2016/17 Season

We're pleased that our fourth concert this season returns to the Charles Hayden Planetarium at Boston’s Museum of Science for a visual and aural feast entitled Cosmos. Our music by Ēriks Ešenvalds, Randall Stroope, Robert Schumann, and others will be made visible by a series of projections on the planetarium’s dome. The concert will include the world premiere of a new work by Stacy Garrop, winner of our 2016 commission competition.

Tickets are Now on Sale!


Program (alphabetical order)

Dan Elder (arr.) Twinkle, twinkle little star 

Ēriks Ešenvalds: Stars           

Stacy Garrop: Celestial Canticles (World Premiere, BCE Commission)

Morten Lauridsen: Sure on This Shining Night

Paweł Łukaszewski: O Oriens                       

R. Murray Schafer: Epitaph for moonlight               

Robert Schumann: An die sterne            

Donald Skirvin: Clear evening              

Randall Stroope: How sweet the moonlight

Steven Stucky: Winter Stars



Program Notes

[Coming Soon]

Ēriks Ešenvalds (b. 1977) is an award-winning Latavian composer. While he composes for both choral and instrumental ensembles, he is most well-known for his choral compositions. Ešenvalds has made an international connection with choral ensembles worldwide. For only being forty years old, five different ensembles have recorded full length albums that feature only his work. Ešenvalds actively composes while holding a teaching appointment at the Latavian Academy of Music.

Stars is a setting of the Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) poem for SATB choir accompanied by six crystal glasses. Obviously, crystal glasses are not with in the canon of accompanying instruments, but they are a distinct feature of several of Ešenvalds’ compositions. The crystal glasses are performed by running one’s finger on the rim of the glass. The glasses are to be filled to a certain level with water so that they sound at the pitch written by the composer. Ešenvalds sets all five stanza of the Sara Teasdale poem. Ešenvalds’ compositionally interested with layers and stacking chord tones. This sound is not only found in his choral writing, but it is found with his writing for the water glasses. He starts with just two notes, sounding as a third, then adds the following outer neighbor tones. He furthers this idea in the choral writing in the center of this work. Using only a hum and vowels, Ešenvalds uses descending and stacked chord tones as a natural crescendo to prepare for the text, “the dome of heaven.” The work concludes with a gentle diminuendo throughout the entirety of the final stanza, “I know I am honored,” resting to a low voiced, consonant stacked chord.

Donald Skirvin is an American composer is Composer Emeritus with the Seattle-based chamber choir, the Esoterics. Skirvin studied music at the Jordan Conservatory in Indianapolis and at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. As a composer, he specializes in choral music and has composed for a variety of choral ensembles. His works have been premiered and recorded by many Seattle-based choral ensembles. His is well-known for his a cappella work, Alchemy, which had been featured on a Grammy-nominated recording by the professional chamber choir, Conspirare.

Clear evening is the second movement from Skirvin’s larger choral work, Stars forever, while we sleep. Clear evening is a poem from Sara Teasdale’s (1884-1933) book of poetry, ‘Dark of the Moon.’ In his own program about the work, Skirvin writes, “Above all, Sara Teasdale writes songs. Her lyric poetry is a trove melodies waiting to be written.” Skirvin’s observation of Teasdale’s poetry is directly heard in his setting of this text. Skirvin sets each verse with its own distinct melodic idea rather than toying with two or three ideas, as is true in most works. The work opens with a fluid scale that repeats through the first section. The tenor and bass voices share a placid melody in unison at the opening text, “The crescent moon is large enough…” This melody gets passed between various voices through the verse. The choir sings in homophony at the text “Evenings on evenings…”in a hushed and gentle harmony, as all voices are low in their register. The piece continues at a lulling pace and register until the voices gradually diminish to a spoken voice saying “fall asleep.”


Text and Translations

Dan Elder (arr.) Twinkle, twinkle little star - Edited from "The Star" by Jane Taylor (1783–1824)

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.


In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye
Till the sun is in the sky.
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.


Ēriks Ešenvalds: Stars - Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Alone in the night
On a dark hill
With pines around me
Spicy and still,

And a heaven full of stars
Over my head,
White and topaz
And misty red;

Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
That aeons
Cannot vex or tire;

Up the dome of heaven
Like a great hill,
I watch them marching
Stately and still,

And I know that I
Am honored to be
Of so much majesty.


Stacy Garrop: Celestial Canticles (World Premiere, BCE Commission 2017)

I - Cloths of Heaven by W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


II - The Galaxy by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Torrent of light and river of the air,
Along whose bed the glimmering stars are seen
Like gold and silver sands in some ravine
Where mountain streams have left their channels bare!
The Spaniard sees in thee the pathway, where
His patron saint descended in the sheen
Of his celestial armor, on serene
And quiet nights, when all the heavens were fair.
Not this I see, nor yet the ancient fable
Of Phaeton's wild course, that scorched the skies
Where'er the hoofs of his hot coursers trod;
But the white drift of worlds o'er chasms of sable,
The star-dust that is whirled aloft and flies
From the invisible chariot-wheels of God.


III - The Universal Spectacle Throughout by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

The universal spectacle throughout
Was shaped for admiration and delight,
Grand in itself alone, but in that breach
Through which the homeless voice of waters rose,
That dark deep thoroughfare, had Nature lodged
The soul, the imagination of the whole.

(From The Prelude, Book Thirteenth)


Morten Lauridsen: Sure on this shining night - James Agee (1909-1955) 

Sure on this shining night of star-made shadows round,
kindness must watch for me this side the ground,
on this shining night, this shining night
Sure on this shining night of star-made shadows round,
kindness must watch for me this side the ground,
on this shining night, this shining night
The late year lies down the north
All is healed, all is health
High summer holds the earth, hearts all whole
The late year lies down the north
All is healed, all is health
High summer holds the earth, hearts all whole
Sure on this shining night,
sure on this shining, shining night
Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars
Sure on this shining night, this shining night
On this shining night, this shining night
Sure on this shining night.


Paweł Łukaszewski: O Oriens - O antiphon (Luke 1:78, 79 & Malachi 4:2)            

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O dawn of the east,

brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice:

come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.


R. Murray Schafer: Epitaph for moonlight               

(The text is based on invented synonyms for "moonlight.")

Nu-yu-yul - Noorwahm - Maanblinde - Malooma - Lunious - Sloofulp - Shiverglowa - Shalowa - Sheelesk - Shimonoell - Neshmoor.


Robert Schumann: An die Sterne - Friedrich Rückert (1788 - 1866)

In des Himmels Ferne!
Die mit Strahlen bessrer Welt
Ihr die Erdendämmrung hellt;
Schau'n nicht Geisteraugen
Von euch erdenwärts,
Daß sie Frieden hauchen
Ins umwölkte Herz?

In des Himmels Ferne!
Träumt sich auch in jenem Raum
Eines Lebens flücht'ger Traum ?
Hebt Entzücken, Wonne,
Trauer, Wehmut, Schmerz,
Jenseit unsrer Sonne
Auch ein fühlend Herz?

In des Himmels Ferne!
Winkt ihr nicht schon Himmelsruh'
Mir aus euren Fernen zu?
Wird nicht einst dem Müden
Auf den goldnen Au'n
Ungetrübter Frieden
In die Seele tau'n?

In des Himmels Ferne,
Bis mein Geist den Fittich hebt
Und zu eurem Frieden schwebt,
Hang' an euch mein Sehnen
Hoffend, glaubevoll!
O, ihr holden, schönen,
Könnt ihr täuschen wohl?


in the distant heavens!
Who with your rays of a better world
Brighten the earthly twilight.
Don't your spirit eyes
Look down upon the earth
In order to instill peace
In the clouded heart?

in the distant heavens!
In your realm does one also dream
A life's fleeting dream?
Do delight, bliss,
Sadness, melancholy, pain
Beyond our sun
Also elevate a feeling heart?

in the distant heavens!
Waving from your distant places,
Do you not already bestow on me heaven's rest?
Will not one day
On the golden meadows
Unalloyed peace
Fall like dew into the tired soul?

in the distant heavens!
Until my soul takes wings
And ascends to your peace,
My yearnings cling to you
Hopefully, trustingly!
Oh, you fair, beautiful ones,
Could you possibly deceive?

(Poetic translation by Irmela Florig-Rowland)


Donald Skirvin: Stars forever, while we sleep - Sara Teasdale

There will be stars over the place forever;
Though the house we loved and the street we loved are lost,
Every time the earth circles her orbit
On the night the autumn equinox is crossed,
Two stars we knew, poised on the peak of midnight
Will reach their zenith; stillness will be deep;
There will be stars over the place forever,
There will be stars forever, while we sleep.


Randall Stroope: How sweet the moonlight - William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

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 which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Such harmony is in immortal souls.

Adapted from A Merchant of Venice