Spring Concert:

Fountain in a Wood: From Walden to Loch Lomond

Saturday, May 13, 2017
4:00 PM

Trinity Episcopal Church
81 Elm Street
Concord, MA


Tickets: $25 Adults
$20 Seniors and Students
$5 Children 12 and under

Supported in part by an Alfred Nash Patterson Grant from Choral Arts New England.

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This program is supported in part by grants from the Acton-Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, and Lincoln local cultural councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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Over many rich years with Concord Women’s Chorus, I have aspired to commission finely crafted, creative works written for women’s voices. In 2010, we commissioned Concord Fragments by renowned composer Libby Larsen, who expertly set three texts by historical and contemporary Concord-based women. This past year, energized by our upcoming tour to Scotland and England’s Lake District, and through the good graces of generous donors, we once again undertook a new commission.

A commission happens in stages: bubbling up with general thoughts, fine tuning ideas, discovering inspired text and finding a talented and willing composer/partner, all resulting in a specific artistic creation that is rehearsed and loved and birthed. For the text for this commission, Melissa Apperson, our board chair (and writer of one of the poems for Concord Fragments), turned almost immediately to the poetry of Kathleen Jamie, one of Scotland’s most lauded, beloved contemporary poets. Ms. Jamie has been described as writing musical poems that attend to the intersection of landscape, history, gender, and language. As you will hear today, her work reflects the mystical connection between the natural world and the landscape of the human soul. By an auspicious stroke of serendipity, we present The Tree House to you on the occasion of Ms. Jamie’s 55th birthday.

I knew exactly the right composer for these texts. I have known Beth Denisch for a number of years and have had the privilege to conduct her music in the past. As a composer, Beth is thoughtful, brilliant and sure in her approach. She is also a dedicated and inspiring teacher at Berklee College of Music. Here, for us, she has created a work of nuance, delicacy, ferocity and utter beauty.

The Tree House is structurally a three-movement work, based on three of Jamie’s poems from her 2004 volume, The Tree House. In “Landfall,” the poet is walking, being attentive, and becomes off balance, a ‘single ragged swallow / veering towards the earth.’ Poetry of the ear becomes poetry of inner-ear imbalance, tilting towards the larger question, ‘can we allow ourselves to fail’? “The Orchard” is one complete sentence, broken down into five unrhymed tercets. Jamie delineates a netherworld where nothing is quite what it seems. In “Alder,” she proposes a way of living that recognizes

the earth as home to many different states of awareness and means of engagement. The poet asks, ‘won’t you teach me/ a way to live / on this damp ambiguous earth?’

Beth Denisch magically renders these alchemical texts; they are perfectly paced, lovely, radiant, challenging, and measured.

To further punctuate the connection between the United Kingdom and New England, I have rounded out the program with a series of ballads and folk songs. Skye Boat Song is a traditional Scots song that recalls the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie, disguised as a serving maid, from Uist to the Isle of Skye after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Waly, Waly is one of the UK’s most beloved folk songs. Known also as “The Water Is Wide,” the lyrics describe the challenges of enduring love. In Stone Circles, Anne Lister has written a soulful song suggesting the connection between history and humanity. Chant for a Long Day is a traditional Scots “waulking” song, representing a method of processing cloth, where it was trampled with the feet or beaten against boards. It tells of women’s lives, their work and aspirations.

Our program also offers, through fine compositions by Dan Forrest, John Purifoy and Tara Traxler, a full force of luminous New England writers. Alway Something Sings (based on music by Emerson) reminds us of the key tenet of transcendentalism – that through free will and intuition, we may move beyond the physical world to a deeper spiritual experience. Address to the Moon, an ode to that orb of night (based on a poem by Hawthorne), is rich with expressive melodic phrases. Longfellow’s poetry is best known for rich descriptions of the natural world. Birds of Passage finds an analogue of human experiences.

We thank you for taking the journey with us today between these two worlds: the exteriority of nature and all its lessons and the interiority of the human soul with its depth, complexity and questioning. We look forward to greeting you at the conclusion of the concert and, as always, are grateful for your ongoing support of Concord Women’s Chorus.

Jane Ring Frank, Artistic Director