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.

Program (alphabetical order)

Dan Elder (arr.): Twinkle, twinkle little star

Ēriks Ešenvalds: Stars

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

Ola Gjeilo: Northern lights

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 (from Stars forever, while we sleep)

Randall Stroope: How sweet the moonlight

Steven Stucky: Winter stars

Program Notes

Dan Elder (b. 1986). As a prolific writer of vocal and instrumental music, Daniel Elder  ties these genres together to create forms and aesthetics that are at once lyrical and textural, drawing its roots particularly from the impressionist movement. Critics have hailed his works as ‘deeply affecting’ and ‘without peer,’ with emotional evocations ranging from lush lyricism to jagged polyphony. Elder’s compositions have been performed extensively in the USA and abroad, including a recording at Abbey Road Studios by the Grammy-award winning Eric Whitacre Singers.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is an arrangement of the age-old tune of the same name, which strives to paint an atmospheric perspective on a familiar children’s song. The vastness and wonder of this setting may help us to see certain questions once again through a child’s eyes, and yet also hear the wisdom of a star’s reply. From such a perspective, this timeless mystery can be both questioned and answered by the music.

Full biography, program note, and more information can be found at


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. Although only forty years old, he has had notable success: 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 a poem by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) for SATB choir accompanied by six crystal glasses. These water filled glasses are not with in the canon of accompanying instruments, but they are a distinct feature of several of Ešenvalds’ compositions. The glasses are played by running one’s finger on the rim of the glass and filled to a certain level with water so that they sound at the pitch written by the composer. For this piece Ešenvalds sets all five stanzas of the Teasdale poem. He explores musical 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.


Stacy Garrop. Stacy Garrop’s music is centered on dramatic and lyrical storytelling. The sharing of stories is a defining element of our humanity; we strive to share with others the experiences and concepts that we find compelling. Garrop shares stories by taking audiences on sonic journeys – some are simple and beautiful, while others are complicated and dark – depending on the needs and dramatic shape of the story. Garrop is currently on a journey that is redefining her personal narrative. After teaching composition full-time at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University from 2000-2016, she stepped down from her position to become a freelance composer. As she makes this transition, she will be collaborating with a number of performers and organizations, including Anima Singers, Boston Choral Ensemble, Fifth House Ensemble, Gaudete Brass Quintet, and the Carthage College Wind Ensemble.

Garrop earned degrees in music composition at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (B.M.), University of Chicago (M.A.), and Indiana University-Bloomington (D.M.). For the 2016-2017 academic year, she will serve as Artist Faculty in Composition at Roosevelt University.

Celestial Canticles

Celestial Canticles celebrates the wondrous universe above us through the eyes of three poets. In Cloths of Heaven, W.B. Yeats tells his love that he wished he possessed the richness of the heavens to put under her feet. In The Galaxy, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow contemplates the Milky Way. He accomplishes this by alluding to the Milky Way in a set of descriptive terms: torrent, river, sands, ravine, streams, channels, pathway, and chasms. Longfellow also makes two additional references. The first is El Camino de Santiago (or “The Way of St. James”), a popular Christian pilgrimage point in Spain, where the body of the Apostle St. James is said to be buried: pilgrims used the Milky Way to guide their path. The second is Phaeton in Greek mythology: he begs his father Helios (the sun god) to let him drive the sun-chariot across the sky, but when given the reins, he loses control of the horses and scorches the sky. The choral set concludes with William Wordsworth’s The Universal Spectacle Throughout in which Wordsworth admires the beauty and depth of the heavens. Celestial Canticles was commissioned by Boston Choral Ensemble. Program note by Stacy Garrop.

Full biography, program note, and more information can be found at


Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978). Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo) was born in Norway and moved to the United States in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he currently resides and works as a full-time composer. Gjeilo’s albums include his 2016 Decca Classics label debut, Ola Gjeilo, featuring Tenebrae and Voces8, as well as his two piano records (Stone RosePiano Improvisations) and Phoenix Chorale’s Northern Lights. His choral works are published by Walton Music, wind band works by Boosey & Hawkes, and piano pieces by Walton Music and Edition Peters.

Full biography, list of works, and more information can be found at

Northern Lights

Most of all, this piece and its text is about beauty. About a ‘terrible’, powerful beauty, although the music is quite serene on the surface. Gjeilo wrote about this piece: "Looking out from an attic window one Christmas close to Oslo, over a wintry lake under the stars, I was thinking about how this ‘terrible’ beauty is so profoundly reflected in the northern lights, or aurora borealis, which, having grown up in the southern part of the country, I have only seen once or twice in my life. It is one of the most beautiful natural phenomena I’ve ever witnessed, and has such a powerful, electric quality that must have been both mesmerizing and terrifying to people in the past, when no one knew what it was and when much superstition was attached to these experiences."


Morton Lauridsen (b. 1943). The music of Morten Lauridsen occupies a permanent place in the standard vocal repertoire of the Twenty-First Century. His eight vocal cycles (Lux Aeterna, Les Chansons des Roses, Madrigali: Six ‘FireSongs’ on Italian Renaissance Poems, A Winter Come, Cuatro Canciones, A Backyard Universe, Nocturnes and Mid-Winter Songs on Poems by Robert Graves), instrumental works, art songs and series of motets (including O Magnum Mysterium) are performed throughout the world and have been recorded on over two hundred CDs, including several that received Grammy nominations. Lauridsen  served as Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1995-2001 and is currently Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. An award-winning documentary by Michael Stillwater, Shining Night – A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen, was released in 2012 ( In 2006, Morten Lauridsen was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 2007 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest artistic award in the United States, by the President in a White House ceremony “for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power, and spiritual depth.”

Full biography, list of works, and more information can be found at

Sure on this Shining Night

"Sure on this Shining Night" is a setting of the James Agee poem, of the same name, for mixed choir with piano accompaniment. It is the third work from his choral cycle, Nocturnes. Lauridsen writes in his performance notes, “I set the verse very much like a song from the American musical theater stage and it should be sung in that manner.” Lauridsen achieves this by setting the primary motive in a lyrical and fluid, unison melody; opening with the tenor and bass voices, soon followed by the soprano and alto voices. Aside from his lyricism, Lauridsen’s setting of this text finds freedom in tempo indications and use of rubato. Lauridsen is quite considerate of how the text is delivered, and he instructs the musicians to match the pacing of text through his markings. After the lyric motive is presented, Lauridsen repeats the text with the main melody with the full complement of singers. Lauridsen’s harmonic language is not foreign to the listener, but he creates the aural dichotomy of tension and relaxation by adding non-chord tones (pitches that do not fit in the chord) and removing them. Creating this tension through chord structure and added tones is one of the hallmarks of Lauridsen’s compositional language.


Paweł Łukaszewski (b. 1968). Łukaszewski is one of the younger generation of Polish composers specialising in sacred and choral music. He studied composition with Professor Marian Borkowski at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw. He received a Ph.D (2000) and a Ph.D Hab. (2007) in composition. His works have been performed throughout Europe, and at the Vatican as well as in Argentine, Chile, China, Israel, Cuba, Canada, South Korea, Peru, Uruguay and the United States. Also an active conductor, Łukaszewski is Artistic Director and Conductor of Musica Sacra Cathedral Choir in Warsaw. His works have been recorded on more than 110 CD albums.

Full biography, list of works, and more information can be found at

O Oriens

O Oriens is the fifth work from Łukaszewski’s choral cycle, O Antiphons, a choral setting of Magnificat Antiphons sung in the last seven days of Advent in the Catholic liturgy. Within the liturgy, these Antiphons are sung during Vespers services and this particular antiphon contains imagery of dark turning to light. O Oriens roughly translates as, “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.” Set in Latin, Łukaszewski’s setting is written for a mixed choir in sixteen parts. His compositional language toys with the contrasts between three (or less) voiced chords and stacked chord clusters. In the opening bars, Łukaszewski moves from a unison tone to a shimmering ten-tone cluster that collapses back in to a unison. This unison, consequently, expands back to another chord cluster. Integrating his interest of music of the past, Łukaszewski’s harmonic language is akin to the church modes, tonal centers, from Medieval and Renaissance sacred music. His blend of historical text and styles with a modern ear creates a rich and unique compositional language.


R. Murry Schafer (b. 1933) is a Canadian composer, writer, music educator, and environmentalist. His work as an environmentalist heavily influences his compositional language; his work introduced the academic study of acoustic ecology, a discipline studying the relationship of humans and their environment through sound. Acoustic ecology, or better known as soundscapes, was introduced into the academic sector in the late 1960s by Schafer and his colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Aside from composing, he is internationally renowned as a graphical notation practitioner and scholar in music education.

Epitaph for Moonlight

In Schafer’s performance notes for Epitaph for Moonlight, he writes, “Moonlight is a study-piece for youth choir. It is an ear-training exercise, for the singers must learn to pitch their notes by interval from any given note… I once gave a grade 7 class the assignment of finding suitable synonyms for the word ‘moonlight,’ new words in a private language were to be invented that expressed in sound the concept of moonlight.” Epitaph for Moonlight is scored in graphical notation; there are no measures, key signatures, or musical staves. Rather than expressing text through music, Schafer composes music that aurally depicts a human’s perspective of moonlight. Throughout this work, Schafer uses the private language created by his 7th graders interspersed between sonorous vowels and the word, “moon.”


Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was a German composer and an influential figure in the Romantic Era. Robert Schumann was married to another influential composer, Clara Schumann. Aside from composing and performing, Schumann is pivotal figure for the academic field of musicology; writing as a music critic on many performances and jointly founding the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music). As a virtuosic pianist, Schumann wrote for piano exclusively for most of his career. In 1840, Schumann devoted more time to his compositions during which he expanded his output by composing Lieder, operas, symphonies, choral and chamber works. Due to a hand injury that stunted his performing career, Schumann suffered from severe depression and admitted himself into a mental asylum in 1854. He passed away two years later without recovering from his illness.

An die Sterne

An die Sterne (To the Stars) is the first of four from Schumann’s Vier Doppelchörige Gesange (Four Double-Choir Songs). Schumann sets the poem, of the same name, by German contemporary, Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866). The poem opens each stanza with the text, “Stars in the distant Heavens” (Sterne, in die Himmels ferne), proceeded by the author’s hopeful and questions of finding peace within the curious nature of the stars. Schumann’s setting is somewhat strophic (setting the text to same musical material), yet each stanza possesses unique curiosities to express the new text. In general, Schumann travels further away from the home key with each question through each stanza. His harmonic motion in conjunction with the text depicts a person asking questions to the starry sky, receiving no answers or resolutions of his yearning for peace. The final chord, although in the home key, is in second inversion and leaves the listener quite unsettled; providing no comforting resolution for the listener or the ‘star-struck’ wanderer.


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

"Clear evening" is the second movement from Skirvin’s larger choral work, Stars forever, while we sleep. The poem comes 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.”


Z. Randall Stroope (b. 1953) is an American composer and conductor. His compositions are frequently heard on NPR radio, television broadcasts, and internet media, as well as on programs of esteemed ensembles throughout the world. Dr. Stroope is the Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Oklahoma State University, as well as Artistic Director of a summer music festival in Europe. In the United States, he has conducted 38 all-state choirs, and directed music festivals in 45 states. His composition teachers were Normand Lockwood and Cecil Effinger, both students of the famed French teacher, Nadia Boulanger (who was a student of Gabriel Faure). Dr. Stroope graduated from the University of Colorado and Arizona State University.

Full biography, list of works, and more information can be found at

How sweet the moonlight

Written for SSATTB, Stroope sets verse from the William Shakespeare play, The Merchant of Venice. The excerpted text is purely dialogue between two lovers, yet it is intermediary dialogue that connects their love to the night sky and the “sweet music” being performed by musicians. Stroope captures the compassionate tone of the text through his expressive lyricism and dynamic shaping. He writes in his performance notes, “Quiet, sincere conversation is warm in color, and not cluttered with excess -the utterance of the voice being half-way between the mind and the heart.” Stroope’s imaginative setting is considerate of the two lovers within the narrative of the play. His dynamic contour and harmonic expansion follows the emotional highs and lows of the lovers; building to its climax at the text “harmony of immortal souls.”


Steven Stucky (1949-2016) is one of America’s most highly regarded and frequently performed contemporary composers. Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for his Second Concerto for Orchestra, he was a trustee of the American Academy in Rome, a director of New Music USA, a board member of the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also active as a conductor, writer, lecturer, and teacher.

Full Biography, list of works, and more information can be found at

Winter Stars

Stucky’s setting of the Sara Teasdale poem, Winter Stars, is written for unaccompanied mixed choir. The poem shares the thoughts of a downtrodden girl wandering outside and observing the stars above. The poem leaps ahead to the same girl, older now, reminiscing of the winter stars in her youth. In this work, Stucky sets the verses of the poem in a free manner, both structurally and harmonically. Rather than composing a common thread throughout all verses, Stucky composes unique qualities from each verse into its musical setting. For example, in the opening verse, Stucky sets the lower three voices with a word from the verse, “flowing.” These voices support the melody and text sung by the soprano voices. Stucky’s harmonic language in this work explores a spectrum of sonorities through chromatic neighbor tones (moving up or down by the smallest interval) and modal borrowing (notes found in a major or minor mode using the same tonal center). At the end of the work, Stucky constructs a cadential chord, leading the listener to a final resolution. Rather than resolving the penultimate chord to its traditional resolution, Stucky shifts all voices up or down a chromatic neighbor tone to a surprising and satisfying F major chord.



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)


Ola Gjeilo: Northern lights - Anonymous

Pulchra es amica mea,
suavis et decora sicut Jerusalem,
terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata.
Averte oculos tuos a me
quia ipsi me avolare fecerunt.

Thou art beautiful, O my love,
sweet and comely as Jerusalem,
terrible as an army set in array.
Turn away thy eyes from me,
for they have made me flee away.


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: Clear evening (from Stars forever, while we sleep) - Sara Teasdale

The crescent moon is large enough to linger

A little while after the twilight goes,

This moist midsummer night the garden perfumes

Are earth and apple, dewy pine and rose.

Over my head four new-cut stars are glinting

And the inevitable night draws on;

I am alone, the old terror takes me,

Evenings will come like this when I am gone;

Evenings on evenings, years on years forever

Be taut, my spirit, close upon and keep

The scent, the brooding chill, the gliding firefly,

A poem learned before I fall asleep.


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


Steven Stucky: Winter Stars - Sara Teasdale
I went out at night alone;
 The young blood flowing beyond the sea
Seemed to have drenched my spirit’s wings—
 I bore my sorrow heavily.
But when I lifted up my head
 From shadows shaken on the snow,
I saw Orion in the east
 Burn steadily as long ago.
From windows in my father’s house,
 Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,
I watched Orion as a girl
 Above another city’s lights.
Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,
 The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,
All things are changed, save in the east
 The faithful beauty of the stars.