The year-long celebration of the Northwest Choral Society’s (“NWCS”) 50th anniversary will continue with the second concert of the 2015-16 season, entitled “Something Old, Something New,” on Saturday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights.
The “Something Old . . .” featured on the concert program will be represented by Joseph Haydn’s Little Organ Mass, and the “. . . Something New” will be exemplified by two pieces from contemporary composer Morten Lauridsen, Lux Aeterna and Sure On This Shining Night. NWCS is under the direction of artistic director Alan Wellman. The chorus will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra and an organ for this concert.
Haydn was already beginning to enjoy international recognition by the time he composed the Missa brevis (short Mass) Sancti Joannis de Deo (Saint John of God) in b-flat major, also known as the “Kleine Orgelmesse” or Little Organ Mass around 1775. Saint John of God, after whom the Mass was named, was the founder and patron saint of The Brothers Hospitallers, a religious Order devoted to providing medical services to the poor. The Esterhazy family, Haydn’s patrons, was a generous supporter of the Order, and this particular Mass was written in six movements for the Brothers’ church in Eisenstadt, Austria, to be performed for routine services on days that were not important feast days or celebrating a patron’s name-day.
The lengthy title connotes several unique aspects of the composition. To achieve the Mass’ brevity, Haydn used a technique called polytextuality in which several clauses of the lengthier texts in the Mass are sung simultaneously. Haydn played the organ for the first performance in the hospital’s small chapel of the Brethren. “Kleine” (little) may refer to this organ, because this model was a “positive” (small, mobile) with few stops and no pedal.
The Wall Street Journal, in an article headlined “The Best Composer You’ve Never Heard Of”, asked and answered the following question, “ . . .who’s writing classical music these days that’s accessible enough to satisfy lay listeners, yet serious enough to impress trained musicians? Morten Lauridsen, that’s who. . . . Mr. Lauridsen’s music is more widely performed than that of any other contemporary choral composer,” the article continues.
Morten Johannes Lauridsen is an American composer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he was composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (1994–2001) and has been a professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than 40 years.
In 2006, Lauridsen was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts. He received the National Medal of Arts in 2007 from President Bush in a White House ceremony “for his compositions of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide”.
Lauridsen’s works have been recorded on more than 200 CDs, five of which have received Grammy Award nominations, including two all-Lauridsen discs entitled Lux Aeterna by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Polyphony with the Britten Sinfonia.
A recipient of numerous grants, prizes, and commissions, Lauridsen chaired the Composition department at the USC Thornton School of Music (1990–2002) and founded the School’s Advanced Studies program in Film Scoring. He has held residencies as guest composer/lecturer at over 100 universities and has received honorary doctorates from Oklahoma State University, Westminster Choir College, King’s College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and Whitman College.
He believes in writing music that is not just for musicians, but for everybody. Of Lux Aeterna, the composer says, “I didn’t want to write an elitist piece that only the very best choirs in the world could perform—I wanted to write a piece that would be within reach of many people, many performers. It’s a piece with a message, and I didn’t want to complicate that message with complicated musical language.”
The five movements of Lux Aeterna are based on various references to light assembled from sacred Latin texts: perpetual light, light risen in the darkness, Redeemer-born light from light, light of the Holy Spirit, light of hearts, most blessed light, eternal light — all supporting an earthbound spirit seeking not only mercy, understanding, and consolation but also renewal.
The second composition by Morten Lauridsen to be performed by the Northwest Choral Society is entitled Sure On This Shining Night. It is one part of a Lauridsen triptych entitled Nocturnes, published in 2005 that anthologizes the verse of three twentieth-century poets from different nationalities, but with shared themes: night, romantic love and pantheistic rapture. American author James Agee’s poem Sure On this Shining Night is set much like a song from the American musical theater, a genre for which Lauridsen held a life-long esteem.
O Nata Lux (from Lux Aeterna) and Sure On This Shining Night (from Nocturnes) have become the all-time best-selling choral octavos distributed by Theodore Presser, in business since 1783.
A complimentary preconcert lecture and discussion of the concert music will be hosted by NWCS member Kelsey Green 45 minutes prior to the concert.
Tickets for the “Something Old, Something New” concert are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors and may be obtained online at www.nwchoralsociety.org, by calling 224 / 585-9127 or an hour prior to the concert at the First Presbyterian Church, 302 North Dunton Avenue, Arlington Heights, IL.
Other activities for the NWCS’s golden anniversary celebration include the recording of the chorus’ first commercial CD and a Golden Jubilee Dinner on April 29, 2016. The CD includes several of the choral pieces performed at its December 2014 and 2015 Christmas concerts with the Chicago Gargoyle Brass. Copies of the CD will be for sale at the April 9 concert, as well as at the chorus’ website www.nwchoralsociety.org.
Tickets for the Golden Jubilee Dinner, to be held at Meridian Banquet Center in Rolling Meadows, are $50, with a cash bar, and may be obtained through the NWCS website or from
J. E. Behrens, 2642 Venetian Lane, Elgin, IL 60124 prior to April 10. All Northwest Chorus Society alumni and friends are invited to attend the dinner and participate in the singing, reminiscing,
raffles and silent auctions planned. Questions regarding the Golden Jubilee Dinner should be directed to chorus president Penny Perles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NWCS 2015-16 season concludes with one more concert performance, entitled “The Golden Jubilee Celebration” on June 4, 2016 at the Southminster Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights. Alumni of Northwest Chorus Society who wish to participate in the June 4 celebration are encouraged to contact Penny Perles at email@example.com for further information.
Lipke-Kentex-Hesse / Dionne Supply of Chicago is providing much appreciated sponsorship financial support for the Northwest Choral Society’s 2015-16 golden anniversary concert season.
Founded in 1965, the Northwest Choral Society is a non-profit organization that promotes and encourages the appreciation, understanding and performance of a wide variety of outstanding choral literature. Its adult membership resides in the greater Chicago area.
The Northwest Choral Society invites experienced singers to audition to join the organization. Basses, tenors, altos and sopranos with previous choral experience and 17 years of age can obtain additional information about the Northwest Choral Society at www.nwchoralsociety.org.
Northwest Choral Society performs at St. Raymonds Church in Mt. Prospect.