Serenade to Music

Serenade to Music

May 13, 2016

 


For our final concert this season we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) with a concert of works on texts from his plays. We were joined by members of the Actors’ Shakespeare Project who will set the scene for each piece. Our excerpts included speeches from The TempestA Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the famous “Serenade to Music” (from The Merchant of Venice) set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The concert included works by Jaakko Mäntyjävri and Frank Martin, and we gave the world premiere of Neither rhyme nor reason by Greg Brown (BCE Commission Competition winner, 2015). This concert was on Friday, May 13, 2016 at 8:00 PM at First Church, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA and was followed by a reception to mark the end of our 15th season.

 

With special guests:

Anna Arazi, piano

Michael Hustedde, violin

Members of Actors’ Shakespeare Project: Allyn Burrows, Sarah Newhouse, and Omar Robinson

 

Program

Emma Lou Diemer – From Three Madrigals
– O Mistress mine (Twelfth Night)
– Take, oh, take those lips away (Measure for Measure)

* * * * *

Ralph Vaughan Williams – From Three Shakespeare Settings
– Full fathom five (The Tempest (I, ii))
Frank Martin – From Five pieces based on The Tempest
– Full fathom five (The Tempest (I, ii))
Ralph Vaughan Williams – From Three Shakespeare Settings
– The cloud-capp’d towers (The Tempest (IV, ii))
Frank Martin – From Five pieces based on The Tempest
– Where the bee sucks (The Tempest (V, i))

* * * * *

Greg Brown  – Neither Rhyme Nor Reason (As You Like It)
(Winner of BCE’s 2015 Commission Competition)

* * * * *

Ralph Vaughan Williams – From Three Shakespeare Settings
– Over hill, over dale (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Jaakko Mäntyjävri – From Four Shakespeare Songs
– Double, double toil and trouble (Macbeth)

* * * * *

Ralph Vaughan Williams – Serenade to Music (The Merchant of Venice)

 

 


Biographies

Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927) received both her B.M. and her M.M from the Yale School of Music in 1949 and 1950, respectively. She then went on to study composition in Brussels, Belgium on a Fulbright Scholarship from 1952 to 1953, ultimately returning to the United States to receive her Ph.D from the Eastman School of Music in 1960. She was professor of theory and composition at the University of Maryland 1965-70, and joined the faculty of the Univfrank ersity of California (UCSB) in 1971.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was born in Gloucestershire, England to a Welsh mother and an English father who was a clergyman. He was educated at Charterhouse School, then Trinity College, Cambridge. Later he was a pupil of Stanford and Parry at the Royal College of Music, after which he studied with Max Bruch in Berlin and Maurice Ravel in Paris.

At the turn of the century he was among the very first to travel into the countryside to collect folk-songs and carols from singers, notating them for future generations to enjoy. As musical editor of The English Hymnal he composed several hymns that are now world-wide favourites (For all the Saints, Come down O love Divine). Later he also helped to edit The Oxford Book of Carols, with similar success. Before the war he had met and then sustained a long and deep friendship with the composer Gustav Holst. Vaughan Williams volunteered to serve in the Field Ambulance Service in Flanders for the 1914-1918 war, during which he was deeply affected by the carnage and the loss of close friends such as the composer George Butterworth.

In a long and productive life, music flowed from his creative pen in profusion. Hardly a musical genre was untouched or failed to be enriched by his work, which included nine symphonies, five operas, film music, ballet and stage music, several song cycles, church music and works for chorus and orchestra. (From http://www.rvwsociety.com/.)

Frank Martin (1890-1974) began composing at age 8, was overwhelmed by a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at 10, and by his 16th year knew that music was his destiny. While formally studying mathematics and physics at his parents’ behest, he pursued music privately with the distinguished Swiss composer Joseph Lauber, who introduced him to the rudiments of piano, harmony, and composition. In 1918 Martin moved to Zurich, then on to Rome and Paris, returning to Geneva in 1926 with the experience of jazz hot in the ear. Recognition came in the form of teaching posts, directorship of the Technicum Moderne de Musique, president of the Swiss Musicians’ Union 1943-1946, a composition class at the Cologne Hochschule für Musik 1950-1957, and commissions (e.g., by Geneva Radio for the oratorio In terra pax for broadcast on armistice day). (Biography by Adrian Corleonis: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/frank-martin-mn0001175276/biography.)


Gregory W. Brown
lives and works in Western Massachusetts. He holds degrees from the Hugh Hodgson School of Music (University of Georgia), Westminster Choir College, and Amherst College, where he studied with the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan. His recent commissions for the vocal ensemble New York Polyphony have been heard on American Public Media’s “Performance Today,” BBC Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, Kansas Public Radio, and Danish National Radio. His Missa Charles Darwin received its European debut in March 2013 at the Dinosaur Hall of Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde.

Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (b. 1963) was raised in Turku, Finland and studied music theory and choral conducting at the Sibelius Academy. His major commissions include works for the Cork International Choral Festival (1999), the 700th anniversary of the consecration of Turku Cathedral (2000), the World Symposium on Choral Music (2008), Chanticleer (2001), and the King’s Singers (2002). Mäntyjärvi has been active as an amateur and semi-professional choral musician with a number of Finnish ensembles, including the Savonlinna Opera Festival Choir, the professional Sibelius Academy Vocal Ensemble and the Tapiola Chamber Choir.

 


 

Program Notes and Texts

 

1. O Mistress mine (Twelfth Night)

Diemer set three different texts by Shakespeare for SATB choir and piano for the senior high schools of Arlington, Virginia, They were published in 1962 and, by virtue of their singability and accessibility, they have become a standard in the repertoire. “O Mistress mine,” pits the women’s voices against the men in a spirited tail of romance and wooing.

O Mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear, your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further pretty sweeting.
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.

What is love, ’tis not hereafter,
Present mirth, hath present laughter:
What’s to come, is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me sweet and twenty:
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

 

2. Take, oh, take those lips away (Measure for Measure)

This slow movement is largely set in four-part harmony with a gentle heartbeat sounded in the piano.

Take, oh take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn,
And those eyes: the breake of day,
Lights that do mislead the Morn;
But my kisses bring again, bring again,
Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain.

 

3.  Full fathom five (The Tempest (I, ii))

In this scene from The Tempest: Act I Scene II, an enslaved spirit named Ariel has been ordered by his master Prospero to summon a shipwrecked youth named Ferdinand. Ariel does so by singing this song that (falsely) tells Ferdinand his father has been downed in a recent shipwreck. Both Vaughan Williams and Martin conjure up a mystical and watery sound in their evocative settings.

Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them, – ding-dong bell.

 

4. The cloud-capp’d towers (The Tempest (IV, ii))

Towards the end of the play Prospero declares to his son that the revels are now ended and reminds him that the actors “were all spirits and / Are melted into air.” His speech contains this excerpt set by Vaughan Williams in which he sums up the inconsequential nature of human life. Vaughan Williams sets the piece in a monumental piece for eight (and sometimes even nine) voices. The music is largely homophonic, but captures the mood of the text through its fluid and haunting harmonies.

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind: We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

 

5. Where the bee sucks (The Tempest (V, i))

In the final scene of the play, Prospero tells Ariel that the spirit will soon be free. Ariel sings this song to express how glad he will be when this happens. Martin’s music includes bee sounds and much joy in its delicate counterpoint.

Where the bee sucks there suck I:
In a cow-slip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On a bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily,
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

 

6. Neither rhyme nor reason (As You Like It)

Rosalind (as Ganymede): “But are you so much in love as your rhymes speak?”

Orlando: “Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much.”

When I was casting around for texts, my wife Mary, who had played the role of Rosalind when she was a student at Boston College, suggested the text to me. It’s a great example of some of my favorite aspects of Shakespeare’s writing: double meaning, assumed identities, and young love. — Gregory Brown

Neither Rhyme nor Reason is a setting of a scene from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, a pastoral comedy written in 1599 and first performed in 1603. The play follows the heroine Rosalind as she flees her uncle’s court with her cousin Celia. The two assume new identities to disguise themselves, Celia as a shepherdess, and Rosalind as a young man named Ganymede. They find themselves in the Forest of Arden, where they meet Orlando (a young man in love with Rosalind), and his servant Adam.

In the scene presented in Brown’s setting, we find Rosalind (disguised as Ganymede) offering Orlando advice on how to free himself from his crippling love for Rosalind. Though Orlando doesn’t know it yet, Rosalind reciprocates his feelings. By using the guise of Ganymede, she tests Orlando’s love for her. Ganymede proposes that he should act as Rosalind would, rejecting Orlando daily when he visits so that Orlando’s love will be broken by the frustration and pain of failure. Rosalind would then know that if Orlando was able to suffer through Ganymede’s trial, his love for the real Rosalind must be genuine.

 

As You Like It: Act III, Scene II

ROSALIND (as Ganymede)
Love is merely a madness, and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do: and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is, that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too. Yet I profess curing it by counsel.

ORLANDO
Did you ever cure any so?

ROSALIND
Yes, one, and in this manner. He was to imagine me his love, his mistress; and I set him every day to
woo me: at which time would I, being but a moonish youth, grieve, be effeminate, changeable, longing
and liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles, for every passion something and for no passion truly any
thing, as boys and women are for the most part
cattle of this colour; would now like him, now loathe him; then entertain him, then forswear him; now weep for him, then spit at him; that I drave my suitor
from his mad humour of love to a living humour of madness; which was, to forswear the full stream of
the world, and to live in a nook merely monastic.
And thus I cured him; and this way will I take upon me to wash your liver as clean as a sound sheep’s heart, that there shall not be one spot of love in’t.

ORLANDO
I would not be cured, youth.

ROSALIND
I would cure you, if you would but call me Rosalind* and come every day to my cote and woo me.

ORLANDO
Now, by the faith of my love, I will, good youth.

ROSALIND
Nay you must call me Rosalind.

 

7. Over hill, over dale (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

In the magical world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream the fairy world and the human world meet, and in the opening scene of Act 2 Puck, a “shrewd and knavish sprite” meets a fairy and asks where they are going. The fairy’s response is delightfully captured in Vaughan Williams’ short and energetic piece that deftly demonstrates the busy fairy wandering everywhere.

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough briar,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire
I do wander everywhere.
Swifter than the moonè’s sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.

 

8. Double, double toil and trouble (Macbeth)

In this scene from Macbeth, three witches concoct a wicked brew full of filthy ingredients, foreshadowing their role in manipulating Macbeth into usurping the King of Scotland. Mäntyjärvi’s setting exploits Shakespeare’s trochaic tetrameter (a deliberate departure from his usual iambic pentameter), by using uneven measures with 5 or 7 beats.

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d
Thrice, and once the hedgepig whined
Harpier cries: ‘Tis time, ’tis time.
Double, double toil and trouble.
Round about the cauldron go,
In the poison’d entrails throw:
Toad that under coldstone
Days and nights had thirty one
Swelter’d venom, sleeping got,
Boil thou first in the charmed pot.
Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake
In the cauldron boil and bake,
Eye of newt and tow of frog
Wool of bat and tongue of dog.
Adder’s fork and blindworm’s sting
Wizards leg and owlet’s wing.
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double boil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt sea shark
Root of the hemlock, digg’d in dark.
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat and slips of yew,
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips.
Finger of birth strangl’d babe,
Ditch delivered by a drab.
Make the gruel thick and slab,
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For ingredients for our cauldron,
Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
By the pricking of my thumb,
Something wicked this way comes,
Open, locks, whoever knocks!

 

9. Serenade to music (The Merchant of Venice)

Vaughan Williams wrote his setting for 16 soloists and orchestra in 1938, later adapting it for chorus and orchestra. Tonight we use 16 soloists and full choir along with piano and violin in an arrangement that captures the full scope of Vaughan Williams’ imaginative setting. The text is an adaptation of the discussion about music and the music of the spheres in Act V, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice. In arranging Shakespeare’s text, he followed the word order, but cut words, phrases, and lines, and repeated at the end words from the third and fourth lines.

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb that thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn!
With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear,
And draw her home with music.
I am never merry when I hear sweet music.
The reason is, your spirits are attentive –
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Music! hark!
It is your music of the house.
Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day.
Silence bestows that virtue on it
How many things by season season’d are
To their right praise and true perfection!
Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with Endymion
And would not be awak’d. Soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.