Eighteen Lips

April 2005

Program Notes

 Got to Get You Into My Life

Lennon/McCartney,
arr. Paul Crabtree

 Contre qui, rose

Morten Lauridsen

 Refräng

Ulf Långbacka

 What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why

Stacy Garrop

 Five Bird Songs

Paul Crabtree

    The Lark in the Morning

 

     Fly Up, My Cock

 

     The Twa Corbies

 

     She’s Like the Swallow

 

     The Lark in the Clear Air

 

 The nearness of you

Washington/Carmichael, arr. Jennifer Shelton Barnes

 Pulchra es, amica mea

G.P. da Palestrina

 I am the rose of Sharon

Jonathan Miller

 Thy two breasts... (from Kisses of Myrrh)

Jonathan Miller

 Walkin’ my baby back home

Turk/Ahlert, arr. Deke Sharon

INTERMISSION

 Will you be sensible, girl!

Paul Carey

 The Turtle Dove

arr. Philip Lawson

 Bagel-Shop Quartet

Javerbaum/Cohen

 La rose complète

Morten Lauridsen

 Bay mir bistu sheyn

Sholom Secunda,
arr. Mark Zuckerman

 God only knows

Brian Wilson/Mike Love, arr. Tomas Bergquist

 

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to Eighteen Lips, a celebration of love in many dimensions. The twenty songs on this program, in five languages, range from the ecstatic to the melancholy. You’re about to hear songs of longing, adoration, wistfulness, loss, wry enjoyment, teasing, eager anticipation, and pedal-to-the-metal excitement.

“Love” has the following definitions in a small dictionary:

1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection; 2. a feeling of warm personal attachment; 3. sexual desire or its gratification; 4. a beloved person; 5. a strong predilection or liking for something; 6. in love (with), feeling deep affection or passion (for).

Most of us in Western cultures, it seems, want companionship that combines the first four items above, though people frequently accept a far smaller subset. You’ll hear songs about loss and songs of arousal—even arousal not always welcomed, in the case of Will you be sensible, girl! Some of our songs defy stereotypes: the Swedish song is most ardent, and the Italian one is subdued (partly because it’s in Latin).

Choral music tends to highlight one mood at a time. It has been my job for Eighteen Lips to first choose songs that best show the ranges of human loving available in the repertoire that is known to me, and then create a 90-minute weave out of the feelings in each song. The whole ensemble has the challenge of having you feel, in your bones, the essence of each song’s feeling, the nuance in each text, and the depth and power of each composer or arranger’s musical expressiveness.

Longtime fans of Chicago a cappella will recognize some of our favorite composers and arrangers, among them Paul Crabtree, Jennifer Shelton Barnes, Ulf Långbacka, Morten Lauridsen, and Deke Sharon. A hearty welcome is due Stacy Garrop, whose joins the ranks of composers we champion with her superb What lips my lips have kissed, and Paul Carey, whose wry humor infuses a 300-year-old poem with music.

Choral music is the most common form of artistic participation in America. Industry research says that 28.5 million of us sing in choirs. However, professional choral music—sung by people whose living is in music—is rare. There are fewer than thirty fully professional choruses in the USA that are not attached to symphonies or operas. It is our hope that our art produces an extraordinary cultural experience for you. Thank you for supporting, by your presence here, live professional choral music, which we believe to be worth our highest efforts. Have a great time, too, and come talk with us after the show.

—Jonathan Miller, Founder and Artistic Director

 

NOTES ON THE MUSIC

Lennon/McCartney, arr. Paul Crabtree: Got to get you into my life
From the Beatles’ Revolver album, this tune combines the best influences on the Beatles by 1966: R&B, Motown, and straight-ahead pop. Paul Crabtree created this arrangement for Chicago a cappella. He perfectly captures the song’s urgency and its pulsing, tight brass chords.

Morten Lauridsen: Contre qui, rose

Featured on our upcoming Eclectric CD, this song has been a favorite of Chicago a cappella’s singers and audiences since we premiered it locally in 1995. Morten Lauridsen has emerged as one of America's finest and most-beloved composers. His music is performed regularly by choruses and vocal artists throughout the world. Mr. Lauridsen (b. 1943) is Chair of the Composition Department at the University of Southern California School of Music in Los Angeles, a faculty he joined in 1967. “Contre qui, rose” is the second movement from Les Chansons des Roses, a delicate cycle of French songs on Rilke poems. Lauridsen wrote this piece a few years before O magnum mysterium, working out similar harmonic language here in the key of D-flat. The text, by Rilke, is a delicate meditation on the fragility of a rose.

Ulf Långbacka: Refräng

Professor of choral conducting at Åbo Akademi in the Swedish-speaking region of southeast Finland, Ulf Långbacka is a musician with a playful sense of humor. This song, the first in a set of three for men’s chorus, is driven by the swirling desire of the speaker, whose stilted language barely contains his ardor. The composer puts the speaker’s passion mostly into the perpetually off-center meter of 7/4.

Stacy Garrop: What lips my lips have kissed, and where and why

Stacy Garrop is a rising star in the ranks of American composers. She has won several orchestra competitions resulting in performances by the Civic Orchestra, Omaha Symphony, and New England Philharmonic, among others. Her residencies include the Banff Centre for the Arts, MacDowell Colony, Millay Colony, and Yaddo. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Composition at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She received a 2001 Barlow Endowment commission, as well as a 2002 Artists Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council. Adept in a wide variety of musical genres, she was chosen for the Dale Warland Singers 2000-2001 New Choral Music Program, resulting in the commission for this piece, the first movement of Songs of Love and Chaos. The haunting, wistful poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) is set with exquisite sensitivity.

Paul Crabtree: Five Bird Songs(world premiere of whole cycle)

Paul Crabtree’s innovative music intertwines the ephemeral and the eternal, bringing together the worlds of popular culture and highbrow art. He graduated from the Music Faculty at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Musikhochschule in Cologne, Germany. Crabtree grew up with an equal interest in rock culture and classical music, but was disappointed that his academic training never acknowledged the world of rock and pop, and transplanted to California in his early 20s. Exposure to the musically permissive culture in the Bay Area led him to integrate the various strands of his personal history, to embrace and intermingle ideas as diverse as Latin poetry and 1960s girl groups. His recent choral works include Three Rose Madrigals, Five Romantic Miniatures from “The Simpsons,” and the driving, energetic Beatles arrangement which opened this program.

Five Bird Songs weaves together a number of bird-themed folk songs from the British Isles. Paul Crabtree writes: “This set of five folksong arrangements was a wedding gift for my cousin, who married in the foothills of the Pyrenees on September 15th 2001. Of course the events of 9/11 overshadowed the festivities and changed any plans we had had for the days before the ceremony. A spontaneous visit to the stunning cave paintings deep underground at Niaux proved a cathartic experience, connecting us to tens (hundreds?) of thousands of years of human history, when it seemed that the world was ending. Similarly, these folksongs address the unchanging nature of the human condition, its preponderance of loss and betrayal, but more finally its hope and its joy.” The short notes for each piece are by the composer as well.

1. The Lark in the Morning
Despite an early-morning weather report concocted to make him stay, the shepherd heads out whistling into the sunshine, leaving his lover in bed.

2. Fly Up, My Cock(solo quartet)
Woken early by the disobedient cock, Jimmy hastily abandons his lover for the safety and freedom of the single life.

3. The Twa Corbies(Scottish)
Ravens gossip about a newly murdered husband, whose circumstances are suspicious but whose corpse will nevertheless provide them a delicious dinner.

4. She’s Like the Swallow
Love is transient, and grief at its loss is deep.

5. The Lark in the Clear Air
On the eve of a declaration, love is exuberantly hopeful.

arr. Jennifer Shelton Barnes: The nearness of you

Also on our Eclectric CD and from our Tenth Anniversary Concert, this chart stretches one’s ears harmonically in a remarkably intimate way. Jennifer Barnes is currently pursuing a commercial-music career in Los Angeles after having served on the music faculty at Roosevelt University in Chicago. She is in demand as a clinician and arranger in the field of vocal jazz and has published this and other charts with UNC Jazz Press.

G. P. da Palestrina: Pulchra es, amica mea

When presenting the set of twenty-seven Motets from the Song of Songs to his patron, Palestrina (c. 1525-1594) referred to these amorous love songs as “indiscretions from my youth.” It seems that he was apologizing for the subject matter, but there is no apologizing for the music. His work is generally regarded as the pinnacle of exquisitely controlled modal counterpoint. He and Lasso are considered the masters of the High Renaissance in Italian church music, though Lasso was more given to rhetorical flourishes while Palestrina stayed within the confines of moderation. No dissonance is out of place here, no line expressing by itself any need for attention, nor are there any extremes of vocal range; rather, it is a balanced whole that gives the music its effect.

Jonathan Miller: I am the rose of Sharon(world premiere)

This short piece takes a beloved passage from The Song of Songs and gives it a musical setting that the composer likens to “a cross between Gregorian chant and Jethro Tull.” The text may be familiar from the famous setting by early American composer William Billings.

Jonathan Miller: Thy two breasts are like . . . (from Kisses of Myrrh)

In the summer of 2001, shortly before 9/11, Jonathan Miller completed a five-movement cycle, Kisses of Myrrh, on texts from the Hebrew Song of Songs. This is the fourth of those movements, another short piece. The narrator’s ardor is captured in the varied rhythm and musical accent, exploding in the end at his marveling at his lover’s sensate beauty.

arr. Deke Sharon: Walkin’ my baby back home

This chart, made famous by Nat “King” Cole, has been set in stunning all-vocal form by Deke Sharon, the unofficial maven of the American collegiate a cappella scene.

I N T E R M I S S I O N

Paul Carey: Will you be sensible, girl!

In the early 17th century, an Irish priest named Seathrun Ceitinn (Geoffrey Keating) published a volume of poetry, both reverent and bawdy. This song seems to be sung by an older man, perhaps himself a priest, with a charming sentiment that evokes the saying by Oscar Wilde: “I can resist anything except temptation.”

arr. Philip Lawson: The Turtle Dove

The King’s Singers made famous this arrangement, created by one of their ensemble members. Tenor, soprano, and alto voices take turns singing the tune of longing, while the basses lay down a carpet of gently undulating harmonies with a Celtic, modal flavor.

Javerbaum / Cohen: Bagel-Shop Quartet

This tongue-in-cheek love song comes from Suburb: The Musical, written by the award-winning team of lyricist David Javerbaum and composer Robert Cohen. If you never thought of your beloved as a bagel before, or vice versa, now is your chance to think again.

Morten Lauridsen: La rose complète

The fourth movement in Lauridsen’s stunning cycle Les chansons des roses, this song picks up where Contre qui, rose left off. It would work well as a wedding song, expressing as it does the joy, calm, and exhilaration of being joined with one in love.

Sholom Secunda, arr. Mark Zuckerman: Bay mir bistu sheyn
(I Think You’re Terrific)

Mark Zuckerman is an award-winning composer from New Jersey, who has made a name for himself in recent years with skillful arrangements of Yiddish folk songs, including Ikh bin a kleyner dreydl from our Holidays a cappella Live CD.

The Andrews Sisters made this song a hit. Zuckerman writes: “Sholom Secunda and J. Jacobs wrote this song for a Yiddish theatre show that opened (and closed) in 1932. Story has it that, 5 years later, Sammy Cahn and Lou Levy heard a black group sing the song (in Yiddish) at the Apollo in Harlem and were amazed by the reception. They decided to do a version in English; Cahn wrote new lyrics and Levy modified the verse (the chorus is the same). I think they paid Secunda something like $25 for the rights. Cahn took their version to the Andrews Sisters and the rest, as they say, is history. My arrangement, though entirely in Yiddish, pays homage to both. The chorus is done twice: first in a Yiddish theater style, and second in swing. The swing chorus has Yiddish scat singing at the end, in the women’s parts.”