Voices of Earth and Air Vol IV

Works for Chorus

Heidi Jacob composer
Lydia Jane Pugh composer
Ray Fahrner composer
Denice Rippentrop composer
Sheila Bristow composer
John Robertson composer
Marty Regan composer

Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová conductor

Release Date: September 9, 2022
Catalog #: NV6465
Format: Digital
21st Century
Vocal Music
Choir

Navona Records presents VOICES OF EARTH AND AIR VOL IV, a choral celebration of the human commonality we find within music. Featuring the works of six seasoned composers, each piece tells a sentimental story unique to each composer, fitting together like puzzle pieces and demonstrating the connective qualities of the human voice. Brought to life by Prague’s Kühn Choir, these choral works are sure to entrance and entice listeners with flowing tonality and artful text settings that demonstrate the powerful storytelling capabilities that vocal music wields.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Lilacs Heidi Jacob Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor; Kristýna Fílová, soprano; Amina Robinson, narrator 13:44
02 My Hiding Place Lydia Jane Pugh Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 3:30
03 AdiraÏ (misplaced) Lydia Jane Pugh Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 4:13
04 How Can I Keep from Singing? Robert Lowry, Arr. Raymond E. Fahrner Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 3:08
05 That music always round me Ray Fahrner Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 2:58
06 Royal Tears of Red Denice Rippentrop Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 6:57
07 I Arise Sheila Bristow Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 3:42
08 Choruses about Music, Op. 16: Orpheus with his lute John Robertson Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 2:02
09 Choruses about Music, Op. 16: Music has charms John Robertson Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 3:14
10 Choruses about Music, Op. 16: To music, to becalm his fever John Robertson Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 4:03
11 Alleluia Marty Regan Kühn Choir of Prague | Lenka Navrátilová, conductor 6:03

Lilacs
Lilacs for Mixed Chamber Choir
Recorded October 6-7, 2021 at The Chapel at Korunni, Prague, Czech Republic
Producer Jan Košulič
Engineer Aleš Dvořák

Lilacs Narrative Texts
Recorded on October 3, 2021 at Pasbrig Productions in Philadelphia PA
Recording Session Producer & Engineer David Pasbrig

Lilacs was commissioned and premiered in March, 2020 by the Opus One Berks Chamber Choir, Christopher Hoster, Conductor.

My Hiding Place, AdiraÏ, How Can I Keep from Singing?, THAT music always round me, Royal Tears of Red, I Arise, Choruses about Music, Op. 16, Alleluia
Recorded August 4-5, 30-31, October 4, 2021 & January 27, 2022 at The Chapel at Korunni in Prague, Czech Republic
Producer Jan Košulič
Engineer Aleš Dvořák

Lilacs, Royal Tears of Red, I Arise, Choruses About Music, Alleluia
Editing & Mixing Lucas Paquette

My Hiding Place, AdiraÏ, How Can I Keep from Singing, That Music Always Round Me
Editing & Mixing Lucas Paquette
Additional Editing Melanie Montgomery

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Quinton Blue, Chris Robinson, Laura Ramsey

Production Director Levi Brown
VP of Production Jan Košulič
Production Assistant Martina Watzková
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Mastering Melanie Montgomery

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming, Morgan Hauber
Publicity Patrick Niland, Brett Iannucci

Artist Information

Heidi Jacob

Composer

Heidi Jacob’s music has been described by BBC Magazine as “compositions… of complex mesmerizing beauty,” by David Patrick Stearns of the Philadelphia Inquirer as “a musical adventurer,” and by Gramophone Magazine as music with “...forthright expressiveness [that] exposes a multitude of stylistic associations.” A composer, cellist, and conductor, she is a graduate of both the Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School, with a D.M.A. in composition from Temple University. She has performed as a cellist throughout the United States and Europe and has recorded as a cellist and conductor for the Capstone Records, Albany Records, and Navona Records.

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Lydia Jane Pugh

Composer

Hailing from the island of Guernsey, Lydia Jane Pugh is an award-winning composer specialising in choral and chamber music, with much of her work being inspired by the islands’ history, culture, and beautiful landscapes. Her music’s universal appeal has led to performances around the world by several professional groups, including the Ebor Singers in the United Kingdom, and the Empire City Men’s Chorus in the United States.

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Ray Fahrner

Ray Fahrner

Composer

Ray Fahrner (b. 1951) composes in eclectic styles and conducts all manners of music in Cambridge MA. Fahrner began his composition studies with Robert Wason and Arnold Franchetti at Hartt College of Music, University of Hartford, subsequently studying with Scott Huston and Norman Dinerstein at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, where he received his doctorate in 1980.

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Denice Rippentrop

Composer

Denice Rippentrop believes that composing is a craft that is as much about the creative journey as the final composition itself. Rippentrop is the creator of numerous choral works, each of which she finds challenging in process, but fulfilling in the end. Composing gives her energy and purpose as she continually challenges herself to write with integrity and compassion. Rippentrop writes with a style and flair that reflects her understanding of the voice and ensemble balance.

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Sheila Bristow

Sheila Bristow

Composer

Sheila Bristow is a composer, church musician, and collaborative keyboardist living in Tacoma WA. Her approach to composition is informed by her performance experience in the worlds of opera, art song, and early music, by the study of world music and techniques of 20th-century composition, and by a lifelong immersion in sacred music. Bristow is particularly known for her skill in text setting, and her solo songs and choral works have been performed throughout the Pacific Northwest. Recent commissions include When Music Sounds, a work in three movements for chamber orchestra, chorus, and tenor solo for Seattle-based Harmonia Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by William C. White.

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John Robertson

John Robertson

Composer

(Ernest) John Robertson (b. 1943) was born in New Zealand but is a longtime resident of Canada. His secondary school offered music as a full time subject, allowing Robertson to find his footing. Upon leaving school, he went into the insurance business where he spent his working life. Having emigrated to Canada in 1967, he took a 3 year course of private study in the mid-1970s with Dr. Sam Dolin at the RCM in Toronto. Continuing to compose, his entry in the 1987 Composer’s Competition sponsored by the Nepean Symphony won him his first major public performance. Entries in the Canadian Contemporary Music Workshops in the late 1980s and early 1990s achieved three performances of his entries, including one at the final gala concert.

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Marty Regan

Composer

A composer of over 80 works for traditional Japanese instruments, Marty Regan is a Professor and Head of the Department of Performance Studies at Texas A&M University. Widely regarded as the authoritative source on the subject, his translation of Minoru Miki’s Composing for Japanese Instruments was published by the University of Rochester Press in 2008. His music has been broadcast on American Public Media’s Performance Today and NHK’s Hōgaku no hito toki/A Moment for Traditional Japanese Music. His chamber opera, titled The Memory Stone, was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera as part of the HGOco's Songs of Houston: East + West initiative and was premiered in 2013 at the Asia Society Texas Center.

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Kühn Choir of Prague

Choir

The Kühn Choir of Prague is one of the largest Czech choirs and has been part of the musical world for over 60 years. It devotes itself to the choral repertoire of all periods, and its activities include significant performances of contemporary music, performances of large vocal-instrumental works in collaboration with leading Czech orchestras and, last but not least, projects for the performance and recording of film music.

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Amina Robinson

Amina Robinson

Narrator

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Amina Robinson (she/her) is a professional actor, director, and currently a Professor of Acting and Musical Theater at Temple University as well as the Artistic Director of The Centre Theater in Norristown PA.

Robinson has performed on Broadway (Mamma Mia, Godspell), as well as toured the country in Broadway National Tours (Mamma Mia, Little Shop of Horrors). She has performed in various regional productions including shows at the Williamstown Theater Festival, Philadelphia Theater Company, Baltimore CenterStage, and was nominated for an AUDELCO award for work as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at the Classical Theater of Harlem.

She has guest starred in many television series as well, including Law and Order, Smash, The Electric Company, and Mercy, in addition to a recurring role on Showtime’s hit show Nurse Jackie and most recently ABC’s show For Life, a performance for which her work was submitted for Emmy Nomination consideration. She has done numerous national commercials for companies including Truth Anti-Smoking, Walmart, KFC, and Macy’s, as well as voice-over work for Verizon, Con Edison, USAA, KFC, and others. Robinson was also featured in the video game “Grand Theft Auto V.” Her films include The Harvest, 5 to 7, and the short film Hallow Gate. The highlight of her work in film has been her role as Jermaine in the Oscar, Golden Globe, and multi-award winning film Precious, which included a Screen Actors Guild “Best Ensemble Award” nomination and winning the Boston Society of Film Critics “Best Ensemble Award.”

Robinson’s directing credits include School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play at The Arden Theater, Fabulation at the Lantern Theater, Sunset Baby at Azuka Theatre, Dauphin Island at Passage Theater, The Color Purple at Theatre Horizon, Seventy Four Seconds to Judgment at The Arden Theatre, Blood at the Root, Godspell, and the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Temple University, and Seventy IV Seconds to Judgment as presented with Go Kash Onstage in Residence at the Arden. Robinson is also the first Black woman to win a Barrymore Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for The Color Purple.

Robinson holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting.

Notes

The setting of texts and of poetry to music is like a translation. It alters and transforms — it is a reenactment. In bringing When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d by Walt Whitman into the 21st century, it speaks not just of the loss of a president but can speak of the personal, the political, and of the personal that is political. History is fraught with the inaccuracies of memory, preconceptions, bias, partialities of what we want and what we want to believe. The resonance of the words, “harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul,” speaks to the struggle for peace and equality throughout history — for the children and for all the world’s people.

And yet Whitman’s last stanza that speaks of hope:
Yet each I keep, and all;
. . .
Lilac and star and bird, twined with the chant of
my soul,
With the holders holding my hand, nearing the call
of the bird,
There in the fragrant Pines, and the Cedars dusk and
dim.

Hope in the Lilacs, in the thrush and in the stars, as reinforced by the texts of the epilogue.

— Heidi Jacob

This arrangement is a straightforward setting of Robert Lowry’s Baptist (not Quaker, as is incorrectly believed by many) hymn from 1869, How Can I Keep from Singing? The first two verses are by Lowry himself. The last verse, popularized by Pete Seeger, is not original, but was by a friend of Seeger’s, Doris Plenn, from about 1950. She reputedly learned it from her grandmother.

Though many other choral arrangements of this hymn exist, most are over-composed, to the point of detracting from the simple yet poignantly relevant meaning of the piece. The choral textures vary according to the changing verses. Verse one states the melody with the tenor and bass voices, while the sopranos and altos provide an atmosphere of “sweet, tho’ far-off” music. Verse two portrays the lonely solo soprano in the darkness with her faith. The concluding verse is an angry prayer against tyrants and their wrongs.

– Ray Fahrner

This work was written for and dedicated to Cambridge Chamber Singers, both collectively and individually, in honor of their 20th anniversary in May 2008. It is one of a trilogy of choral compositions of mine based on Whitman poetry. I have adapted the text, with apologies to Walt Whitman, to suit my own musical purposes.

As much as I love the poetry of Walt Whitman, I would not call most of it lyric. The rhythm of the poetry has its own strength that wants to be shouted, not sung. So my first attempt to write a piece for this occasion was changed when I realized that. First, I had the wrong poem, and second, I was free to shuffle Whitman’s words without drawing his ire. There are even some lines that did not want to be sung, so I left them out. The work is a traditional rondo: AABACA. The music avoids text painting. Instead, the textures alternate from busy, fun counterpoint to homophony in order to clarify the textual meaning. The work strives to capture the boundless energy that is characteristic of Whitman and his poetry.

– Ray Fahrner

Danish explorers of the Arctic region in the 19th and early 20th century collected many songs and poems by indigenous peoples — particularly the Inuit — which were subsequently published in anonymous English translations. I’ve long been drawn to the powerful, concise imagery in these poems and have recast two of them as a single set of lyrics. I Arise explores a double awakening, both to the outer world of nature, and to the inner world of the spirit.

– Sheila Bristow

Music has charms (William Congreve 1670 – 1729) 

These famous words appear at the beginning of Congreve’s play “The Mourning Bride,” and suggest that if music can calm natural phenomena then surely it can help with the speaker’s woes.

Orpheus with his lute (William Shakespeare 1564-1616) 

This lyric describes the power of music in Orpheus’s hands, capable of calming even great forces of nature. The composer re-used this chorus in his stage work Orpheus – a Masque.

To music, to becalm his fever (Robert Herrick 1591 -1674)

It seems that Herrick wants music not just to calm and then destroy his fever, but to give him a taste of heaven! If bending trees and moving rocks is within her powers, surely he is not asking too much.

– John Robertson

Inspired by the extraordinary, heart-lifting musical performances I heard during evensong while in residence at the University of Cambridge during academic year 2015-16, this work marks the first time in my life I have set a liturgical text. The music progresses through a dazzling array of tonal centers and ebbs and flows with great dynamic contrast and intensity before coming to rest on the final amen.

– Marty Regan

Scores

Lilacs (excerpt)

Heidi Jacob

View Score

How Can I Keep from Singing?

Ray Fahrner

View Score

That music always round me

Ray Fahrner

View Score

Royal Tears of Red

Denice Rippentrop

View Score

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