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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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!