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Choral Reviews

Masters in this hall, arr. Ian Loeppky (2014) SSAATTB, a cappella UNC Jazz Press p/vj2631.htm

Tune: Marin Marais Text: Christmas, William Morris

Arranged by Professor of Music at the University of North Alabama and Director of Choirs, Dr. Ian Loeppky, this jazzy little number is bound to liven up any holiday program. Dr. Loeppky conducts many choirs at UNA, but he also supervises the UNA vocal jazz ensemble.

This piece,

which explores two verses and chorus of Morris’s text, was written for them.

Although technically challenging, it is well within the scope of any collegiate ensemble, and could be performed by an advanced high school group. Set in a lively 5/4, the piece begins with the lower three voice parts laying the harmonic foundation using sung syllables. The sopranos soon join in singing the melody, again in a fast 5/4. During the chorus, the texture thickens and the women are split into four-parts, sopranos divided on the melody, and the altos continuing with their ostinato-type accompaniment. Lovely to see the altos take over the melody for the second verse while the men split into three- parts. Loeppky then thickens the texture, layer upon layer, adding the S2s to the melody line (albeit harmonizing down a 3rd


and then finally adding the S1 as descant. By the time we reach the final chorus, all parts are moving homophonically at an excited forte. He then surprises us with a subito piano and a change to 6/8 meter accentuating the text “cast a down the” before the denouement on “cast a down the proud”. He ends the piece, back again, in 5/4, but adds a little scat-style singing to the women’s parts to create a jazzy, but soft, finale to the piece.

It is obvious that Loeppky enjoyed writing this for his students, and his students enjoyed singing it. Loeppky is no stranger to composing and arranging, but he seems to have found his niche arranging for his very accomplished jazz ensemble. He recently finished a jazzy arrangement of Scarborough Fair, which will likely also be picked up and published by UNC Jazz Press. My Spirit Sang All Day, Gerald Finzi (1901-


Erin Colwitz, D.M.A, Associate Professor of Music/Director of Musc, UAH

1956) SATB, a cappella Boosey and Hawkes Text: Sacred, Robert Bridges

This 2-minute work for a cappella chorus is the third movement from a cycle written by Finzi entitled, Seven Poems by Robert Bridges, Op. 17. You may be asking yourself, who is Gerald Finzi? That’s a great question! He is one of the more underappreciated English composers, competing with the likes of Charles Stanford, Hubert Parry, Gustav Holst, R. Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar. His mother brought him to Stanford and asked that he take lessons with the famous composer; ironically, Stanford told Finzi’s mother that he did not have any talent and “not to waste her time”. As a result, he was largely self-taught and slow in getting a start as a composer.

resultingly, his compositional output is rather small, comparatively.

He died rather early, Finzi wrote

mostly for the solo voice and chorus, but is also known for his organ works. Despite this, his Seven Poems by Robert Bridges has caught the attention of choral conductors in the United States because of the texts and fine craftsmanship.

Starting with a forte unison, the texture then becomes homophonic in nature, expanding the harmonies over the four parts. Finzi’s style of harmony is traditional in that one can analyze the harmonic structure fairly easily; the most difficult part for any chorus is the occasionally difficult passage due to voice leading. The tenors are often the voice part struggling to discern just where their line is going. With Finzi, it always resolves, but it can be a tad disjunct along the way. Although slightly difficult, it is not so difficult that an advanced high school ensemble could not learn this music. Finzi has a relaxed and natural way of setting text – almost always with syllabic and agogic stress in mind as to make it as intuitive as possible. After the strong opening, Finzi utilizes short bursts of polyphony to thicken the texture. By doing so, he brings forth the meaning of the text; the use of polyphony often happens during interesting or important sections of the poetry to which he would like to draw attention. Likewise, he gets the same effect during unison sections of the piece, particularly during the “B section”. He recaps the “A section” using

the same musical material as the beginning, also in unison, but with a slight meter change. Finzi employs a forte ending, splitting the women into three-parts and slowing down the text and the harmonic rhythm for a big finish.

The entire cycle is worth performing, but by itself, My Spirit Sang All Day, can serve as a nice “opener” for any concert. Because of the unison sections and abundan use of homophony, this is a no-brainer for college choirs. However, an advanced high school group can benefit greatly from Finzi’s writing – they WILL sound good. And from a teaching standpoint, there is much here to learn.

Tanzen und Springen, Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) Edited and Arranged by Patrick M. Liebergen English Text by Patrick Liebergen SSA, Optional Piano, Hand Drum/Finger Cymbals

Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. Text: secular Renaissance, German

This arrangement of a Renaissance dance by Patrick Liebergen is very accessible. Written for SSA with optional piano and percussion, it is a good way to incorporate some early music literature into the women’s repertoire in a fun, easy way.

Hans Leo Hassler was a German composer and organist, working primarily in Northern Germany during the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. He was one of the first to bring the Italian madrigal style “across the alps” to Germany.


primarily a Protestant religious music composer, he wrote many secular works incorporating the Italian Renaissance dance styles into his canzonets and madrigals.

Tanzen und Springen (German for “dancing and springing”) would have most likely been used for entertainment and performed at a dinner party and a dance by the participants—not professionals— themselves. The texture would have varied, depending on the instruments available. The Renaissance period allowed for great flexibility in performing forces; this piece might have been performed at one occasion as a purely instrumental piece, and at another combining instrumental and vocal

February/March 2015

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