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Choral Reviews


Mata Del Anima Sola(“Tree of the Lonely Soul”)


Antonio Estévez (1916-1988) Text: Spanish, poem by Alberto Torrealba SATTBB; Tenor solo Publisher: Earthsongs


This Venezuelan piece is in two distinct sections. The “A” section is very quick and rhythmic and is based on the combined 3/4 and 6/8 meters that are characteristic of a dance called the joropo. In the joropo section, the choir imitates instruments typically used to accompany the dance. The tenors and altos have the rhythm of the cuatro (a small, 4- stringed guitar), the sopranos imitated the diatonic harp and the basses provide the guitar bordones. The tenor soloist represents a llanero or “man of the plains” in Venezuela, whose songs are improvised.


The “B” section is very slow, meditative, and lyrical. According to the editor of the Música de Latinoamérica series, María Guinand, “the music depicts the solitude and mystery of the llanos, the high plains of Venezuela. The lively joropo section returns to complete the ABA form.


In addition to being lots of fun to perform, this 3’52” piece will program well and would add an authentic world music element to any program. Translation of the text is as follows:


Tree of the lonely soul, Wide opening of the riverside—- Now you will be able to say: Here slept Cantaclaro.


With the whistle and the sting of the twisting wind, the dappled and violet dusk quietly entered the corral.


The night, tired mare, shakes her mane and black tail above the riverside; and, in its silence, your ghostly heart is filled with awe.


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L’ultimo dì di Maggio(On the Last Day of May) Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936, arr. Robert Sieving) Text: Italian, 16th


century anonymous


SATB divisi, a cappella, approximately 2’50” Publisher: Heritage Music Press, Prima Can- tate series


L’ultimo dì di Maggio (On the Last Day of May) is an interesting combination of styles and time periods. Ottorino Resphighi transcribed a balletto (originally written for lute in 1599 by Simone Molinaro) and paired it with an


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anonymous poem from earlier in the 16th century. Robert Sieving then arranged it for SAATTBB voicing. This madrigal keeps the integrity and exuberance of Molinaro’s dance while celebrating the lighthearted sentiments of the text and use of syllables that play with the word Tantandaridondela.


From the


arranger’s notes: “ . . .this setting is not an attempt to pose as a modern edition of a Renaissance choral work, but rather as a vocal representation of Molinaro’s charming lute piece and of Resphighi’s endearing homage to his musical heritage” (Robert Sieving). The work compliments programs that utilize earlier madrigals (for example, I have programmed Matona, Mia Cara (Lassus) and Si Ch’io Vorrei Morire (Monteverdi) along with this piece for an interesting juxtaposition of chronology and style). Translation of the text is provided below:


On the last day of May,


a pleasant morning among the freshness of the roses, the lovely maid went walking in the garden, accompanied by twenty damsels, each one in love, gracious, wise and fair. Tantandaridondela!


Alas! It is also she who has chained my heart,


who has stolen it with beauty of her radiant face. There was a garland of fair jasmine which adorned her hair.


Blithely, she went her way on the first of Whitsuntide. O happy day, joyful, fair and bright!


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Fancies 1. Tell Me Where is Fancy Bred? (1’40”) 2. There is a Garden in Her Face (4’00) 3. The Urchins’ Dance (1’48”) 4. Riddle Song (3’40”) 5. Midnight’s Bell (2’10”) 6. The Bellman’s Song (3’30”)


John Rutter (1945—-) SATB; full instrumentation includes 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 horns, per- cussion (1 player), harp and strings, with in- strumentation varying per movement. Publisher: Oxford University Press


First performed in London on June 13, 1971, this 16-minute small masterwork is a true gem! The cycle of six choral settings is created around whimsical themes and is based on Elizabethan poetry (with one fancy using an anonymous 15th


century text). Each song is


meant to capture the fleeting ideas, thoughts, musings and daydreams of a poet on a summer’s evening.


The first movement (“Tell me where is fancy bred?”) derives its inspiration from


Dr. Diane Orlofsky


Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. The character, Bassanio, is reminded by the music that “fancy” is sometimes bred in the heart, sometimes bred in the head and that he should not judge by external appearances. The poignantly beautiful second movement (“There is a garden in her face”, text by Thomas Campion) was the movement that first “hooked” me and provoked my interest in this work. Metaphors and similes abound as an admirer seeks to compare his lady to the splendors of nature; yet we are never sure the affection is returned. It is an incredibly delicate movement and lives up to Rutter’s signature use of lyric and harmonic elements.


“The Urchins’ Dance” musically and texturally paints a picture of fairies appearing in the night, traveling two by two and three by three. In the “Riddle Song”, the anonymous 15th


century text describes the innocence of


young love and the struggles to understand the complexities of longing. Rutter allows us to eavesdrop on the sounds that the bellman hears as he goes about his job in “Midnight’s Bell”. We listen to the ting, the howling, the cricket chirps and the cats crying mew as the instrumentation is used to create a haunting atmosphere. The final song of the set (“The Bellman’s Song”) is filled with mysterious, gothic imagery. Sung either by the bass section or baritone solo, the Bellman petitions for sweet slumber for all in the town. “Good day to you” is his final benediction and creates a reflective end to this masterwork.


I have successfully programmed this piece with a smaller instrumental ensemble (piano, flute, clarinet, oboe, horn, percussion) and it complimented my chamber choir well. The work is both challenging and accessible and I highly recommend it!


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Dr. Diane Orlofsky is Professor of Music and Director of Choirs at Troy University, where she oversees the choral program and teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in music education. She is the conductor of the Troy University Concert Chorale and the Director of the Troy University vocal jazz ensemble, frequency.


October/November 2015


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