We are connected to one another, whether we like it or not. We are, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” While it may not always feel like it in American society right now, this messy conglomeration of people with different cultures of origin and values is still one (unruly, intersectional) body.
I’ve thought a lot about this interconnectedness while reflecting on "Love Knows not ‘Mine’ or ‘Thine’,” Wayland Rogers’ setting of Christina Rossetti from the ensemble’s 2018 commission, I-Thou. Traveling through this song cycle that investigates so many different human relationships, we arrive at this final movement that celebrates sharing and oneness. I’ve needed to let this song wash over me, and to marinate in its message this week. We are connected.
The movement begins with each voice on its own, a capella, calling out “in truth” - perhaps competing individual truths? - but then joining in one unison “truth” to state that “love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine’.” The voices move together in homophonic, simultaneous rhythm, while keeping consonant harmonies that make the music rich. All are together as one, while keeping their individual range and color. As the poem continues to refer to “both of us,” and “the love which makes us one,” the voices take their own versions of the same phrase while the music swells and grows in volume and range, until the four singers come back to unison - truly one. The final note rings in the air over an open, repeating pattern in the piano that feels like a sonic breath of fresh air. Openness, freedom, and unity in sound, as well as in text, to culminate the whole song cycle in “the love that makes us one.” After a cycle investigating conflict, dissonance, sarcasm, humor, beauty, and pain, we end up here: in harmony, through love.
Thanks for the reminder, Wayland. Here’s to the work of (messy, difficult, worthwhile) love.
In loving memory of Wayland Rogers, December 26, 1941-September 9, 2020
I was first introduced to the music of Wayland Rogers when pianist Dana Brown handed me a big stack of sheet music in his office in 2014. I had just joined and helped found Fourth Coast Ensemble, and we were looking for music to perform on an upcoming concert. Dana pointed out some songs that he thought might work well in my voice, and let me know that Wayland lives here in Chicago and is very responsive to singer's inquiries about his music.
Wayland was a warm and supportive colleague with a highly developed ear for ensemble singing, honed over his years as conductor of the The Camerata Singers of Lake Forest, music director of North Shore Unitarian Church, and as a professional ensemble singer himself in the Chicago Symphony Chorus. As I worked my way through the stack of sheet music Dana had given me, it was clear that these songs were written by a composer with a deep understanding of the human voice. They left space for the voice to bloom and soar, and had Wayland's quintessential balance of accessibility and complexity.
Since that day six years ago, not only have I had the pleasure of performing many of Wayland's solo art songs on concerts across Chicago, but Fourth Coast Ensemble went on to commission and premiere his 2018 song cycle for vocal quartet and piano, I-Thou.
Upon initially completing the composition of I-Thou in 2017, Wayland invited us to his Bucktown home for a ceremonial "handing over of the scores," so to speak, where he led us in a poetry reading and accompanied us on piano in the first sing-through. He radiated from his place at the keyboard, and we all left buoyed by the joy of having created something beautiful together. Our ensemble's relationship with Wayland flourished during this period.
He shared himself generously with Fourth Coast Ensemble, propelled by his lifelong love of the art song genre. In a card written to the ensemble this past May he wrote:
Art song has been my prime musical concern as a performer, teacher, and listener for a lifetime. I'm so grateful that you are so ably promoting the form and giving it new life and direction.
Today I'd like to share the ensemble's November 2019 performance of "Encounter I" and "Encounter IV" from I-Thou. Earlier in the summer of 2019, the "Encounter" movements from I-Thou had been adapted for choir and given a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Of that performance, the Washington Post wrote:
[Conductor Doreen Rao] led the combined choirs entering from the back of the hall in Wayland Rogers’s “Encounter" ... Rogers writes fluently and effectively, and segments of this straightforward work would be reprised at critical junctures during the program, lending unity to the whole.
Although I wasn't there, my heart smiles thinking of hundreds of singers filling the aisles of the Kennedy Center, ringing out the music of Wayland Rogers.
I will miss his loyal friendship, but his music continues on in our hearts, and in the hearts of every singer who knew him.
Read Wayland's obituary here.
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!