by Dr. Jeffry A. Jahn
A musical mosaic, by definition, will contain music that readily underscores and enhances both similarities and differences between the spiritual and secular realm of our lives.
Music affects every aspect of our daily existence. We are surrounded by it because of our constant access to various media. As a result, we are alternately moved and even annoyed by it.
A special focus in this ‘Musical Mosaic’ is an entire section devoted to the sensual side of ARS. It includes works from Musical Theatre and popular music of the golden past. Choral arrangements of emotional gems such as Autumn Leaves, Begin the Beguine, With One Look from Sunset Boulevard, and especially Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, are perfect examples of melodies coupled with highly expressive texts that are unforgettable, and represent the musical and choral diversity that is an ARS trademark.
The most obvious difference between instrumental and choral music is that of text. There will always be a persistent argument about what is more important – the text or the music. For centuries, composers have grappled with the real origin of their inspiration: the words or the music.
Music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable.
– Leonard Bernstein
When a concert contains such a diverse range of composers as J. S. Bach and Cole Porter, one instantly realizes the awesome responsibility that both the performer and the listener must undertake: the performer must be versed in the historic and musical similarities, or differences, their pieces may share. The listener is charged with the awesome responsibility of being able to recognize these similarities and differences – primarily through hearing.
When musicians perform a concert that consists of either several compositions written by one composer or a single masterwork by one composer (while containing inherent difficulties) they can rely solely on the reputation, historical background and musical record of that composer. However, when a choral ensemble performs multiple choral pieces by different composers in a mixed sequence that are, in and of themselves, just microcosms of a composer’s style, one immediately recognizes the challenge and the difficulty presented to both performer and listener. In this case, the ensemble serves as the conductor’s conduit enabling the music to be translated into a recognizable language that will be understood by the audience.
Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
– Ludwig van Beethoven
Eric Whitacre’s Five Hebrew Love Songs is unique in several ways, including a variety of voice combinations, auxiliary instruments (violin, piano & tambourine) used for accompaniment and text. Hebrew is a language that, for all intents and purposes, gives little consideration to vowels. Since vocal production is based primarily on pure vowel sounds, this work presents unique challenges for the singer and the listener. Five Hebrew Lovesongs also provides insight into the composer’s personal life and is especially significant because his wife Hila wrote the text.
Der 2 Psalm by Mendelssohn shows him at his “church” best. Written for his church choir, the Berlin Domchor, this piece sheds light on Mendelssohn’s spiritual side, one that is noticeably different than the more familiar secular side demonstrated in his orchestral works.