In honor of the upcoming opening concert of Fourth Coast Ensemble’s HD season on February 20, we are excited to share our most recent virtual collaboration: Morten Lauridsen’s choral setting of “Sure on this Shining Night.”
This is a song that we’ve never sung before, and, in fact, we never could have performed before now because the vocal lines split into more than four parts! One of the benefits of collaborating remotely is that the quartet is able to record multiple vocal parts amongst ourselves, giving everyone the pleasure of hearing Lauridsen’s signature tone clusters and rich harmonies as-written.
James Agee’s enigmatic poem portrays the internal experience of an individual who finds healing in contemplating the night sky. Despite “wandering far alone,” the individual still looks at the “starmade shadows” and feels that “all is healed / all is health.” Lauridsen’s setting brings out the lyricism of the poetry with wonderful sweeping melismas for the voice, and simple flowing movement in the piano.
The first vocal divisi occurs mid-way through the song on the text “High summer holds the earth / Hearts all whole”. The shimmering tone clusters heard here continue to re-appear and radiate throughout the remainder of the piece. Although the vocal part settles into a satisfying and well-earned stillness at the end, the piano twinkles on, perhaps representing the onward movement of the stars overhead.
Like the wanderer in the poem, we each recorded apart from one another. However, the music has in fact given us the opportunity to find healing and health as we marvel at the sky we all share.
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This beloved 20th century art song floats in on a cloud of nostalgia. The narrator recalls a single moment – most of us have experienced at least one – where time stood still and everything was right in the world.
Robert Hillyer's poem awakens the senses as he recalls the sights, sounds and scents of being in love while living abroad at age twenty. The memory becomes more intoxicating with each new detail: It was a summer morning. Perfect greenery hung overhead. The sidewalks smelled of fresh rain as they were being washed down.
American composer Ned Rorem spent a formative decade of his own life living in France from 1949-1958. He brings the poem to life with a lilting melody and gently rocking gestures in the piano. Perhaps there is a single twinge of longing for the pleasures of youth as the narrator looks back on that distant moment; but then again, there is pleasure in keeping the memory alive across the years, too.
As you listen to this song, perhaps you will take a moment to resurface your own memories of youth, travel, and love.
Please enjoy this performance, featuring myself with pianist Mark Bilyeu, live in concert on February 2, 2017 at the State Street Gallery in Chicago.
Hello, and welcome to the blog! We are Fourth Coast Ensemble, Chicago's classical vocal quartet. Join a different member of our ensemble each week for insights into our favorite art songs, links to archival and new recordings, and reflections on why we value and continue to come back to this musical medium. We proudly present, your weekly #artsongfix!