“this was a Messiah with few if any soft spots, from crisp vocal work from the Singers, even in knotty sections ...”
15 December 2019
Commissions and world premières by The Providence Singers
On June 11, 2006, following Julian Wachner’s final concert as artistic director, the Providence Singers commemorated his decade of artistic leadership by establishing the Wachner Fund for New Music. The Wachner Fund began supporting commissions and premières of new concert music for chorus in the 2009-10 season.
In her inaugural season, 2013-14, Artistic Director Christine Noel continued the Singers’ commitment to commissioning and performing new choral works. She led the Singers in the première of Elena Ruehr’s Bears (April 2014).
Commissions by or for the Providence Singers include:
Ola Gjeilo: Westminster Bridge
For chorus, piano, and string quartet
The Providence Singers first encountered Gjeilo’s music in the April 2014 “All-American” concerts, performing The Ground and Dark Night of the Soul. Westminster Bridge is a setting of the sonnet by William Wordsworth, the third composition commissioned by the Providence Singers with its Wachner Fund for New Music. The Singers gave the world première in concerts May 13 and 14, 2017, with the Aurea Ensemble and the composer as pianist.
More about Ola Gjeilo | Westminster Bridge | William Wordsworth
Michael Galib: Different Ways to Pray
For chorus, organ, xylophone, marimba, and timpani
Michael Galib, the Singers’ assistant conductor, offered to compose a piece for the March 2017 “Music for Chorus and Percussion” concert. He chose a poem by the American poet Naomi Shahib Nye that finds and honors a noble reverence in the way ordinary lives are led. The Singers gave the world première in concerts March 11 and 12, 2017, in Providence and Bristol, performing Galib’s work twice in each concert.
More about Michael Galib | Different Ways to Pray | Naomi Shihab Nye
Elena Ruehr: Bears
For chorus, and piano
Nominally about the stuffed animals of childhood, Adrienne Rich’s poem alludes to the continuing reach of childhood and its sense of wonder and security. Ruehr’s setting echoes the galumphing, waddling gait of bears and the tinkling, evocative power of an out-of-tune music box. The work was commissioned by the Providence Singers with its Wachner Fund for New Music. The Singers gave the world première in concerts April 26 and 27, 2014, in Providence and Westerly.
More about Elena Ruehr | Bears | Adrienne Rich
Nancy Galbraith: Sonnet 116
For chorus a cappella
Commissioned by David Keller and Julie Meyers in celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary, Sonnet 116 was premièred by the Providence Singers April 9, 2011, at VMA in Providence. Shakespeare’s sonnet was part of their wedding ceremony: “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come.” The Singers performed the work twice in concert, as the first and last choral work before intermission.
More about Nancy Galbraith | Sonnet 116 | Publisher
Tarik O’Regan: Where All Is Buried
For chorus and percussion
Where All Is Buried, a setting of a poem by Edward Thomas, was the inaugural commission supported by the Providence Singers’ Wachner Fund for New Music. The Singers performed the world première November 15, 2009, at Beneficent Congregational Church in Providence.
More about Tarik O’Regan | The Work
Nancy Galbraith: Two Emily Dickinson Songs
For chorus a cappella
Two Emily Dickinson Songs was commissioned by The Providence Singers for the NEA-sponsored American Masterpieces Choral Festival in March 2007. It is a setting of Emily Dickinson’s “The Sea of Sunset” and “Wild Nights.” CONCORA, a professional choral ensemble, presented the world première Sunday, March 4, 2007, at the VMA Arts and Cultural Center in Providence.
More about Nancy Galbraith | Publisher
Christopher Trapani: O Now the Drenched Land Wakes
For double chorus a cappella:
SATB and SSAATTBB | Listen to it
Christopher Trapani has set a short poem by the American beat poet and artist Kenneth Patchen (1911–1972). “O now the drenched land wakes,” one of Patchen’s best known works, is nine lines in two stanzas. The Providence Singers sang the world première Sunday, March 4, 2007, as part of its NEA-sponsored American Masterpieces Choral Festival. In September 2007, Trapani was awarded the 2007 Gaudeamus International Composers Award for Sparrow Episodes, a composition for ensemble and electric guitar. Trapani was the first American composer in more than 30 years to win that award.
More about Christopher Trapani | Kenneth Patchen
Trevor Weston: O Daedalus, Fly Away Home
For double chorus
Poet Robert Hayden weaves mystical elements of the African American experience on a “drifting night in the Georgia pines” with classical references to exile and dreams of a return to freedom. Trevor Weston set Hayden’s verse for two choruses. The Junior Providence Singers and the Treble Chorus sang the première during the NEA-sponsored American Masterpieces Choral Festival Sunday, March 4, 2007.
More about Trevor Weston | Robert Hayden
Julian Wachner: Jubilate Deo
For triple chorus and children’s choir a cappella
Jubilate Deo (Psalm 100), commissioned for The Singers in 2006 by Board Chair Patricia Fuller, is reminiscent of the polychoral antiphonal works of Heinrich Schütz, whose music Wachner and The Singers often performed early in his tenure as artistic director (1996-97 through 2005-06). A cathedral-like overlapping acoustic decay is written right into the music.
More about Julian Wachner | The Première Concert
Trevor Weston: Ma’at Musings
For chorus and percussion | Listen to Movement 4
An array of 18 percussion instruments furnishes an exotic, mysterious sonic environment for powerful ancient Egyptian texts. There is wisdom from Intef and a tapestry of complaint that still rings true after four millennia. But it is Unas, the pharoah whose cosmic power and outrageous appetites frame the four-movement work, who dominates the composition.
More about Trevor Weston | Ma’at Musings
Carlyle Sharpe: Proud Music of the Storm
For chorus and orchestra
A clap of thunder awakened the poet Walt Whitman and launched him on a reverie in which he tried to make sense of his experience – the music of all nations, the singing of his mother’s voice, the horrors of war (“the sobs of women, ... the blacken’d ruins, the embers of cities, the dirge and desolation of mankind”). It was majestic music, a compelling text, and a powerful première barely two months after the 9-11 attacks. Since then, the work has been well-received at subsequent performances in Montreal, Boston, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
More about Carlyle Sharpe | Proud Music of the Storm | Publisher
Elaine Bearer: The Magdalene Passion
For chorus, orchestra and harp
Bearer, a composer and physician researcher at Brown University at the time, had been working on a major work that used medieval mystical texts and other sources to create an account of the Passion from the perspective of Mary of Magdala. With a commitment from The Singers to perform the work in May 1999, Bearer extended the composition and completed the orchestration. The 45-minute work was paired with Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass.
Julian Wachner: Sometimes I Feel Alive
For chorus a cappella
In 1998, Allison McMillan, then president of The Singers, commissioned a setting of three E. E. Cummings love poems for her husband’s 50th birthday. Wachner composed the work at Tanglewood in the summer 1998, and The Singers gave the world première in the fall. The work received immediate acclaim, winning first prize in the 2000 Boston Choral Consortium Composition Competition and in the 2001 Cambridge Madrigal Singers Competition. It has been performed frequently nationally and internationally.
More about Julian Wachner | Sometimes I feel Alive | Publisher