Walking across Westminster Bridge in the early morning of July 31, 1802, and looking at the awakening city, the poet William Wordsworth entered a period of deep creative reverie. His sonnet, “Composed upon Westminster Bridge,” captures a strong sense of place, time and emotional impact. Composer Ola Gjeilo set that sonnet in a work commissioned by the Providence Singers with its Wachner Fund for New Music.
The Singers gave the world premiere in May 2017, accompanied by the Aurea Ensemble with Gjeilo at the piano. This season, the Singers has released that work in a “virtual choir” performance. Enjoy it now on our YouTube channel or read the text and program notes.
A new series of online choral workshops
The 50th season of the Providence Singers continues with a series of five online choral workshops and masterclasses. Those workshops, led by nationally prominent voice teachers and performers, are provided as part of the membership program but are also open for public registration. Upcoming sessions include:
- Tuesday, March 2, 7 p.m. — Steven West: Singing Through the Decades
Stephen West is professor of music at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. He will address some of the issues facing older singers, focusing on healthy techniques that support decades of singing.
- Tuesday, March 9, 7 p.m. — Lauren Schiff: The Alexander Technique
Lauren Schiff has been teaching the Alexander Technique to singers and instrumentalists at the Juilliard School of Music since 1991. The Alexander Technique is not just for singers.
- Sunday, April 11, 1 p.m. — Ēriks Ešenvalds: The Time Has Come
Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds will discuss The Time Has Come, his setting of an excerpt from Nelson Mandela’s inaugural address as president of the Republic of South Africa. The Singers began rehearsals of that work in early January for springtime release on the Singers YouTube channel in virtual choir format.
- Tuesday, April 27, 7 p.m. — Kevin Deas: Vocal Masterclass
Kevin Deas is a member of the performance faculty at the Princeton University School of Music. The Singers first met him at the 2004 Newport Jazz Festival, when was the baritone soloist in a performance of Dave Brubeck’s Gates of Justice.
Information and public registration is available at the Singers registration site. || See also news release
Members: One-click entry to all Zoom sessions is available on the calendar.
Franz Biebl: Ave Maria
The Singers first performed music of Franz Biebl in March 2015. His Ave Maria, composed in 1964 and popularized years later by Chanticleer, became the best-known of what Biebl called his “little songs.” The Singers found, as the composer Wilbur Skeels wrote, that “there is nothing ‘little’ about the quality of his compositions.” Artistic Director Christine Noel has edited individual recordings of 68 singers into a new virtual choir performance.
Listen to it now on our YouTube channel.
You can also read the program notes and text.
The Wound in the Water
In May 2019 the Providence Singers presented Kim André Arnesen’s deeply moving 2016 work, The Wound in the Water. Using a libretto by the Welsh poet Euan Tait, Arnesen explores human exile, separation from a beautiful world, and diminished capacity for love, then points to a way forward, aiming at a shared song and the healing power of music.
The Singers now offers that work online, recorded in concert with a chamber orchestra, the first online offering of the season.
Listen to it now on our YouTube channel.
You can also read the program notes and text
Choral performance at a safe social distance
On Saturday, March 28, the Providence Singers and 300 patrons were to gather on the 17th floor of the Biltmore Hotel for a festive gala performance of music from the Broadway stage. That was not to be, of course, but a small group of members has produced a “Virtual Choir” performance of “Somewhere” from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.
Enjoy it now.
Recordings of the Providence Singers
Dan Forrest: Requiem for the Living
Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living proved to be a powerful work in performance for both singers and listeners. He wrote it in 2013. The Providence Singers performed it in November 2014, together with three Bach motets. Little more than two years after the concert, the Singers had finished its initial Kickstarter campaign, raised additional funds, and booked a recording session at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. The CD was released December 5, 2017.
Notes and text | Download at iTunes | Amazon | Google Play
Lou Harrison: La Koro Sutro
La Koro Sutro, sung entirely in Esperanto and accompanied by an American gamelan — built for performances in Boston and Providence by our friends at the Boston Modern Orchestra Project — was exotic, immediately engaging, and unlike anything the Singers had encountered before or performed since. BMOP paired the Singers’ recording of La Koro Sutro with Harrison’s Suite for Violin and American Gamelan to make an extraordinary CD, released in July 2014. Program Notes | Read the Globe’s review
Dominick Argento: Jonah and the Whale
Jonah was a difficult prophet. He tried to wriggle out of divine assignments and whined loudly enough to annoy even God. Dominick Argento used medieval poetry, the Book of Jonah and other sources to prepare the libretto for this composition, preserving ancient alliterations and a great deal of wit and charm: “Even the casual listener will notice that the whale (the trombone solo in the Intermezzo section) gets the best tune in the work. And this is as it should be since I consider the whale, not Jonah, to be the hero of the piece.” Notes on the work ...
Lukas Foss: The Prairie
Lukas Foss fled Nazi Germany with his family – first to Paris in 1933 and then to the United States in 1937. He was 15 when he arrived in Philadelphia to begin his studies at the Curtis Institute. Foss embraced his new homeland – “... as a boy of 15, I fell in love with America,” he said – becoming a U.S. citizen in 1942. He found Carl Sandburg’s poem when he was 19 and began almost immediately to set it to music, adapting it himself without a librettist. The Singers loved it as well. Notes and composer’s commentary ...