performed with a 15 minute intermission. Kindly hold applause until the end of each work or set of music. Please silence all devices and refrain from texting or taking photos during the concert.
Two Motets - W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
1. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei
2. Ave verum corpus
Christ lag in Todesbanden (BWV 4) - J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
2. Chorus: Christ lag in Todesbanden
3. Duet: Den Tod Niemand zwingen kunnt' bei allen Menschenkindern
4. Aria: Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn
Michael O'Herron, tenor
5. Chorus: Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg
6. Aria: Hier ist das rechte Osterlamm
Greg Flower, bass
7. Duet: So Feiern wir das hohe Fest
Melissa Clark, alto & Chris Hart, tenor
8. Chorale: Wir essen und leben wohl
Divertimento (No. 1, K. 136) - W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
Allegro - Andante - Presto
Mass in G Major (No. 2, D 167) - F. Schubert (1797-1828)
Melissa Clark, soprano & Steve Christensen, baritone & Chris Hart, tenor
6. Agnus Dei
Across the Empty Square - Ellen Gilson Voth (b. 1972)
Jo Anne Burgh
Ilga Zenta Paups
Kevin J. Andersen
Christa Berezowskyj, concertmaster
The Elm City Girls’ Choir
Tom Brand and Rebecca Rosenbaum, directors
Chloe Chavout de Beauchene
GMChorale has become one of New England’s finest and most engaging choruses since its founding in 1977 as The Greater Middletown Chorale. Today, the GMChorale is celebrated for its innovative symphonic choral presentations and under the leadership of Joseph D'Eugenio, performs a wide range of choral repertoire, from beloved masterworks to newly commissioned pieces. As the GMChorale enters its fifth decade, the organization is broadening its mission and the scope of its offerings to bring the power and beauty of choral music to people and communities across Connecticut. It is a core principle of the Chorale that the power of music is should be enjoyed for a lifetime.
Harmonia, the string chamber ensemble of GMChorale, sprang up in 2020 out of the lull of the pandemic and is named after the Greek goddess of harmony and concord. This group will accompany GMChorale as well as perform its own chamber repertoire. Composed as a core group of musicians that will be expanded to meet the needs of GMChorale’s diverse repertoire, today is Harmonia's debut!
The Elm City Girls’ Choir, founded by Thomas Brand in 1993, has earned the reputation of being one of America’s finest youth choirs. The Saecula Singers ensemble of girls and young women is known for its vibrant sound, infectious energy, and creative programming, with a repertoire ranging from Renaissance polyphony to Broadway show tunes.
Joseph D'Eugenio (Artistic Director / Executive Director). Recognized as one of Southern New England’s most engaging musicians, Joseph D’Eugenio has been bringing music to life across the region for nearly three decades. As a conductor, artistic director, music director, educator, pianist, organist, and vocal and conducting coach, D’Eugenio combines imaginative programming, skilled conducting, and deeply-informed musical versatility when producing captivating performances of choral, chamber, keyboard, and orchestral music. Under D’Eugenio’s leadership, GMChorale has become known as one of New England’s finest choruses, awarded and celebrated for its creative choral presentations, commissioned works, and dynamic collaborations. In 2009, D’Eugenio was named Conductor of the Year by the Connecticut Chapter of ACDA. In demand as a guest conductor, clinician, and collaborative pianist, D’Eugenio has led various workshops and festivals, and has conducted choral groups in high schools, colleges, and universities across Connecticut, including as visiting instructor at Wesleyan University in Middletown. D’Eugenio has served as Director of Music and organist at First Congregational Church in Cheshire, Connecticut since 2003, where he directs the church’s vibrant music program and chancel choir. D’Eugenio earned the Bachelor of Music (cum laude) in piano performance from The Hartt School, University of Hartford, and the Master of Music in choral conducting from the University of Connecticut.
Tom Brand (Elm City Girls' Choir) grew up singing in New Haven’s Trinity Boys Choir under Walden Moore and in the American Boychoir under James Litton. He earned degrees in choral conducting at Yale University and is Music Director of the Saecula Choir Institute, Earthly Sound Vocal Ensemble, Saecula Women’s Choir, VocalJoy, and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bridgeport, CT.
Rebecca Rosenbaum (Elm City Girls' Choir) has conducted various ensembles of Elm City Girls’ Choir, Saecula Singers, and United Girls’ Choir, and also served as Director of Choral Activities at Vassar College, where she taught classes and conducted the Vassar Women’s Choir. She also has taught at Yale University and Bay Path College, and has appeared as guest conductor and clinician for several regional choral festivals and music programs throughout the country. Rebecca earned a BA in music from Vassar College and her MM and DMA in choral conducting at Yale University.
Robert O'Brien (Managing Director) joined GMChorale in February 2020 after having worked with many Hartford area arts organizations, including the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and TheaterWorks. He brings a wealth of experience in arts management to GMChorale having previously completed a Masters Degree in International Arts Management at HEC Montreal, Southern Methodist University, and Bocconi University. Robert is an experienced performing arts producer and production manager having completed many projects in theater, music, dance, and interdisciplinary arts. Additionally, he has participated in virtual talks to various groups on Arts Management including at Universidad de los Andes located in Bogotá, Colombia. In addition to his work with cultural organizations, Robert is an accomplished vocal musician, holding a Bachelors of Music from McGill University where he studied under the renowned baritone, Sanford Sylvan.
Allan Conway (Accompanist) is in constant demand as a pianist, organist and accompanist, with extensive experience in the choral, vocal, operatic and instrumental literature. His commanding technical facility at the keyboard, ease and familiarity with a wide array of repertoire, sensitive interpretations, and keen sense of musical collaboration inform his many and varied performances. Mr. Conway received his Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano Performance from the Hartt School of Music, where he studied with Raymond Hanson and was recipient of the prestigious Harold Bauer Memorial Scholarship. Active in the liturgical field, Mr. Conway has served numerous churches. Presently, he is Minister of Music at the United Congregational Church of Tolland. Mr. Conway is Organist and Choir Director at Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford a position he has held since 1977.
To our audience ...
I still remember the excitement experienced in this very theater exactly two years ago when the chorale last performed. Then, something like COVID-19 was inconceivable. But now, we are reminded of its existence as we breathe. Singing with masks is a sign of the time we still live in, but music floods our hearts and minds and cannot be contained.
Because of your support, generosity, and encouragement, GMChorale is here today, more enthusiastic than ever, and ready to sing for you again. This season’s offerings are rich and bountiful. Alchemy, our vocal chamber ensemble, performed a concert in October, communing with the music of composers Brahms, Mendelssohn, and Rheinberger. This afternoon, GMChorale performs the music of Bach, Mozart, and Schubert with Elm City Girls’ Choir while debuting Harmonia string ensemble and a commissioned arrangement of Across the Empty Square, by composer Ellen Gilson Voth. And, on Sunday, May 1, 2022, GMChorale will present Haydn’s exuberant oratorio, The Creation, with Orchestra New England, Elm City Girls’ Choir, and three internationally-recognized concert soloists.
Even during a pandemic, when one is part of a community united in music, there is always something to sing about. So, thank you, and welcome back!
~ Joseph D’Eugenio, Artistic Director
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, in what is now Austria, on January 27, 1756. He was the youngest of the seven children of Leopold and Anna Maria (Pertl) Mozart. He and his older sister Maria Anna Mozart (nicknamed “Nannerl”) were the only two of the children to survive infancy. Mozart was baptized the day after his birth; the Latinized form of his name appears in the baptismal record as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. His family called him “Wolferl” but he had many nicknames over his lifetime. When he was young he often spelled his last name backwards, and later in life he called himself Wolfgang Amadè.
Mozart’s father Leopold was a distinguished violinist and teacher, and a minor composer. He was the deputy Kappellmeister to Count Leopold Anton von Firmian, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. The violin teaching manual Leopold wrote in 1756, “Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule” (“A Treatise on the Fundamentals of Violin Playing”), became one of the foremost violin technique and music theory textbooks of the 1700s. Leopold was the only teacher for Nannerl and Wolferl for the first several years of their lives, introducing them to languages and academic subjects as well as music. When Nannerl was seven, he began teaching her how to play the harpsichord. The three-year-old Wolferl would raptly watch these lessons and mimic her playing. When Wolferl was four his father began teaching him clavier, violin and organ. By the time he was five Wolferl was composing pieces of his own, which his father transcribed for him, and began learning the piano and viola.
Leopold considered it his divine duty to share with the world the talents that God had given his children (and also thought it might be profitable). In 1762 when Wolferl was six and Nannerl was eleven, Leopold brought his prodigies on what was to be the first of several European tours. An exhibition at the court of Bavaria in Munich and the Imperial Courts in Vienna and Prague proved to be profitable, and so in 1763 they set off for a tour that lasted three and a half years. They visited the courts of Paris, London, and numerous other courts throughout Europe. Traveling conditions were arduous and challenging. Both children contracted smallpox in The Hague in 1765 and nearly died. However, the young Wolferl astonished his royal audiences and received lavish gifts, had his first pieces published, wrote his first symphonies, and received a commission for his first opera. He also became acquainted with the music of other composers and other cultures, being particularly influenced by J.S. Bach’s son Johann Christian Bach.
They returned to Salsburg briefly, and in 1770 when Wolfgang was thirteen he and his father set out on an extensive tour of Italy. In Milan Wolfgang received a commission to write an opera, successfully given on Christmas Day 1770, which led to further opera commissions. In Bologna he was accepted as a member of the famous Accademia Filharmonica, even though minimum age for this honor was supposed to be twenty years old and he was only fifteen. At the Sistine Chapel in Rome he heard Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere” twice and was able to reproduce it perfectly from memory; his was the first unauthorized copy of this piece, which was a closely guarded secret of the Vatican.
Mozart visited Milan again with his father in 1771 and 1772 for premieres of his operas. The piece our string players are performing today, Divertimento #1, K 136, was written in Salzburg in January 1772. It was the first piece in a group of three Divertimenti, K 136-38. Most likely these string quartets were not only stand-alone pieces, but also pieces which could be easily adapted into symphonies by the addition of wind instruments. This versatility may have been intended for his audiences in Milan where the sixteen-year-old Mozart hoped to impress the court enough to receive a permanent position. The title “Divertimento” on the original manuscript is not in Mozart’s handwriting.
Despite his many artistic successes, Wolfgang was not offered a professional appointment in Italy. When they finally returned to Salzburg in March 1773, Leopold’s benefactor had died and had been succeeded by the Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. Wolfgang visited Vienna in summer 1773, and then in 1774 Colloredo appointed him as assistant concertmaster with a small salary. The Archbishop had little appreciation for his genius, treating him like a servant and often subjecting him to abuse. During this time Wolfgang was very prolific, composing masses string quartets, symphonies, sonatas, serenades, operas, all five of his violin concertos, and piano concertos. He had many friends and admirers in Salzburg. Apart from a visit to Munich for an opera premiere in 1775, he stayed in Salzburg until mid-1777.
Seeing no further prospects in Salzburg for their gifted son, in 1777 the Mozart family resolved to find better employment for him. When Wolfgang asked the Archbishop to allow him and his father to find income elsewhere, the Archbishop responded by dismissing both of them. Later Leopold was allowed to resume his position as deputy Kappellmeister, but Wolfgang was free to pursue other employment.
Mozart composed one of the motets we are performing today, Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, KV 273, in Salzburg on September 8, 1777, after he was released from the Archbishop’s employ. It was composed for the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some scholars see this contemplative gradual as a plea to Mary to bless his upcoming journey to seek employment. It was originally written for choir and orchestra.
On September 23 Mozart set out with his mother to Augsburg, Mannheim, Munich, and Paris. In Mannheim he became acquainted with members of the city’s orchestra, the best in Europe at the time. He also fell in love with the soprano Aloysia Weber, one of four daughters of a musical family. Employment prospects in Mannheim did not materialize, and so in March 1778 he left with his mother for Paris to continue his job search. He had been well received in Paris as a child, and was keenly disappointed that the public there had lost interest in him since he was no longer a child prodigy. He had some minor success in Paris but soon fell into debt and had to pawn several valuable possessions. Their accommodations were meager. When Mozart’s mother fell ill in June, the delay in calling a doctor was probably due to lack of money. Anna Maria died in Paris on July 3, 1778.
While Mozart was in Paris, his father had been arranging employment for him again with the Archbishop Colloredo in Salzburg. After Anna Maria’s death Leopold ordered him home, but Wolfgang lingered in Mannheim and Munich, still hoping to obtain a post outside his home town. When he again met Aloysia in Munich, he found that she was no longer interested in him. Alone and grief-stricken, he returned to Salzburg.
Wolfgang resumed his drab and poorly paid position, still determined to make a permanent break. In March 1781 he was summoned to Vienna where the Archbishop was attending the celebrations for the Emperor Joseph II. Mozart was offered the opportunity to perform for the Emperor for a fee equal to half his yearly salary, but the Archbishop forbade it. In May their quarrels came to a head when Mozart tried to resign permanently and was refused. Mozart flew into a rage and denounced the Archbishop. He was dismissed with a literal “kick in the arse” administered by the Archbishop’s steward.
Near the height of Mozart’s quarrels with the Archbishop, on May 1 or 2, 1781, he had moved in with the Weber family, who had moved from Mannheim to Vienna and were taking in lodgers. Aloysia had already married an actor. No longer in the Archbishop’s service, Mozart chose to stay in Vienna and take the opportunity to freelance as a performer and composer. He lived in Vienna for the rest of his life. He soon established himself as the best keyboard player in Vienna, and also had huge success as a composer. Meanwhile he fell in love with the Weber’s third daughter, Constanze. Wolfgang and Constanze were married on August 4, 1872, with the grudging consent of Leopold. They had six children, only two of whom survived past infancy, Karl Thomas and Franz Xavier Wolfgang.
Thanks to a friend with a collection of the manuscripts of the Baroque masters, Mozart became acquainted with the works of J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel. He also became friends with Joseph Haydn, then the most celebrated composer in Europe; when Haydn visited Vienna they sometimes played together in a string quartet, and wrote music for each other. In the next few years Mozart wrote a series of piano concertos for himself to appear as soloist, renting large spaces in upscale restaurants or apartment buildings when space in the local theaters proved inadequate for his large and appreciative audiences. He also wrote and performed music in other genres, such as operas, symphonies and concertos. In one five week period in 1784 he performed 22 concerts! During these years Mozart finally had an income from concerts and publishing to support the lavish lifestyle he had always dreamed of having, with an expensive apartment in the center of town, elegant clothing, servants, a pool table, a private carriage, private schooling for his son Karl Thomas, and a busy social life. He enjoyed billiards and dancing, and kept pets including a starling, a canary, a dog, and a horse for recreational riding. However, he and Constanze had no savings.
By 1786 Mozart had stopped performing as frequently. In 1787 Emperor Joseph II appointed him to a minor court post with a reasonable salary as Kammermusicus (“chamber composer”), a part-time position which entailed only writing dance music for court balls. This income proved crucial in later years, as their extravagant lifestyle was beginning to take a toll while their debt accumulated. Austria was at war with Turkey, and the aristocracy’s ability to support music as well as prosperity in general had declined.
In late 1786 Leopold’s health had begun to fail, and on May 28, 1787, Leopold died in Salzburg. Wolfgang was unable to attend his beloved father’s funeral because the travel time was too long.
In 1788 Mozart and his family moved from central Vienna to the suburb of Alsergrund. However, this did not significantly reduce their expenses. 1788-89 was a dark period for Mozart. His musical output slowed and he began to borrow large sums of money from his friends, though he was usually able to repay them promptly when he received money from a concert or commission. In 1789 and 1790, he fruitlessly journeyed to other German cities hoping to revive his success.
The year 1791, the last year of Mozart’s life, was extremely musically productive. He had recovered somewhat from his depression, and his finances improved as wealthy international patrons pledged annuities in return for occasional compositions. It was during this time that he wrote some of his most acclaimed works, including the motet Ave Verum Corpus, K 618 (“Hail, True Body”) that we are performing today. “Ave Verum Corpus” was written on June 17, six months before Mozart’s death, when he was visiting his wife Constanze and their 6-year-old son Karl at the spa in Baden bei Wien in Austria. Constanze was pregnant with their sixth child and was staying at the spa for health reasons. Mozart composed the piece for Anton Stoll, musical director for St. Stephan in Baden, a friend of Mozart and Haydn who often helped Mozart by making travel arrangements for Constanze to visit the spa. It had been eight years since Mozart had written sacred music. The motet is a setting of a 13th century Eucharistic Latin hymn, and was premiered on June 23 at the feast of Corpus Christi.
In September 1791 Mozart fell ill on a journey to Prague for an opera premiere. He returned to Vienna and was increasingly ill, but kept his professional commitments until November 20, at which time he became bedridden. He was attended by his wife, his wife’s youngest sister and their mother, and the family doctor. Mozart was intent on completing his Requiem Mass, which had been commissioned by an anonymous source (a count, who wished to pass it off as his own work). Mozart had become convinced that he was writing this requiem for his own imminent death. Scholars differ on whether he dictated instructions for finishing the work to his student Franz Xaver Süssmayr; we do know that Süssmayr completed the version we know today.
In the afternoon on December 5, 1791, Mozart asked three friends to sing parts of the Requiem with him. (Mozart sang alto in these quartets.) That night he received extreme unction (last rites of the Roman Catholic Church). It was almost midnight when he turned toward the wall, and died shortly thereafter. He was 31 years old. Many theories have surrounded the cause of his death, but scholars now believe it was from rheumatic fever, which he had contracted as a child and suffered from repeatedly throughout his life.
Only the aristocracy and nobility in Vienna were allowed to be buried in marked individual graves and to be publicly mourned, and so Mozart had a very spare funeral with no mourners present. He was sewn into a linen sack and transferred with dignity from a reusable coffin into an unmarked common grave in St. Marx cemetery with five or six other bodies, as was the custom. This kind of grave was not permanent; after about ten years the bones of these middle class citizens were exhumed and the site was used for a new burial. A commemorative marker was later put into the graveyard.
Mozart’s widow Constanze was placed in a difficult position after Mozart died. However, she obtained a pension from the Emperor, organized memorial concerts for her husband that were well attended and brought in some income, and began publishing Mozart’s unknown works. A close friend financed the education of her two sons, and others took up collections for her and the children for several years after Mozart’s death. She co-wrote the first full-length biography of Mozart, remarried, traveled extensively, was again widowed, and lived out her days in Salzburg with her two surviving sisters.
Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685 in Eisenach, Germany. He was the youngest of the eight children of Johann Ambrosius Bach and Elizabeth Lammerhirt. His father was a highly regarded string player, employed by the town council and the ducal court of Eisenach; indeed, the Bachs were a family of professional musicians for seven generations. Sebastian, as he was called, attended the Eisenach grammar school and sang in the Lutheran church choir. He had a beautiful soprano voice and learned the violin and music theory from his father. He did well in school, with a keen interest in theology. In 1695 he was orphaned. He was taken in by his eldest brother Johann Christoph, an organist in Ohrdruf and a former student of Johann Pachelbel. Christoph gave Sebastian his first formal keyboard lessons, but was a miser and a tyrant. In 1700 Christoph found Sebastian a salaried position in a select choir for poor boys at the school at St. Michael’s Church in Lüneburg. Sebastian was allowed to remain at St. Michael’s after his voice broke, dedicating himself to studying the violin, organ and clavier, and writing his first compositions. On several occasions he walked miles on foot to hear musical performances, for example thirty miles to Hamburg for an organ recital by Johann Reincken, and sixty miles to Celle for concerts of French music.
In August 1703, at age 18, Bach was appointed as the organist for the Neukirche in Arnstadt. There he wrote his first church cantatas and some music for the clavier. In October 1705 he asked for one month’s leave and walked more than 200 miles to Lubeck to hear Buxtehude play. Buxtehude was the most flamboyant and spectacular of the German organists, and had a great influence on Bach’s musical style. Bach returned to Arnstadt in mid-January 1706, four months later, and began incorporating fanciful improvisations into his own organ playing so freely that the congregation could not sing to his accompaniment. In February his employers complained about his absence, his improvisations, and other things as well. He had produced no cantatas. The local musicians were not up to Bach’s standards; a remark about a bassoon player in the summer of 1705 had led to a fight in the street.
The audition piece for his next job, organist at St. Blasius in Mühlhausen, is the piece we are performing today, “Christ lag in Todesbanden” (“Christ lay in death’s bonds”). It is an Easter cantata and was performed in Mühlhausen in 1707. It is Bach’s oldest surviving chorale cantata, and his first known attempt at word-painting in music. It is also the only one of his cantatas that stays in the same key throughout. Each movement uses either the tune or text of a very well known Easter hymn by Martin Luther, a rare example of a cantata where each movement uses either the hymn melody or text verbatim. The congregation probably sang along with the final verse.
Soon after Bach’s move to Mühlhausen, a small legacy facilitated his marriage to his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. Things in Mühlhausen went smoothly for a time. Bach made suggestions for rebuilding the organ and wrote a festive cantata for the inauguration of the city council. But disputes between orthodox Lutherans and more puritan Pietists restricted what music Bach could perform, so in June 1708 he accepted a post as organist and chamber musician to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar. He stayed on good terms at Mühlhausen, supervising the rebuilding of their organ and inaugurating it in 1709.
In 1714 Bach was promoted to the post of Concertmaster at Weimar, which involved composing a new cantata each month. In his nine years there, Bach became known as a leading organist and wrote many of his best works. He adopted a new cantata style in which recitatives and arias were added and the chorus became less important. He was sought after as an adviser on organ building and was renowned for his pedal technique. He also fathered seven children, only four of whom survived.
In 1717 Bach was offered the post of Director of Music to Prince Leopold of Cöthen (the Duke of Weimar's brother-in-law) but the Duke refused to release him; Bach was allowed to leave Weimar only after being in prison for almost a month.
Prince Leopold was a talented violinist, gracious and friendly. Since the court was Calvinist, Bach had no chapel duties; instead he wrote music for court concerts and led a 17 piece orchestra with visiting virtuosos. He was extremely prolific during this time, writing concertos, sonatas, suites and keyboard works.
In the summer of 1720 Maria Barbara died unexpectedly while Bach was visiting Karlsbad with the Prince, leaving Bach with four children. In December of the following year Bach married Anna Magdalena Wuelcken (or Wilcken), the daughter of a court trumpeter at Weissenfels. A week later Prince Leopold also married, and since the Prince’s new wife had little interest in music, Bach’s support at Cöthen declined. In 1723 the Prince dissolved Bach’s orchestra, causing Bach to look elsewhere for a job. When the Prince’s wife died the Prince became more supportive, but Bach had already found a new position; after Bach’s tenure the Prince appointed him honorary music director at Cöthen.
In 1723 Bach was appointed Kantor at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. He remained there for the rest of his life. Bach’s duties as Kantor included schoolmaster for St. Thomas, director of music for four churches, and composer for civic occasions. As a teacher he seems to have been inspiring to those students with talent and intolerant of those without talent. He and his pupils provided the music for the four churches, two of which had elaborate Sunday services including a cantata every other Sunday. Between 1723 and 1727 he wrote about 150 cantatas, plus the Magnificat and the Passions of St. John and St. Matthew. He was in constant demand as a teacher and as an expert in organ construction. Starting in 1726 he began to publish some of his keyboard and organ music.
By 1730 he was disenchanted with conditions at St. Thomas’s and demanded improvements from the church authorities, who responded by threatening to reduce his salary. He looked for another job, but decided to stay when a new rector was appointed at the school who understood Bach’s needs. He was also introduced to an intelligent, like-minded circle of friends due to an appointment as director of the collegium musicum of the city. At this point he was composing fewer cantatas; most of his sacred music (including the B Minor Mass, which was not performed in Bach’s lifetime) consisted of rearrangements of previous works.
During their time at Leipzig, Anna Magdalena bore Bach an additional thirteen children, ten of whom died in infancy. By 1740, Bach’s eyesight began to deteriorate, but he continued to work, travel, perform and compose despite his vision problems. He was operated on twice in March and April 1750 by John Taylor, a quack doctor who had also operated unsuccessfully on Handel. The surgeries ended up leaving Bach completely blind. Ten days before his death, his eyesight returned temporarily, but he was stricken by a paralytic stroke. He took final communion on July 22 and died six days later, on July 28, 1750. He was buried with honor near the South door of St. John’s Church in Leipzig. In 1894, when excavations were made to extend the foundations of St. John’s Church, Bach’s remains were uncovered and identified, and reburied in a sarcophagus beneath the church. Anna Magdalena was left badly off after Bach’s death. Her stepsons did nothing to help her and her own children were too young to do so. She died on February 27, 1760, and was given a pauper’s funeral.
Although Bach was considered during his lifetime as the best organist of his day, his genius as a composer remained widely unrecognized for about 75 years. In 1829 Felix Mendelssohn led a performance of The Passion According to St. Matthew, for the first time since Bach had introduced the work. Four years later, The Passion According to St. John was revived. The Bach Gesellschaft was formed in 1850 to publish all of Bach’s works, a task which took 50 years and 46 volumes to complete. It is now evident that Bach brought the techniques and structures of polyphony to their ultimate development and paved the way for a new harmonic creativity.
Franz Peter Schubert was born in Vienna, Austria on January 31, 1797. His father was a school assistant from Moravia and his mother was a domestic servant from Silesia who met and married in the Vienna suburb of Lichtental. He was the 12th of their fourteen children, and the fourth son to survive infancy. From his father and brothers he learned to play the piano and violin, and later the viola. He also studied piano, organ, singing and music theory with the choirmaster of the local church. By the time he was seven or eight years old, he was already composing songs, string quartets, and piano works. At the age of seven he auditioned for Antonio Salieri, the music director of the Imperial Court Chapel (and Mozart’s supposed rival); Salieri recommended him as a singer when a position opened. At the age of 11, Schubert won a choral scholarship to the Imperial College to become one of the famed Vienna Choir Boys, and under Salieri and the court organist Wenzel Ruzicka his talents blossomed.
When his voice broke at age 16 and he could no longer sing in the choir, under pressure from his family Schubert declined the offer of an education endowment and spent a year training as a teacher. He obtained a position as an assistant teacher in the school where his father taught. Salieri was so impressed with his abilities that he continued to give him private lessons twice a week. While Schubert was a teacher, none of his compositions were paid for or performed publicly, but the sheer volume of his musical output boggles the mind. In three years he composed five symphonies, four Masses, three string quartets, three piano sonatas, six operas, and more than 300 songs. His text-inspired songs laid the foundation for the new art form of Romantic “Lied”.
It was during this period when Schubert composed the Mass No. 2 in G Major that we are performing today. He was only 18 years old, and yet this was his 167th composition and second Mass, composed in only six days during March 1815 for a performance at the church in Lichtental where he sang in his youth. The Mass pushes the boundaries of traditional Mass settings from the Baroque and Classical eras. The text comes from the traditional Roman Catholic Mass. However, as in all of his Latin Masses, Schubert left out certain phrases from the text: “Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris” (“who sits at the right hand of the Father”) and “Credo in unum sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam” (“I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”). Scholars are divided as to how to interpret these text deletions, but we do know that Schubert was a freethinker. Some editions have added in the deleted text, but the version we are singing today features the text as Schubert wrote it. The tone of the Mass is gentle, lyrical, devotional and contemplative overall, and yet one of the most profound moments is his depiction of the Crucifixion. Schubert chooses to use word-painting to emphasize the violent tumult of Christ’s suffering and death, unlike other composers who treated this passage with a hushed reverence. It is believed that the soprano solos in the Mass were written for Therese Grob, the daughter of a local violinist to whom Schubert had unsuccessfully proposed marriage several months earlier.
Despite his prodigious musical output, Schubert was miserable as a full-time teacher. When musical notations took the place of corrections in his students’ exercise books, he was encouraged to leave. In 1816, Schubert quit teaching and moved in with a friend from his schooldays, Franz von Schober, a young man with artistic connections and hedonistic tendencies who lived in the inner city. Schubert spent the next few years in a happy-go-lucky Bohemian existence, supported by a small but committed circle of friends. They spent their evenings at parties known as “Schubertiaden” where much of Schubert’s music was introduced. They also visited cafes and drank a lot of wine. The gaiety and irresolute living did not keep Schubert from composing; from six in the morning until well into the afternoon he would sit alone writing in his bedroom, and then sally forth with his manuscripts under his arm to a friend’s house to try them. However, except for his small and affectionate group of friends, he was completely unknown.
Early in 1817 he was introduced to Johann Michael Vogl, a renowned baritone, who became an enthusiast for Schubert’s songs and did much to spread his fame. In 1818 his orchestral compositions began to be performed occasionally. The summer of 1818 he spent as music tutor for the family of Count Esterhazy in Zteliz, Hungary, a rural, almost feudal environment. When he returned to Vienna he lodged with a new friend, the poet Johann Mayrhofer, with whom he lived until the end of 1820. In 1819 he accompanied Vogl on a visit to Steyr (Vogl’s birthplace) and was deeply inspired by his first glimpse of the Austrian mountains, evident in the mystical music he wrote at the time.
The success at a public concert of one of his early Lied songs, Erlköning, led to the publication of his songs. For a few months he had enough income to live by himself, but soon moved back in with the Schobers. The years 1820-23 were largely taken up by a fruitless pursuit for success in opera, the most popular genre at the time. However, he continued to compose brilliant vocal and instrumental works. Ironically, at the height of his popularity, his health was beginning to deteriorate from a venereal disease which was incurable at the time, probably syphilis. His condition deteriorated rapidly in 1823; on several occasions he had to go to a hospital. By 1824 he had resumed a somewhat normal life, but still had bouts of sickness and headaches for the rest of his short life.
In 1827 he served as torchbearer at the funeral of Beethoven, the composer he revered above all others. From then on he repeatedly expressed the wish to be buried next to Beethoven. His inconsolable depression deepened, and his preoccupation with death is reflected in the music he wrote in 1827-28.
In February 1828 the first public concert devoted entirely to his works took place in Vienna, and his ensuing popularity led him to plan more ambitious works. He was elected to the prestigious Vienna Gesellschaft die Musikfreunde and wrote some of his greatest works in his last year of life. He was able to spend the summer with friends, including Schober; but his health was deteriorating rapidly, and in September he moved to the home of his brother Ferdinand in the suburb of Weiden. By November he was mortally ill, probably with typhoid fever, and on November 18 he became delirious and kept asking if he were lying next to Beethoven. He died the next day, November 19, 1828, at the age of 31.
Schubert was buried as near to Beethoven as could be arranged. The monument erected on his grave a few months later was inscribed, “Music has here entombed a rich treasure, but fairer hopes.”
At the time of his death, few of Schubert’s works had been either published or performed. Most of his music was not published until decades after his death. When the world was introduced to his music, he was ranked as one of the greatest composers, and the most inspired melodist of all time.
We are delighted to present today the premiere of the orchestrated version of Across the empty square, a piece by contemporary composer Dr. Ellen Gilson Voth. Dr. Voth’s biography may be found elsewhere in this program. Her publisher, Graphite Publishing, describes this work as “…a monument to current times…the themes are universal and timeless. The text transcends the global pandemic and explores how we can make progress against hate, fear and isolation. Voth embeds traditional melodies into the piece with a seamless and integral nature. Fragments of the traditional hymn and tune, ‘How Can I Keep from Singing’ gradually emerge from the piano.”
These are Dr. Voth’s own words about the piece:
“When I first discovered the poetry of Fr. Richard Hendrick, I was struck deeply by how his words speak not only to a global pandemic, but to so much that separates us from others, and how our singing can cross those boundaries, if we are willing to ‘open the windows’ within us. My thanks again to him for responding so quickly to my inquiry, and granting permission for me to set excerpts of his poem, to create this piece.
“In both text and music, this piece suggests a palindrome. The first and fifth sections refer to scenes of Italians singing ‘across the empty squares’ and the soundscape implied by their singing - moments of echo and delay, for example. Fragments of Italy’s national anthem are juxtaposed with a recitative-like vocal line; at the end of the piece, singers repeat motives independently to create a ‘wash’ of sound. The second and fourth sections refer to the birds of Wuhan, first against a backdrop of dissonance mingled with a phrase from a Chinese folk song, and later in the harmonic openness and hopefulness suggested by a clearing sky.
“The middle section functions as a turning point, balanced by two forces that stand in contrast. Musically this section follows a descending bass line and, in a more obscured manner, a circle of fifths altered by dissonance. These harmonic progressions, so natural and common in our musical vocabulary, are juxtaposed with a text that speaks to our power to work against, to rise above, progressions of human behavior. Hate does not need to be the product of fear; loneliness does not need to grow out of isolation. Even in our sickness, we can halt ‘disease of the soul.’
“Woven throughout the accompaniment are phrases from the hymn tune, ‘How can I keep from singing?’, which are often hidden by surrounding musical material, then set free more clearly at the end.
“While rooted in the sound concept of live performance, this piece is designed to be compatible with virtual performance, if need be. In either setting, ‘Across the empty square’ suggests layers of time and how all of us experience time differently, yet the power and beauty of music are undiminished by the limits of time.”
Michael Balinskas, President
Chris Hart, Vice President
Walter Ryan, Treasurer
Marjorie Mehler, Secretary
Jo Ann Burgh
Angela Patricia Vitali
The GMChorale (GMC) sadly marks the passing of beloved alto singer, Pat Vitali. Pat sang with the Chorale for many years, enriching it with her musical expertise and her warmth.
Pat taught music for many years at all grade levels in the Middletown public schools. She brought this experience and love of music to the GMC. In her time with GMC, she served on the Board of Directors, headed up the Hospitality Committee, and served as alto section leader. As a pianist, Pat filled in when extra hands were needed for alto sectional rehearsals, doing so with grace and skill.
Fellow alto, Christine Rogers, remembers Pat as a “gentle shepherd.” In Christine’s words, “I feel grateful to Pat for giving me a good, positive start in the Chorale. She gave me a kind welcome and remained a steadfast resource throughout.”
In her role as Hospitality head, Pat was the coordinating genius behind the Chorale’s well-loved post-concert receptions and numerous potlucks. On concert days, busy singers rushed in and dropped off their trays of cookies, brownies, sandwiches, and cheese. Pat and her team calmly transformed this initial chaos into a delightful gastronomic display. She did this with a sense of fun and a kind heart.
Pat knew when those around her needed friendship, encouragement, or a kind word. Her selfless dedication to excellence was evident in all the ways she contributed to the GMC community. This is how alto, Janet Donston, remembers her dear friend. “Pat was always the first to show up to help and the last to leave. We truly miss her.”
This past July, members of the GMC sang to honor Pat, and to offer comfort to her loved ones, at her funeral service in Middletown.
As we lift our voices in song today, we remember Pat and the joy she brought to singing.
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