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As Water Ascends to a Cloud/Opus 7/Pontén
As Water Ascends to the Clouds/Opus 7


 
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Program and Notes Reviews
 
As Water Ascends to a Cloud
Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble, Loren Pontén, director
Winner of The American Prize in Choral Performance

World premier recordings from the innovative choral landscape of the Pacific Northwest!

Opus 7 has been recognized as one of the nation’s finest and most innovative choral ensembles, including having received three consecutive ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and Chorus America’s Award for Adventurous Programming.

"They manage everything from earthy choral roars to icy, transparent purity. Needlepoint intonation and unearthly ensemble top the high heap of their choral strengths."—American Record Guide


Track list:

William Bergsma: Riddle Me This
Answer: The Snow
Answer: An Egg
Answer: A Cow

John Muehleisen: Snow (The King’s Trumpeter)

Bern Herbolsheimer: As Water Ascends to a Cloud*

arr. Ron Jeffers: Workin’ for the Dawn of Peace

Lorri Kristin Froggét: Youth gone, and beauty

Stephen Thomas Cavit: Dareeché*

Roupen Shakarian: Yangshuo Quay*

David Asplin: Psalm*, from “For the Healing of the Nations”

Alan Hovhaness: The Lord’s Prayer

David Asplin: Open Our Eyes*

Joan Szymko: Ubi Caritas

Bern Herbolsheimer: Serenade*,from Five Dainties from Ralph Roister Doister

arr. Robert Scandrett: She’s like the Swallow*

arr. Bern Herbolsheimer: Red River Valley*
arr. Bern Herbolsheimer: Lovely William*
arr. Bern Herbolsheimer: Ratcoon*

John Muehleisen: Eat Your Vegetables! — Set One*
Bounty
Aversion to Carrots
RAH!

* world premiere recording

Program Notes

Choral music in the Pacific Northwest has been influenced by numerous cultural and choral traditions, including Scandinavian, German, Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican. Various aspects of the Northwest itself have influenced choral performance and composition in the region, including its abundant beauty, the cloudy and rainy landscapes of the Pacific Coast areas, the cultures of the native populations, and its place on the Pacific Rim in the relatively isolated northern corner of the west coast of the United States. Because of its proximity to Asia and the influence of Asian culture, Northwest composers have also looked to the other side of the Pacific and beyond for inspiration, sometimes eschewing the cultural and social influences of America’s own east coast.

While there are numerous esteemed and long-established choral ensembles in the Pacific Northwest, the early 1990s saw a veritable explosion of new groups, particularly in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C. Accompanying the profusion of new choral ensembles was a parallel increase in the number of composers writing works for them.

This CD is an anthology of choral works by Pacific Northwest composers that represents the diverse cultural, social, and geographical influences of the region. Some of the composers are transplants from elsewhere; others are native-born. And while many of the works were composed recently, some are of older vintage. Nearly half of the works on this CD were composed especially for Opus 7, and many of the works are world-premiere recordings.

Since its inception, Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble has established a reputation for continually featuring a diverse range of new and rarely performed works, along with time-honored classics of choral literature. Formed in 1992 as a semi-professional choral group by founding director Loren Pontén, Opus 7 specializes in 19th- through 21st-century a cappella choral music. As a resident ensemble of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, since 1994, Opus 7 is dedicated to performing the works of local and regional composers, regularly commissioning new choral compositions. In addition, since 2000 Opus 7 has fostered new talent in the field of choral music through its unique Student Choral Composition Awards Program.

Opus 7 has been recognized as one of the nation’s finest and most innovative choral ensembles, including having received three consecutive ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and Chorus America’s Award for Adventurous Programming.



Riddle Me This (1957)

William Bergsma (1921–1994)

Those who knew William Bergsma remember fondly his wry sense of humor. This can be witnessed in the titles of several of his works, including his sets of duets with percussion Blatant Hypotheses, Clandestine Dialogues, and Illegible Canons, composed for trombone, cello, and clarinet respectively, and his work for voice and marimba, I Toad You So. Bergsma, a composer equally comfortable with expressing seriousness and humor in his music, brings us both characteristics in his set of three a cappella choral pieces, Riddle Me This. In this work, Bergsma has succeeded in writing two virtuosic, energetic scherzi in the outer movements of his suite, utilizing his characteristically intricate counterpoint and sophisticated antiphonal exchanges between voices. The middle movement of the three features a mobius strip of a melody that winds its way through shifting modalities, interrupted twice by chorale-like passages on the text “No doors are there…”

—John Muehleisen


William Bergsma studied at Stanford University and at the Eastman School of Music, and in 1946 he took a position teaching composition at the Juilliard School. At Julliard, he participated in the curricular reforms of the 1940’s and served as associate dean from 1961 until 1963 when he was made professor and director of the school of music at the University of Washington. Bergsma’s music is resourceful and imaginative, essentially tonal, texturally conventional and predominantly lyrical. One interesting connection: both Bern Herbolsheimer and John Muehleisen—whose works are also featured on this CD—studied composition with Professor Bergsma at University of Washington.

1. Answer: The Snow
White bird featherless
flown from Paradise,
on to the castle wall.

Along came Lord Landless,
took him up handless,
rode away horseless to the King’s white hall.

2. Answer: The Egg
In marble halls as white as milk,
Lined with a skin as soft as silk,
Within a fountain crystal-clear,
A golden apple doth appear.

No doors are there to this stronghold;
Yet thieves break in and steal my gold.

3. Answer: The Cow
Four stiff-standers,
Four dilly-danders,
Two lookers,
Two crookers,
And a wig-wag.
Traditional


Snow (The King’s Trumpeter) (2000)
John Muehleisen (b. 1948)
Vince Green, trumpet

Muehleisen’s Snow (the King’s Trumpeter) was written as a musical memorial for Roy Cummings (a University of Washington Professor of Trumpet and Jazz Studies). The individual referred to as “Snow” in the original text is most likely Valentine Snow, the 18th-century English trumpeter who held the post of Sergeant Trumpeter, the lead Royal Trumpeter in the English court. The solo trumpet parts in many of Handel’s later orchestral works and operas were likely written specifically for Snow. The central features of Muehleisen’s setting are the two prominent trumpet soliloquies, which represent the beloved court trumpeter referred to in the text. The first soliloquy appears shortly after the opening; the second passage appears in reaction to the phrase, “the King’s trumpeter has lost his breath.” This second passage is a transformation and a kind of musical “dissolution” of the opening soliloquy, forming a visceral musical portrait of the text. After a last farewell by the choir, the trumpeter has the final word. In August of 2002, Snow (The King’s Trumpeter), was featured by the Dale Warland Singers in the final concert of the Sixth World Choral Symposium in Minneapolis.

—John Muehleisen


Composer John Muehleisen is increasingly in demand for commissions and performances nationally and internationally, particularly from choral ensembles. John has served as Composer-in-Residence for Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble almost continuously since 1996, during which time Opus 7 has commissioned nearly 20 new choral works from him. Two of these works, The Great ‘O’ Antiphons and De Profundis appear on Opus 7 CDs on the Loft Recordings label. John has also served as composer-in-residence for the Dale Warland Singers (2003–2004), and for Seattle-based Choral Arts (2011–2012). In addition to works composed during these residencies, he has received commissions from Conspirare, The Esoterics, Northwest Girlchoir, Seattle Girls’ Choir, Seattle Pro Musica, the South Bend Chamber Singers, Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati, and Volti. During the residency with Choral Arts, he composed Pietà, a concert-length oratorio, which premiered in March 2012 to instant critical acclaim. His works have been performed in the US, Canada, and Europe by numerous choral ensembles. His Peace, Night, Sleep was performed in South Korea by the prestigious Incheon City Chorale under guest conductor Geoffrey Boers in spring 2013. More than 40 of his choral works have been recorded commercially, most recently by the John Alexander Singers and Volti. In addition to the works on the present CD, Opus 7 is in the process of recording a CD consisting exclusively of works by John, most of which are world-premiere recordings. John won the 1988 Louisville Orchestra Composition Competition, and his works have been featured at the Sixth World Choral Symposium, the 2007 National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces Choral Festival in Austin, TX, and at multiple American Choral Directors Association national and regional conferences. John holds a M. Mus in Composition from University of Washington, where he studied with William Bergsma and William O. Smith. He also did Doctoral studies in composition at Indiana University, studying with John Eaton, Harvey Sollberger, Eugene O’Brien, and Donald Erb, with minors in music theory and instructional systems technology; and has participated in master classes and extended residencies with Bernard Rands, Earle Browne, David Felder, Yehudi Wyner, Milton Babbitt, and Lukas Foss.

Thaw every breast, melt every eye with woe,
Here’s dissolution by the hand of death!
To dirt, to water, turned the fairest Snow.
O! The King’s trumpeter has lost his breath.
Everybody’s Book of Epitaphs

As Water Ascends to a Cloud (2005)
Bern Herbolsheimer (b.1948)
Lisa Pontén, soprano

Opus 7 commissioned Seattle-area composer Bern Herbolsheimer to compose a work especially for a concert that featured music from the three great monotheistic faith traditions: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. Herbolsheimer’s radiant musical language perfectly captures the transcendent nature of Rumi’s poem, which describes the ascent of the individual to God through the Beloved, the ever upward-reaching solo voice continually striving to break free of the more staid, earthbound choir.

—John Muehleisen


Bern Herbolsheimer has received international recognition for his more than 500 compositions encompassing ballet, symphony, opera, chamber, and choral works. His first opera, Aria da Capo, won first prize in the National Opera Association’s New Opera Competition. Mark Me Twain, his second opera, was commissioned by the Nevada Opera and premiered in 1993. His newest opera is the mini-opera The Quartet, which was premiered at Carnegie Hall in October, 2012. He was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Composers Fellowship for his Symphony No. 1, which was premiered by the Florida Symphony. He has received other instrumental and orchestral commissions from Chamber Music America, UNESCO, the Seattle Symphony, the Frankfurt Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, and Eugene Ballet companies. Mr. Herbolsheimer has been particularly active in vocal and choral music and has had choral commissions from Seattle-area groups and institutions such as Seattle Men’s Chorus, St. James Cathedral, Seattle Pro Musica, The Esoterics, Opus 7, Cascadian Chorale, as well as many other choral organizations. His vocal, choral, and chamber works have been performed in Russia, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Norway, Italy, Australia, South America, Canada, Hungary, Japan, and throughout the United States. Opus 7’s third CD, Let Us Sing Sweet Songs, is a collection of his sacred music for choir, brass, organ, piano, harp, oboe and percussion. His music is published by Highgate Press, by E.C. Schirmer, by G. Schirmer in their Dale Warland Series, and by Colla Voce in their Rodney Eichenberger Series. Mr. Herbolsheimer was a professor at Cornish College for 34 years and concurrently taught for 20 years at the University of Washington. He is a member of Broadcast Music, Incorporated (BMI).

May your love lift me beyond the sky,
And from these two worlds, may my soul rise.
May the sun of your love touch my rain,
That I may ascend with you, like a cloud.
Rumi

Workin’ for the Dawn of Peace (1987)
arr. Ron Jeffers (b. 1943) (songs from the American Civil War)

Workin’ for the Dawn of Peace
is an arrangement of two Civil War songs titled “Two Brothers” and “Tenting Tonight,” which were popular with civilians and troops on both sides of the conflict. In a clue to the deeper meaning of his setting, Jeffers includes a famous quote by Gandhi on the front cover of the sheet music: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world..” Far from being a simple arrangement of the two Civil War songs, Jeffers creates a poignant call for peace that transcends the battle lines and social divisions of the Civil War, cutting across time, with the texts easily applying to soldiers in any war throughout history. Although this work also exists in versions for mixed choir (SATB) and women’s choir, the men’s choir arrangement has particular poignancy as it evokes the voices of the soldiers themselves singing these songs.

—John Muehleisen

Arranger and composer Ron Jeffers of Corvallis, Oregon, is well known for his two volumes of text translations of Latin and German choral repertoire. He has studied with many notable choral experts and tutors from around the world, including John Warren Owen, Howard Swan, Robert Shaw, and Eric Ericson. Ron holds degrees in both choral conducting and composition and attended the University of Michigan, Occidental College, and the Center for New Music at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Ron’s part-time publishing career started in the late 1980s, and with its success he retired from academia in 1998 to devote his full energies to his publishing company, earthsongs.

from “Two Brothers”
Two brothers on their way
One wore blue and one wore grey
As they marched along the way
The fife and drum began to play
All on a beautiful morning
One was gentle, one was kind
One was gentle, one was kind
One came home, one stayed behind
Irwin Gordon

from “Tenting Tonight”
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Waitin’ for the war to cease;
Many are the hopes once high and bright,
That sleep with those as peace.
Waitin’ tonight, workin’ tonight,
workin’ that the war might cease;
O many are the hearts that are workin’ for the right,
Waitin’ for the dawn of peace.
Walter Kittridge, 1864

Youth gone, and beauty (2006)
Lorri Kristin Froggét (b. 1968)

Lisa Pontén, soprano

Youth gone, and beauty is the final poem (Sonnet 14) of Christina Rossetti’s Monna Innominata: A Sonnet of Sonnets. It expresses the female speaker’s despair after the close of a relationship, when hope of ever finding love and happiness again feels impossible. The Italian phrases in the text are quotes from the poems of Dante and Petrarch, which are the inspirational source for Rossetti’s poem. Monna Innominata (The Unknown Woman) is Rossetti’s expression of love from a woman’s perspective. It is her reaction to the portrayal of women that is commonly found in poems in which women are effectively reduced to silent female objects of men’s affections. According to Rossetti, such women “have come down to us resplendent with charms, but (at least, to my apprehension) scant of attractiveness.” Monna Innominata is Rossetti’s effort to give voice to these women and to their experience and perception of love. Each sonnet in her “Sonnet of Sonnets” is preceded by two quotes, one from Dante’s Divine Comedy regarding the lovely Beatrice; the other by the father of the Italian sonnet form, Petrarch, from his sonnets of longing for his beloved Laura. These quotes are Rossetti’s starting point for each of her 14 sonnets in Monna Innominata, the progression of which fleshes out the arc of a woman’s thoughts and feelings within the course of her relationship. In Froggét’s musical setting of Rossetti’s sonnet, the composer chose to incorporate the Italian quotes of Dante and Petrarch, setting them with melodies derived from the rhyme scheme of Rossetti’s sonnet (abba - acac - dceecd) as a nod to the poet’s conscious choice of using the 14-line Italian sonnet form as her vehicle of expression. Froggét set the English words of Rossetti’s sonnet with her own sense of musical language, harmony, feeling and gesture, with the goal of authentically portraying the emotion and message expressed in Rossetti’s text. The musical interval of the 7th is an important element in this work. It can be perceived as either dissonant or consonant depending on the harmonic context in which it is heard, and, as such, it figures prominently in the harmony of this piece, representing the female speaker’s attempts to reconcile her despair with her desire to find peace in God’s will.

—Lorri Froggét


Lorri Froggét is passionate about singing, teaching and composing. She received her BMus in Vocal Performance from Boston University and her MMus in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Oregon. She has maintained a private voice studio with an average of 20-25 students since 1995, and has also been teaching at Bellevue College since 2010. While at Boston University she studied composition with Martin Amlin. She sang with the Seattle-based a cappella group, The Esoterics, for five years, and in 2006 she wrote several works for a cappella choir. Youth gone, and beauty was the second piece she composed, her first being I dream of you to wake. Both works appear on The Esoterics CD Sonnetaria. Writing secular a cappella choral music is one of her special joys. She currently resides in Seattle, where she loves spending time with her 3-year-old twin nieces, friends, and family, and cuddling with her two kitties.

E’n la sua volontade è nostra pace:

And in his will we find our peace;

Ell’è quel mare al qual tutto si move

This is the sea to which all beings move,

Ciò ch’ella crïa o che natura face.

Those that he creates or nature makes.


Dante Alighieri, from Paradiso III: 85-87

Youth gone, and beauty gone if ever there
Dwelt beauty in so poor a face as this;
Youth gone and beauty, what remains of bliss?

Sol con questi pensier’, con alter chiome,

Alone with these thoughts, with snowy hair, changed by time,

Sempre piangendo andrò per ogni riva.

I will always walk, weeping along every shore.


—Francesco Petrarca, Canzionere XXX: 32-33

I will not bind fresh roses in my hair,
To shame a cheek at best but little fair,—
Leave youth his roses, who can bear a thorn,—
I will not seek for blossoms anywhere,
Except such common flowers as blow with corn.
Youth gone and beauty gone, what doth remain?
The longing of a heart pent up forlorn,
A silent heart whose silence loves and longs;
The silence of a heart which sang its songs
While youth and beauty made a summer morn,
Silence of love that cannot sing again.
—Christina Rossetti

Dareeché (2007)
Stephen Thomas Cavit (b. 1968)
Lisa Ponten, soprano; Paige Smith, cello; Juliet Stratton, harp; Christina Siemens, piano

Dareeché
is a collaboration between poet Azar Khadjavi and composer Stephen Thomas Cavit. The piece was commissioned for Opus 7’s 15th-Anniversary concert. The music of Dareeché begins with a brief cello/piano duet, and gives way to the choir, which establishes the atmosphere in which the dialogue between the poet (Solo Soprano) and the beloved (Solo Cello) takes place. The choral ambience floats between darkness and light (dissonance and consonance) as the mood of the poet and beloved change, and represents the ever-changing world around them: sometimes providing aid, sometimes an obstacle. Finally, the Lovers yield to the Choir who, as proxies for the rest of us, take up the mantle in search of connection on our behalf.

—Stephen Cavit


Stephen Thomas Cavit began scoring music for film at the University of Southern California. Since then he has scored music for films such as The Good Girl, Chuck and Buck, Blue Vinyl and Everything’s Cool, all of which had their premieres at the Sundance Film Festival. Stephen was awarded fellowships at both the Sundance Composers Lab and the BMI Conductors Workshop where he was able to work with the film industry’s leading composers and conductors. In addition to his film work, Stephen has been commissioned to write choral works for the Cathedral Choir of St. James.

The poet of the text for Dareeché, Azar Khadjavi, was first published at age 14 in a popular literary magazine in her native country of Iran. She received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Persian Literature and Culture from the University of Tehran. From that time until the publishing of her own book of poetry in 2004, Azar’s work has appeared consistently in literary magazines and anthologies in Iran.

Negaah kon

Look at me.

Negaah-é tow

Your look

Dareeché eest

is a window

Bar Havaa-yé Taazé-yé Sahar

to the fresh air of dawn;

Poli bé Shahr-è Aaftaab

a bridge to the city of sunshine;

Va raah Tooshé-i Baraa-yé Qalb-é man

and, sustenance

Mosaafer-é Ghareeb-é Berké haa-yé Shab

for the weary traveler through the dark ponds of night.


—Azar Khadjavi

Yangshuo Quay (2004)
Roupen Shakarian (b. 1950)
Anthony Taylor, clarinet

Yangshuo Quay[pronounced “key”] is the result of a request from Loren Pontén for a piece for clarinetist Anthony Taylor and Opus 7. According to Shakarian, “Since it is a joy to hear Anthony play, I accepted. Not finding a suitable text, I asked Seattle poet and violinist Rebecca Loudon if she would be interested in collaborating again with me in this project. She accepted.” The poem’s narrative and dramatic nature is deftly handled in this vignette, with its evocative images, colors, atmospheres, and dense harmonies.

—Roupen Shakarian


Roupen Shakarian, in his ninth season as music director of the Skagit Symphony, is an active composer and conductor. In October 2009, he appeared as guest conductor with the Seattle Symphony, and in June 2010 with the Northwest Mahler Festival Orchestra. He has also conducted the Victoria Symphony, the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra, the Seattle Youth Symphony, the California Youth Symphony and the Northwest Chamber Orchestra. For 24 years he served as the music director of Philharmonia Northwest in Seattle, stepping down after the 2009-2010 season. With Skagit Opera, he has conducted performances of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance at McIntyre Hall. Shakarian is also a published composer and recipient of numerous commissions. His choral work Almighty and Everlasting God was commissioned by Opus 7 and is published by Oxford University Press. Bone Island Suite, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra, received its premiere in April 2006 with Philharmonia Northwest. In July 2008, Roupen and his wife Shirley became full-time residents of Skagit Valley.

Rebecca Loudon lives and writes in Seattle. Her work has recently appeared in Crab Orchard Review, The Portland Review and Pacific Review. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Tarantella, was published by Ravenna Press in 2004.

At night my father’s boat is strung with lanterns, I give him
a basket of pears, three dumplings wrapped in paper.
He presses his thumb to the top of my head for goodbye,
enters the Li River with his flock of tethered cormorants.
They fly out on their leashes, kites flickering against limestone.
The avu swim close, attracted to the bob and sway of lanterns.
The cormorants swoop, pluck, swing the fish in pouchy beaks,
thrash against the wooden collars that circle their throats,
trying to swallow, swallow. My father reels the birds in,
yanks the fish from their mouths.
In the morning he walks to the village and I ride my bicycle.
He laughs when I flap, caw and squawk,
stretch my neck to one side, then to other,
like the cormorant escaping its collar.
—Rebecca Loudon

Psalm (1996)
from For the Healing of the Nations
David Asplin (b. 1954)

“Psalm” is from the cantata For the Healing of the Nations by David Asplin, which was commissioned by the Washington State Music Teachers Association (WSTMA) and was premiered at the WSMTA annual convention in June 1996 by members of Opus 7. Subtitled A Cantata for Peace, it is a large-scale work for a cappella choir, in the tradition (if not idiom) of Randall Thompson’s The Peaceable Kingdom. The cantata makes use of diverse texts from Isaiah, the Qu’ran, Confucius, the Iroquois Constitution, and a psalm in the Hebrew tradition by Howard Schwartz. Asplin says, “Through the rich metaphorical imagery of nature, mountain, trees and water, these texts express the common thread of peace found in the major religions of the world.

—Robert Scandrett


Originally from Boston, David Asplin eventually settled in Washington State, where in 1995 he was named Composer of the Year by the Washington State Music Teachers Association. This award included a commission for which he composed For the Healing of the Nations. His works have been performed throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Asplin holds a master’s and a doctoral degree in composition from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Music degree from Pacific Lutheran University. He also studied composition and solfege at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France and jazz theory and arranging at Berklee College of Music in Boston. His principal composition teachers included William Albright, William Bolcom, David Robbins and Tristan Murail. Since 2004, Asplin has taught composition at Whitworth University in Spokane where he resides with his family.

Father
You are the trunk
We are the branches
When the Ark opens
We stand beside your silver tree
On this side of the earth
Reading your words
Over and over
Raking the coals.
And when we look up
And glimpse the future
Lashed to the mast of an ark
Rolling over the waters
Of a dark sea
We wrap ourselves
Once more
In your garment of light
Your prayer shawl
Woven from the fabric of history.
But father
We are still waiting
For the rain that must come
On its own
And for the tree that will spring up
Out of those waters
And bear fruit.
—Howard Schwartz

The Lord’s Prayer (1965)
Alan Hovhaness (1911–2000)
Joseph Adam, organ

In his setting of The Lord’s Prayer, Hovhaness sets the tone for his interpretation of the text with a mystical, celestial chord in the organ, no doubt influenced by his deep interest in the music of Eastern cultures. Over this mystical chord the choir intones the opening lines of the prayer. This texture returns three times and is mainly associated with references to heaven and to the Divine. The mystical texture alternates with more homophonic, “earthly” hymn-like passages, which are developed further to bring the setting to a triumphant close on the words “…and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” – John Muehleisen

The Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness (born Alan Vaness Chakmakjian) was a prolific composer, with over 400 opus numbers in his catalog. Given the context of this CD, it seems appropriate to focus on his time in the Pacific Northwest, which encompassed the last three decades of his long and productive life. Some from outside the region might be surprised to see a work by Alan Hovhaness on a CD of works by Northwest composers, but what they might not realize is that the composer moved to the Seattle area in the early 1970s after having been composer-in-residence with the Seattle Symphony from 1966 to 1967. After viewing the beauty of the natural landscape in the Seattle area, he said “I like the mountains very much. I don’t have to go to Switzerland, I expect to stay here.” Seattle’s stunning natural setting, the Cascade and Olympic mountains, and the natural beauty of Washington state gave rise to many works in the last several decades of his life, including several of his trademark symphonies (67 published, 70 if those still in manuscript are counted). Hovhaness’ penchant for subtitling his symphonies reveals the influence of the Northwest landscape: Hymn to the Mountains (#67), Hymn to Glacier Peak (#66), Loon Lake (#63), Walla Walla, Land of Many Waters (#47), and the more well-known Mount St. Helens Symphony (#50), which was composed in 1982, just two years after the cataclysmic explosion of the most symmetrically beautiful mountain in the Northwest. Other works also reveal the influence of the region on his music, including two piano sonatas: Lake Sammamish, named after the suburban lake nestled between Lake Washington and the Cascades, and Cougar Mountain, just east of where Hovhaness lived in the Seattle suburbs.

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
—Matthew 6:9-13

Open Our Eyes (2006)
David Asplin

Mother Teresa’s work to ease the suffering of the dying served as the impetus for this composition. Her words offer a poignant reminder that we must help those less fortunate than ourselves, that we are each other’s brothers and sisters. Beginning from a single unison pitch, a stepwise motive opens each phrase of the text, unfolds to more complex harmonies, and ends gently with a prayer that we may recognize our humanity in each other and know that we are all one. Open Our Eyes was composed and performed to raise funds for the East Valley Food Bank in Spokane Valley, Washington.

—David Asplin


Lord, open our eyes that we may see you in our brothers and sisters.
Lord, open our ears that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.
Lord, open our hearts that we may love you as you love us.
Renew in us your spirit. Lord, make us one.
—Mother Teresa

Ubi caritas (1996)
Joan Szymko (b. 1957)
Lisa Pontén, soprano

Joan Szymko’s setting of this brief, well-known text is an exquisite meditation that encapsulates the simple, yet profound concepts of Charity and Love as a path to transcendence, to peace, and to God. It is a concept that is central to our shared humanity, and one that lies deep within the hearts of all humankind regardless of race or religion. Szymko’s moving setting, with its gentle, meditative repetitions, inscribes this brief text directly on our hearts and exhorts us to put it into practice in our own lives.

—John Muehleisen


In addition to her composing activities, Joan Szymko has been a choral conductor in the Pacific Northwest for over 25 years. Abundant lyricism, rhythmic intensity, and vigorous attention to text are hallmarks of her diverse and distinctive choral writing. Especially noteworthy is her significant contribution to the body of literature for women’s voices. With forty octavos in publication, her music is performed frequently by distinguished choral ensembles across the country and abroad. Szymko’s choral works have been featured at the last three national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and her Vivos Voco was commissioned and performed by the San Francisco Girls Chorus at the International Federation for Choral Music (IFCM)’s Seventh World Symposium on Choral Music in Kyoto, 2005. Szymko has been a resident composer with Do Jump! Movement Theater since 1995, performing her music with the company at their home theater in Portland, Oregon, on Broadway, and at the Kennedy Center.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where there is charity and love, God is there


—Antiphon for Maundy Thursday

Serenade (1990)
from Five Dainties from Ralph Roister Doister
Bern Herbolsheimer Anthony Taylor, clarinet

“Serenade” was originally composed for the University of Washington Madrigal Singers. The intriguing title for this work refers to a play—Ralph Roister Doister—written about 1553 by Nicholas Udall, an English playwright, cleric, and schoolmaster. The play is considered by many to be the first comedy to have been written in the English language. Herbolsheimer’s brilliant setting amplifies the onomatopoetic language that Udall uses to imitate the various instruments referred to in the text.

—John Muehleisen


2. Serenade
Then up to our lute at midnight, twangledome twang,
Then twang with our sonets, and twang with our dumps,
and heyhough from our heart, as heavie as lead lumpess:
Then to our recorder with toodleloodle pope…
anon to our gitterne, thrumpledum, thrumpledum thrum,
Thrumpledum, thrumpledum, thrumpledum, thrumpledum thrum.
—Nicholas Udall

She’s Like the Swallow (1999)
arr. Robert Scandrett (b. 1925)

This arrangement of the wistful little Newfoundland song of love lost owes much to the style of Britten’s folksong arrangements. The unadorned melody occupies a separate plane from the accompaniment, which allows us to observe, as from a distance, the unfolding of the tragedy. A bell-like motif (“for whom the bell tolls”) shapes the harmony and underlines the sadness of this woeful tale.

—Robert Scandrett


Dr. Robert Scandrett was music director at University Congregational Church in Seattle for nearly 20 years. He is retired from Western Washington University, where he was professor of music from 1967-1990. Dr. Scandrett was director of the Seattle Symphony Chorale from 1976 to 1989, founded and directed the New Whatcom Choral Society (Bellingham) for 12 years, was Minister of Music at University Presbyterian Church from 1957-67 and has been associated with the German publishing house Carus Verlag as editor and consultant since 1985. He holds a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Washington and is a composer and arranger. He has written several works for Opus 7, in which he also sang tenor for several years and is a board member emeritus. Dr. Scandrett has provided many informative and entertaining program notes for Opus 7 concerts and CD booklets, including this one.

She’s like the swallow that flies so high.
She’s like the river that never runs dry.
She’s like the sunshine on the lee shore.
I love my love and love is no more.

‘Twas out in the garden this fair maid did go,
apicking the beautiful primerose
The more she plucked, the more she pulled,
until she got her aperon full.

It’s out of these roses she made a bed,
a stony pillow for her head
She laid her down, no word did say,
until this fair maid’s heart did break.
—Newfoundland Folk Song

Red River Valley (1988)
arr. Bern Herbolsheimer

Red River Valley is a well-known North American folksong. Its simple and immediate melody has made it a classic. However, the beauty and deeply felt sentiment of the text is often overlooked. Having frequently heard this song during his childhood in Montana, Bern Herbolsheimer has composed his poignant setting to express the tender and universal sadness of saying the final good-bye to a beloved.

—Bern Herbolsheimer


From this valley they say you are going.
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile,
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathway a while.
Come sit by my side if you love me.
Do not hasten to bid me adieu.
Just remember the Red River Valley,
And the one that has loved you so true.
—Traditional American Folk Song

Lovely William (1989)
arr. Bern Herbolsheimer
Maria Mannisto, soprano

Lovely Williamwas transcribed in Missouri, 1938 by Vance Randolph. The pentatonic melody and the ballad-like text both reveal its Scottish roots. The setting is introspective and warm during the middle verse, while the canonic outer verses reflect the young woman’s complex reaction to the murder of her lover by her father. Ultimately, the high solo voice carries her spirit as well as her body to join “Lovely William” in the grave.

—Bern Herbolsheimer


There’s a tree in father’s garden,
Lovely William, says she.
Where young men an’ young maidens
They wait there for me,
Whilst my father lies in lust
Great deads for to do,
With a long an’ silver dagger
He pierced her love through.
Oh dig him a grave father,
Both wide an’ deep,
An’ strow the white lilies
O’er hsi coffin so deep.
May the heavens shine round him,
He’s the same darlin’ boy,
Oh father, cruel father,
Oh what have you done?
The blood of Saint William,
The blood thou hast spilt.
Go dig my grave, father,
So deep an’ so long,
May the heavens shine round me
An’ my own darling one.
—Ozark Folk Song as sung by Col. Ray R. Denoon, Springfield, Missouri, August 18, 1938

Ratcoon (1989)

arr. Bern Herbolsheimer
Bern Herbolsheimer, piano

Opus 7 fans who are accustomed to hearing the “serious” musical side of Bern Herbolsheimer might be surprised at the light touch and sense of humor in many of his secular works. His setting of this Ozark tune employs the piano as a surrogate banjo or guitar, with nonsense syllables for the choir merrily joining in the dance. The source for Ratcoon was originally part of a longer work that is thought to have been common knowledge among Blacks in the South prior to the Civil War. The version in the collection Herbolsheimer used for Ratcoon is attributed to Mrs. Marle Wilbur, who lived in Pineville, Missouri. The editor of the collection apparently either transcribed or recorded Mrs. Wilber on October 19, 1926, indicating that she rendered the first two lines in a rather unusual nasal tone.

—John Muehleisen


Ratcoon, ratcoon, can you-all dance?
No. Why? ‘Cause my tail’s too short.
Patty addy bum-bum.
—Ozark Folk Song

Eat Your Vegetables! — Set One (2010)
John Muehleisen
Kevin Morton, clarinet

John Muehleisen’s Eat Your Vegetables! – Set One is a decided departure for this composer, who has almost exclusively set serious poetic or sacred texts. In this case, he has chosen to let his hair down (what little he has), finding inspiration in the work of Joanne Gunnerson, a Northwest educator and poet, who has written numerous humorous and witty poems about vegetables. Finding such enjoyment and inspiration in setting three of these poems for Set One, Muehleisen composed a second set of three poems, cleverly titled Eat Your Vegetables! – Set Two, for choir, trumpet, and percussion. During the first rehearsal of Eat Your Vegetables – Set One, an Opus 7 choir member remarked to the composer that she thinks of Gunnerson as “the Ogden Nash of vegetables”: quite a compliment, and one with which the composer agrees wholeheartedly! Those who are familiar with Nash’s writing might want to read these clever poems about animals, published together in a collection entitled Zoo.

—John Muehleisen


1. Bounty
Gardens are prolific,
Giving much zucchini,
The neighbors close their blinds and lock their doors.

2. Aversion to Carrots
Chopped, sliced, julienne, diced,
They glisten in honeyed sauce,
They’re beautiful on the plate,
But eating them makes me cross.
“I don’t like cooked carrots!”

3. RAH!
Let’s give a cheer for the lowly rutabaga,
Down on the vegetable chain,
Eat them with vigor, out in Winnipeg-a
On the Canadian plain

Chorus: R_U_T_A_B_A_G_A
That sturdy root of mine,
R_U_T_A_B_A_G_A
Exceptional food divine.

AGAIN! R_U_T_A_B_A_G_A
Tonight on these we’ll dine,
R_U_T_A_B_A_G_A
Makes dinner mighty fine.

—Joanne Gunnerson



Credits and Acknowlegments


Recorded January 2003; May, June 2004; June, July, September 2007; October 2012; and May 2013
St. James Cathedral, Seattle, WA


Executive producer: Roger Sherman
Recording & mastering engineer: Bill Levey, Via Audio
Session producer: John Muehleisen
Assistant session producer: Ann Glusker
Assistant session producer: Joan Conlon
Graphic designer: Michael Kim
Cover photograph: mlsinphoto
Introduction and liner notes: John Muehleisen
Copy editors: Ann Glusker and Peter Hunsberger
CD Booklet Project manager: Kathryn Costello
Opus 7 logo: Jocelyn Curry





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