Recordings of the Providence Singers
With its March 2007 revival of Lukas Foss’s The Prairie, the Providence Singers began an exploration of “American Treasures” that has carried the chorus through four commercial recordings. The focus is on excellent choral works by American composers — works that may not be familiar to American audiences.
Released December 2017
Requiem for the Living
The Providence Singers first encountered the music of Dan Forrest in the fall of 2014, when it performed his 2013 work Requiem for the Living. The Requiem was unexpectedly powerful in performance, fully engaging listeners in the second half of a program that began with three Bach motets. Little more than two years later, the Singers traveled to Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Mass., to create a studio recording of the work.
The five movements explore a range of musical and emotional motifs from quiet and contemplative to harshly critical. While Forrest does not include a terrifying Dies Irae, his second movement — “Vanitas Vanitatum,” vanity of vanities, all is vanity — begins with an almost martial cadence that is later juxtaposed with expressions of sorrow (“Pereat dies in qua natus sum” – let the day perish in which I was born), a raw mixture of Ecclesiastes and Job.
Forrest, however goes beyond the quest for solace in the face of death, a traditional function of the Requiem, seeking a way to be at peace with the turmoil and sorrow which humanity faces in the twenty-first century. In the final movement, “Lux Aeterna,” the tenor solo dispenses with the Latin text to sing in English, “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” His “Sanctus” is famously inspired by images of the cosmos (“pleni sunt caeli”) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and by shots of the blue-and-white Earth taken from the International Space Station.
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Released July 2014
La Koro Sutro
The Providence Singers performed Lou Harrison’s La Koro Sutro — in Esperanto — as part of a “New World Rhythm” concert in November 2009. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project, our collaborators for performances in Boston and Providence, not only performed on but built the only American gamelan east of the Mississippi. The recording session took place the weekend after the concerts in Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Mass.
The Heart Sutra is one of the most beloved and famous sutras (a literary form of Buddhist scripture) of the Mahayana Buddhist religious tradition. It describes the path one must take to attain Nirvana. Harrison set the Heart Sutra in Esperanto, a synthetic language created for universal use by Dr. L. Zamenhof in 1887. Harrison’s use of this language in many of his compositions was intended as both a political and a social statement, reflecting his commitment to world peace and a hope that society would transcend national, religious, and ethnic boundaries.
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Released spring 2010
Jonah and the Whale
Rich, witty, full of alliteration, and wonderfully inventive, Jonah and the Whale delights and instructs listeners of all ages with its clear lesson: Face woe with fortitude, and joy will follow.
Composer Dominick Argento drew from several sources to prepare his text, but he found his chief inspiration in a ceiling mural by the late 15th-century Swedish artist Albertus Pictor, worked into the CD cover, right. Argento said he sought to capture Pictor’s “blending of simplicity and sophistication” in a musical form.
The music ranges through many styles, from twelve-tone to sea shanteys, and the text is dramatic, humorous, full of subtle anachronisms, and strikingly alliterative throughout, a nod to medieval sagas and epics in which alliteration was an important technique analogous to rhyme in later verse.
Jonah and the Whale was commissioned for the professional choral organization now known as VocalEssence by Plymouth Congregational Church and the Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Providence Singers and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project gave two performances in the fall of 2008 (November 7 and 9) and recorded the work a week later at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Mass. The finished CD, on the BMOP sound label, was released in March 2010.
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Composer’s notes |
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Debut recording of the Providence Singers
Lukas Foss was 19 when he encountered Carl Sandburg’s gritty 1918 epic poem The Prairie. As a young immigrant, Foss recognized an energy and optimism in Sandburg’s factory workers, lumberjacks, farmhands, prairie girls, and city builders and immediately began composing a musical setting. Robert Shaw presented the world première on May 15, 1944.
In March 2007, the Providence Singers, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and soloists gave The Prairie its first performance in more than 20 years, reintroducing the work to American audiences in an “American Treasures” concert. The Singers and guest artists recorded the work a week later. That recording — the Singers’s first commercial CD — is now available on the BMOP Sound label. The concert and recording were supported in part by an “American Masterpieces” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“BMOP Sound just barely managed to get this one out before Foss passed away at the age of 86; of any music he had composed that had never been recorded, this is probably the most desirable title anyone could have revived, and it provides a fitting testimonial to a great American composer.”
About the concert |
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