Marguerite L. Brooks, conductor
Conversations with Strangers (Natalie Dietterich)
The Book of Rounds (Emil Adler, Julie Flanders)
Warum ist das Licht gegeben? (Johannes Brahms)
Dark Night of the Soul (Ola Gjeilo)
The Book of Rounds (Adler, Flanders)
Requiem (Alfred Schnittke)
Good Friend (Jan Harmon)
The Book of Rounds (Adler, Flanders)
Conversations with Strangers (2014) condenses brief glimpses of three different stories into a single musical work. Natalie Dietterich (Yale MMA ‘17) explains that “this text was assembled from fragments of conversations I had with people whom I had never previously met. I was moved by the deeply personal things people were willing to share, despite our lack of a direct relationship toward one another. I have chosen phrases that follow three particular strangers I have met, and their hardship, representing the struggles of many that go unconsidered as we pass by and continue with our lives.”
Since the 1993 release of its eponymous debut album, October Project has occupied a unique position at the boundaries of several genres and styles. The band, centering around vocalist Marina Belica, vocalist/lyricist Julie Flanders, and composer/keyboardist Emil Adler, creates sounds with a popular music veneer and an art music sensibility. The Book of Rounds is one of October Project’s most recent pieces. The set of 21 rounds aims to create for the performer and listener a meditative state akin to the effect of singing a lullaby or a mantra. This performance will feature singers from the Morse Chorale and their conductor, Stephanie Tubiolo (Yale ‘14, MM ‘16).
Warum ist das Licht gegeben (1877) is an a cappella motet that sets a combination of sacred texts, selected by Johannes Brahms specifically with this setting in mind. The texts are adopted from Martin Luther’s German translations of the books of Job, Lamentations, and James, as well as from Luther’s original paraphrase of the Nunc dimittis text. The work portrays a complicated relationship between humanity, God, and death, simultaneously embodying joy, praise, and a deep sense of uncertainty. Divided among four sections, the motet begins with passage of chromatically twisting, dense imitation in the four voice parts. The subsequent two movements are shorter and more directly praiseful, shifting to the major mode and expanding to six voice parts. The final movement is a neatly compact chorale setting, presenting a serene resolution to the thorny, questioning opening passage of the piece.
In contrast to Brahms’ choice of texts that are dark and troubled, contemporary Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo employs a mystically energetic passage from St. John of the Cross’ poem Dark Night of the Soul for his piece of the same name. Gjeilo’s setting features an English translation of a portion of the poem, and Gjeilo describes the roles of the different musical forces in his composition as equal, with the choir frequently contributing a lush hummed sound as background to the string quartet or piano.
Alfred Schnittke’s Requiem (1974-75), written at the height of the Brezhnev era of Soviet censorship, is a statement of religious faith carried out through a traditional Catholic Requiem Mass setting. Schnittke managed to bypass the censors by including the piece as incidental music for a production of Friedrich Schiller’s Don Carlos at the Moscow Mossovet Theatre. The piece lies somewhere in between the earlier serial works and the fully polystylistic pieces of the latter 1970s. The piece veers toward popular music and jazz in its instrumentation, which includes electric and bass guitar as well as drum kit. However, the harmonic material of the work is often quite dense and dissonant, featuring disconnected leaps in register or densely packed clusters of tones.
Joining the October Project Rounds is another short piece designed with the same structure in mind. Good Friends is a brief work by American author, composer, and visual artist Jan Harmon, and its brevity and simplicity belie the beauty of its musical effect and message.