Date and Time to Be Announced
This season marks the 10th anniversary of our annual commission competition. This year the winning composer’s work will be featured in our fourth concert “Rainbow Connection: Pride.” Boston Choral Ensemble does not believe that sexual preference or gender identity is relevant to music or the creative process, however, we do value diversity, so in this concert we celebrate our LGBTQAI colleagues with music and texts by LGBTQAI writers and composers, or on relevant themes. We connect back to our other concerts with music by openly gay composers including Poulenc and Henze.
Program (Concert Order)
|Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)||
||Kyrie - Mass in G (1937)|
|Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)||
||Tota pulchra est*|
|Jean Langlais (1907-1991)||
|Betsy Jolas (b. 1926)||Lamentations*|
||Hymne d’actions de grâces^|
||Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei - Mass in G (1937)|
|Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)||
||O sacrum convivium|
|Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)||
||Gloria - Mass in G (1937)|
* women only
+ men only
^ organ only
Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) was a French organist and composer. In 1920, Duruflé moved to Paris to attend the Paris Conservatory. During his time at the Conservatory, he studied with Charles Tournemire at the Basilica of Saint-Clotilde until 1927. Following his work with Tournemire, Duruflé began assisting his close friend, Louis Vierne, at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. In 1929, Duruflé accepted a principal organist post at the Saint-Étienne du Mont in Paris and held that position until his death in 1986. Duruflé did not compose a large body of works. Rather, he meticulously composed until he was wholly satisfied with each piece. Duruflé also consistently edited and altered works after their official publication. Like many of the composers on tonight’s concert he explored the techniques, styles, and sounds of Renaissance music, so his work heavily draws upon the influence of chant, masses, and other polyphony of the 14th through 16th centuries.
Tota pulchra es / Ubi caritas
In 1960, Duruflé published his Op. 10, Quatre Motets sur des themes grégoriens (Four Motets based on Gregorian Themes). Tota pulchra est and Ubi caritas are two of the motets within Op. 10. Each of the four motets centers around a different Gregorian chant designated for a particular liturgical occasion. In Duruflé’s settings, he inserts the chant in its entirety with accompanying choral parts or uses features of the chant throughout each setting. The first motet in Op. 10 is a setting of Ubi caritas, a chant sung during the washing of the feet within the Maundy Thursday liturgy. Duruflé’s setting is written for four-part mixed choir and follows a simple ABA form. Duruflé features the chant in the alto voice, while the lower two voices accompany the chant. The chant text is quite gentle, yet affirming. “Where there are charity and love, God is there.” His choice to set the chant in the alto voice allows the text to carry while being sung in an easy part of the voice. This musical choice provides a warm and gentle tone which reflects the devotional character of the text.
The second motet in this collection is a setting of Tota pulchra es, a chant for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Duruflé’s setting is written for three-part women’s choir. The text reflects on Mary’s innocence and beauty. Duruflé’s choice of voicing adds to the depiction of her purity. The setting of opening text, “Mary, you are all beautiful,” serves as a refrain throughout the motet. Within the homophonic texture, Duruflé’s vocal writing is quite active; providing an air of excitement and compassion for Mary. Divided into five sections, the animated music builds towards the text, “You are the Glory of Jerusalem, You are the happiness of Israel.” While this setting has no musical climax as such, the textual character changes from a reflective tone to one of declaration. Duruflé follows this character by composing all voices to ascend in their range; providing a louder, declarative dynamic level.
Betsy Jolas (1926) is a Franco-American composer. Born in Paris, she moved to the United States in 1940, studied music at Bennington College, and returned to Paris six years later to further her musical studies at the Conservatoire National Supérier de Musique. During her time at the conservatory, Jolas studied with notable contemporary composers such as Darius Milhaud and Olivier Messiaen. Since her studies in Paris, Jolas received vast recognition for accomplishments as a composer, conductor, and educator.
Lamentations is a motet for five-voice a cappella women’s choir, sung in Latin. This motet sets two verses from the Old Testament Book of Lamentations; the second verse, followed by the twelfth verse. (The Book of Lamentations is a collection of poems reflecting on the destruction of Jerusalem during Nebuchadnezzar II’s reign.) Both verses highlight the personal loss felt during this destruction. The second verse roughly translates as “Weeping, she hath wept in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks.” In setting this text, Jolas explores the sounds and rhythms of weeping. (Latin: Plorans) She depicts this action at the outset of the work.
Jean Langlais (1907-1991) was a French organist and composer. At the two years old, Langlais became completely blind from an eye disease. His parents sent him to National Institute for the Blind in Paris, where he began his musical studies. Later, he attended the Paris Conservatory where he studied organ and composition with Marcel Dupré and Paul Dukas. After his studies at the Paris Conservatory, Langlais accepted a teaching position at his first alma mater, the National Institute for the Blind. Alongside teaching, Langlais accepted a high-profile organist position at the Basilica of Saint-Clotilde in 1945 and remained at this church until 1988. During this time, he was in high demand as a concert organist; touring internationally until his death in 1991.
In the memoir of her husband, Marie-Louise Langlais writes of Jean’s stories and joys from his tours in America. She writes of the work Fête, “a brilliant and technically demanding work in rondo form, Fête incorporates jazzy rhythms that, for Langlais, symbolized his overwhelming joy in finally seeing Paris liberated from the yoke of the Nazis, and his gratitude to the American people for having come to the rescue of Europe. He was never to forget that. However, this “jazzy” style is completely surprising coming from a composer who avowed for his whole life, as did his friend Messiaen, an incomprehension of—and even a certain hostility towards—jazz.”
Gregg Wager from the Los Angeles Philharmonic wrote, “the exuberance of Jean Langlais’ Fête… flows out freely, exploring limits of cacophony as contrasted with a more quiet middle development section, in which the music develops the continuously moving character, but at a much slower tempo. Finally, the opening cacophony returns, at one point breaking down into a string of abrupt and dissonant tone clusters, but ending grandly on a final E-major chord. It may be easy for the listener to get lost in the thick textures, but the overall festive character of the piece ultimately prevails.” – Gregg Wager, LA Phil 
Hymne d’actions de grâces (Te Deum)
Composed in 1933 and therefore roughly contemporaneous with Poulenc's Mass and Messiaen's motet (both from 1937), Langlais' setting of the Te Deum for organ is the third of the three Gregorian Paraphrases that take plainsong tunes and exptemporise on them. The Te Deum is a bravura showpiece that combines the plainsong with the dynamic harmonic language for which Langlais is renowned. The opening and closing sections punctuate the plainsong with a more reflective middle section. The piece ends with a section marked "con fantasia" before closing firmly in A-major.
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) was a French composer and considered, by many, to be one of the most prodigious composers of the 20th century. Messiaen was a devout Roman Catholic and ornithologist; both of which found their way into his compositions. Messiaen is well-known for his compositional technique using modes of limited transposition, and his extensive use of isorhythms, a 15th century practice that structures a piece around a repetitive rhythmic pattern. Other distinct features of his music include the incorporation of bird songs and fascination with colors. His most notable work is probably the Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time); a work he composed in 1941 during his time as a prisoner of war during World War II.
O sacrum convivium
O sacrum convivium is a communion motet for four-part mixed choir. Composed in 1937, it is an earlier work by Messiaen and does not feature the prominent compositional techniques that he is particularly known for today. At an initial glance, this work may appear to be a standard setting for a communion motet. Yet, Messiaen marks at the opening “Lent et expressif” (slow and expressive) and indicates for the conductor to beat eighth notes throughout. With these instructions, this setting becomes quite weightless. Messiaen appears to be branching away from functional harmony with jazz-like chords and the sounds of various non-chord tones. Yet, he has not fully crossed over to his modes of limited transposition. Alongside harmonic explorations, Messiaen challenges the listener to embrace the slow tempo and be transported by the music.
Pérotin (fl. 13th century) is one of the earliest composers within the traditional Western choral music canon. He lived and worked around Paris. He is considered to be the prominent composer within the Notre Dame School of Polyphony (group of composers working in the vicinity of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris whose compositional style shares many commonalities). Although much of his own biography remains unknown, scholars learn much about his life through the notes of his students. From these various sources and notes, scholars agree that Pérotin was held in high regard and remained quite distinguished for many years after his death. He was highly respected and sought after as an educator for his intellect and musical prowess.
Viderunt Omnes is a Gregorian chant from the 11th century. This chant was often set by the Notre Dame composers of the 12th and 13th centuries. The Viderunt Omnes chant is the Gradual for the Christmas Day Mass and excerpts verses from Psalm 98. Perotin’s setting is frequently studied and is generally regarded as his most notable composition. It is one of the rare examples of an organum quadruplum (a specific compositional technique that employs four voices) from this time. The most notable feature of the organum technique is use of the “tenor” voice. Within this work, Perotin sets the pitches from the Viderunt Omnes chant as long tones in the “tenor” voice (performed by the lowest bass voice). Performed by a four-part male ensemble, the upper three voices provide a new melody and harmony above the long chant tones in the “tenor” voice. At the opening, all voices sing the syllable “Vi” (from Viderunt) and sing on this initial syllable for approximately twenty measures. After the upper three voices cadence, all four voices sing the proceeding syllable “de” for a shorter amount of time before arriving at the final syllable, “runt.” For further context, the first sung word is completed about two minutes into the ten-minute work. While much of the work follows this model, Perotin does not set all of the text in this manner. After the completion of the second word “omnes,” all the voices cadence and complete the rest of the Psalm verse by singing the chant in unison.
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was a French composer and pianist. Poulenc was mostly self-educated, teaching himself piano from an early age. Although Poulenc’s parents intended him to work within the family’s pharmaceutical practice, they encouraged his musical studies throughout his childhood. By the age of eighteen, both of Poulenc’s parents had died. His piano teacher, Ricardo Viñes, became his mentor and parental figure throughout Poulenc’s life. After the death of his parents, Viñes encouraged Poulenc to compose and to explore further his musical interests. In 1917, Poulenc debuted his first publicly performed composition, Rapsodie nègre. From this performance, Poulenc began gaining the admiration of the fellow Parisian composers, including Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel. This propelled his compositional career for the rest of his working life. His orchestral works, ballets, and operas were quite popular within his lifetime. Yet, due to his humorous and light-hearted personality, his sacred works were under performed and often forgotten. It is only within the past three decades that Poulenc’s sacred choral music has firmly planted itself within the Western choral music canon.
Mass in G (1937)
In the 1930s, Poulenc suffered the loss of a few of the closest friends in his life. During these times, Poulenc recommitted himself to Roman Catholicism. Along with this personal change, Poulenc’s music shifted away from his earlier, light-hearted style to a more contemplative, serious tone. One specific product of this shift is Poulenc’s setting of the missa brevis liturgical text, the Messe en Sol Majeur (Mass in G Major). Poulenc published the Mass in 1937, and it was premiered in 1938. Poulenc dedicated the score “to the memory of my father.”
As this work is a missa brevis, Poulenc sets five sections of the mass; Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. (In the missa brevis, the Credo section of the Mass is omitted for brevity.) While this is acohesive work, each section sounds starkly different in style. Music critic and journalist James Reel writes briefly on each section of the mass. “Poulenc’s musical language here gives the impression of austerity, thanks to its firm, no-nonsense melodic writing, but the harmony is actually lush though occasionally mildly dissonant. The outer sections of the Kyrie are strongly rhythmic and affirmative, with a more meditative "Christe eleison" section at its center. The Gloria – not to be confused with Poulenc's full-scale, jubilant late work of that name for chorus and orchestra – changes melody, harmony, and inflection from phrase to phrase, with solo voices often emerging over a firm bass foundation. The brief Sanctus is light, loving, and cheerful, broadening out near the end for sonorous statements of "Osanna in excelsis." The Benedictus naturally emerges from those measured osannas; it is slow, patient, ethereal, and dominated by the highest voices. This time, the concluding homophonic "Osanna in excelsis" section resembles the stately, antiphonal brass chorales of the Italian Renaissance. The solo soprano introduces the concluding Agnus Dei. The chorus echoes the soloist's haunting melismas in unison octaves, breaking into harmony only upon the striking, hushed appearance of the words "Miserere nobis" ("have mercy on us"). The harmony now is Romantic, lush, and comforting, but soon the chorus is reduced to ethereal pedal tones as a cushion for the soprano's final, serene utterance of "Dona nobis pacem" ("give us peace").”
Louis Vierne (1870-1937) was a French organist and composer. At two years old, friends and family noticed Vierne’s strong musical prowess after he played a Schubert lullaby by ear. Vierne was born legally blind due to an eye disease; a condition which was a great stressor throughout the rest of his life. Due to his ailment, he composed with oversized implements, eventually transitioning to braille later in his life. Adding further turmoil, Vierne was devastated by the death of his two brothers during battle in the Great War. For his musical studies, Vierne graduated from the Paris Conservatory, worked under organist, Charles Marie-Widor, and accepted the principal organist position at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in 1900. In 1937, Vierne passed away at the organ console in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame while performing at a recital.
Carillon de Westminster
Carillon de Westminster is the final piece from Vierne’s Op. 54, 24 Fantasy Pieces. Rollin Smith, author of the book, “Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral” writes, the “Carillon de Westminster was composed at Lichen, high in the Pyrenees Mountains on the Spanish border, during July and August 1927. It was first played in public by the composer on November 29, 1927, as the sortie at the closing of Forty Hours at Notre-Dame. Its formal premiere was in a recital eight days later at the inauguration of the restored organ of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet in Paris. The theme is the chime rung by the bells in the clock tower at the north end of London's Houses of Parliament. A 13-ton bell, known as “Big Ben,” strikes the hour and four smaller bells chime what has become known as “Westminster Quarters.” The clock chimes every fifteen minutes and increases from one four-note phrase at a quarter past the hour, to four four-note phrases on the hour when it is accompanied by a fifth bell, the tonic, that rings the hour. The theme is invariable and since 1886 (when tubular chimes were introduced into clocks) has been adapted by clockmakers to millions of clocks throughout the world. The Carillon de Westminster is a popular piece, and the composer played it frequently, including in 1932 for the inauguration of the restored Notre-Dame organ.
Texts & Translations
Maurice Duruflé: Tota pulchra est
Tota pulchra es, Maria,
Et macula originalis non est in te.
Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix
Et facies tua sicut sol.
Tu Gloria Jerusalem
Tu laetitia Israel
Tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Maria, you are wholly beautiful,
Original sin is not in you.
Your raiment is white as snow;
and your face is like the sun
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
You are the happiness of Israel
You give honour to our people.
Maurice Duruflé: Ubi caritas
Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus et in ipso jucundemur
Timeamus et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Where there are charity and love, God is there.
The love of Christ has bound us together.
Let us exult and rejoice in this.
Let us fear and love the living God.
and esteem him with a sincere heart.
Betsy Jolas: Lamentations
Plorans ploravit in nocte She has wept bitterly in the night
et lachrimae ejus in maxillis ejus and her tears are on her cheeks.
O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam, attendite, O all you who pass by, stop,
et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus and see if there is any sorrow like my
Olivier Messiaen: O sacrum convivium
O sacrum convivium! in quo Christus sumitur, recolitur memoria passionis eius, mens impletur gratia, et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur. Alleluia.
O sacred banquet! in which Christ is received, the memory of his Passion is renewed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory to us is given. Alleluia.
Pérotin: Viderunt Omnes
Viderunt omnes fines terræsalutare, Dei nostri.Jubilate Deo, omnis terra. Notum fecit Dominus salutare suum; ante conspectum gentium revelavit justitiam suam.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Rejoice in the Lord, all lands. The Lord has made known his salvation; in the sight of the heathen he has revealed his righteousness.
Francis Poulenc: Mass in G (1937)
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Laudamus te. Benedicimus te.
Adoramus te. Glorificamus te.
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine Fili unigenite, Iesu Christe.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solus Sanctus. Tu solus Dominus.
Tu solus Altissimus, Iesu Christe.
Cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patris.
Glory be to God on high,
and on earth peace, good will towards men.
We praise thee, we bless thee,
we worship thee, we glorify thee,
we give thanks to thee for thy great glory,
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ;
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord;
thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost,
art most high in the glory of God the Father.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Osanna in excelsis.
Holy, holy, holy
Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Benedictus qui venit
in nomine Domini.
Osanna in excelsis.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.