Chamber Music II

Sunday, April 29, 2018 • 6:00 p.m.
Woodhouse Wine Estates (15500 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE, Woodinville)

advance tickets: Brown Paper Tickets or 1-800-838-3006


Caroline Shaw (*1982)

Wolfgang Amadè Mozart (1756–1791)
String Quintet in D major, K. 593


Thomas Morley (1557?–1602)
“Now Is the Month of Maying”

Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Sìch’io vorrei morire

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)
“Just as the Tide was Flowing”

Gustav Holst (1874–1934)
“Mae ’nghariad i’n Fenws,” H. 183, No. 9

René Clausen (*1953)
“Set Me as a Seal”

Gerald Finzi (1901–1956)
“My Spirit Sang All Day,” Op. 17, No. 3

Maurice Duruflé (1902–1986)
Ubi caritas

Eric Whitacre (*1970)

Jester Hairston (1902–2000)
“In That Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’”

About the Concert

Members of the Seattle Chamber Singers, under the direction of Michael Austin Miller, perform a selection of a cappella choral works, while members of Orchestra Seattle open the program with a string quartet by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Caroline Shaw and a string quintet by Mozart.

Ticket price ($25) includes one glass of Woodhouse wine. Only 60 seats available (purchase advance tickets).


About the Guest Conductor

Guest conductor Michael Austin Miller, originally from Charleston, South Carolina, now resides in Snohomish, where he serves as director of music ministries at Christ the King Lutheran Church. He holds Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music degrees in choral conducting and has held choral and instrumental teaching positions from elementary to university level. Currently he is in his eighth year as conductor of the Bainbridge Chorale.

In 2015, after he completed his sixth year as a music professor at Trinity Lutheran College, where he taught a variety of courses and directed the Concert Choir, the college began closing its doors. Since then, Michael has pursued his interests in composing and arranging music as well as writing humorous short stories. He enjoys serving as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator for school, church and honor choirs.

Program Notes

Caroline Shaw

Caroline Adelaide Shaw was born August 1, 1982, in Greenville, North Carolina. She composed this work for string quartet in 2009 and revised it in 2013.

Caroline Shaw is a triple-threat musician: a violinist who performs with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, a singer with the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, and the youngest composer ever to with the Pulitzer Prize for Music (for her 2009–2012 work Partita for 8 Voices) — not to mention recent collaborations with rapper Kanye West.

Shaw often draws inspiration from Baroque music (as was the case with Partita for 8 Voices) and visual media (from which Punctum gets its title). “The studium is sort of like what the photograph’s about, like a photograph of three people sitting around the table, playing cards, and looking at each other,” she says. “But the punctum in that photograph is maybe the man’s tie, which is a particular color that’s just really striking, or the way that the little boy is looking off to the side. That’s the moment that actually grabs you and that you remember.”

More specifically: “Punctum is essentially an exercise in nostalgia, inspired by Roland Barthes’ description of the ‘unexpected’ in photographs and in particular by his ex- tended description of the elusive ‘Winter Garden’ photo in his 1980 book Camera Lucida. Through modular sequences strung together out of context, the piece explores a way of saturating the palette with classicism while denying it form, and of disturbing the legibility of a harmonic progression in order to reinforce it later. One could also say the piece is about the sensation of a particular secondary dominant in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.”

Wolfgang Amadè Mozart
String Quintet in D major, K. 593

Joannes Chrisostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756, and died in Vienna on December 5, 1791; he began calling himself Wolfgango Amadeo around 1770 and Wolfgang Amadè in 1777. He composed this quintet during December 1790.

Mozart composed two of his five original works for “viola quintet” (a string quartet with an added viola) during the last twelve months of his life. Their 1793 publication hinted that he had written them “at the earnest solicitation of a musical friend” with the D-major quintet dedicated to “un Amatore Ongarese” (a Hungarian amateur), possibly Johann Tost, an amateur violinist who had commissioned several string quartets from Haydn.

The work opens with cello statements answered by the other four instruments in a delicate Larghetto introduction that supplies musical material for the ensuing Allegro — and returns near the end of the movement just before an abrupt eight-measure coda. A magnificent Adagio follows, then a stately minuet featuring a canon, and finally a spirited (and Haydnesque) rondo.

In 1595 Thomas Morley, the first great English madrigalist, published “Now Is the Month of Maying,” a ballett (a type of part song typically featuring a fa-la-la chorus) with a bawdy text based on a 1590 canzonetta written by Italian composer Orazio Vecchi. Claudio Monteverdi, who elevated the Italian madrigal to an art form, composed Sìch’io vorrei morire five years before his monumental 1610 Vespers, setting an even racier text by the poet Maurizio Moro.

Ralph Vaughan Williams published his arrangement of the English folksong “Just as the Tide Was Flowing” (which first appeared in print in 1813) as part of his Five English Folksongs of 1913. In 1930 Vaughan Williams found himself too busy to fulfill a request to create some choral arrangements of Welsh folksongs, so he passed the task along to his friend Gustav Holst, who set his 12 Welsh Folk Songs, H. 183, after hearing them sung by Mrs. Dora Herbert-Jones (who provided English translations versified by Steuart Wilson, although they work even better in the original Welsh).

American-born René Clausen has served as conductor of the Concordia Choir in Moorhead, Minnesota, since 1986. His extensive list of choral works and arrangements includes “Set Me as a Seal,” composed in the immediate aftermath of a family tragedy. “It was all done in just about 20 minutes,” Clausen recalled, “I just sat down and wrote it. And that’s about the only time I’ve ever really had that cleansing — I think this music became for me a cleansing.”

Gerald Finzi, like Holst a close friend of Vaughan Williams, composed Seven Unaccompanied Partsongs, Op. 17, during the early 1930s at the behest of another friend, photographer Hubert Lambert, who suggested that he set poems of Robert Bridges. A perfectionist, Maurice Duruflé published only 14 compositions during his lifetime, among them four brief motets that include Ubi caritas, stylistically similar to the Gregorian chant from which the text comes.

In 1999 American composer Eric Whitacre received a commission from Julia Armstrong for a choral setting of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” in memory of her parents, who had died mere weeks apart after 50-plus years of marriage. “I took my time with the piece,” Whitacre writes, “crafting it note by note until I felt that it was exactly the way I wanted it.” Unfortunately, he had not sought permission from Frost’s estate to use the text, so he asked his friend and frequent collaborator, Charles Anthony Silvestri, to provide new words. “Tony wrote an absolutely exquisite poem,” says the composer, “finding a completely different (but equally beautiful) message in the music I had already written.”

The grandson of slaves, Jester Hairston studied at Tufts and Juilliard, and worked as a choral conductor, composer and arranger on Broadway, on records and in Hollywood. As an actor, he appeared on radio, television and (uncredited) in several Tarzan movies as well as To Kill a Mockingbird, In the Heat of the Night and Being John Malkovich. His uplifting arrangement of “In That Great Gettin’ Up Mornin”’ is the title track on a 1952 Capitol Records release featuring Hairston and the Walter Schumann Voices.

— Jeff Eldridge