FEATURE image: Milwaukee’s Bel Canto Chorus in public performance. Fair Use.
INDEPENDENT CHORUS FOUNDED IN 1931
Founded in 1931, Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s independent 100-voice Bel Canto Chorus performs carols and hymns in the historic Basilica of St. Josaphat, a Polish-style church in Milwaukee completed in 1901 and boasting one of the largest copper domes in the world.
SOLD OUT CONCERTS AT CHRISTMAS
The Bel Canto Chorus is made up of singers from throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Their Christmas concert is one of their most locally popular of the year and its weekend of Christmas concerts is often sold out.
In this 2012 performance, Music Director Richard Hynson conducts. Hynson has been music director of the Bel Canto Chorus since 1987 and in 2012 received the American Prize in Choral Conducting, Community Choral Division.
The Bel Canto Chorus has an impressive international performance portfolio, including performances at the Spoleto Music Festival in Italy and music festivals in France, the UK, Ireland, Canada and Argentina and Uruguay.
CONCERT AT BASILICA OF ST. JOSAPHAT, COMPLETED IN 1901
This wonderful performance features the Stained Glass Brass and Bel Canto Boy Chorus, both conducted by Ellen Shuler.
PROGRAM: Once in Royal David’s City – H.J. Gauntlett Ding Dong Merrily on High – George Radcliffe Woodward A Spotless Rose – Herbert Howells O Come, All Ye Faithful – J.F. Wade Welcome All Wonders – Richard Dirksen Gloria-John Rutter Silent Night-Franz Grüber Joy To The World – George Frideric Handel We Wish You A Merry Christmas – arranged by John Rutter
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was called “The Sage” of Tuskegee Institute outside Montgomery, Alabama. Founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881, the Institute thrives today as Tuskegee University, home to more than 3,000 students from the U.S. and dozens of foreign countries.
The historically African-American college boasts several academic distinctions today, especially in the broad range of the sciences, engineering, medicine and math. This stems from the coeducational school’s founding value of industrial education.
Tuskegee is home to the first bioethics center in the United States: the National Center for Bioethics in Research & Health Care. Founded in 1999, the Center is devoted to the exploration of the core moral issues which underlie research and medical treatment of African-Americans as well as other under-served populations by bringing together in dialogue the sciences, humanities, law and religion.
In addition to excellence in these important academic fields, Tuskegee, with over 60 degree programs, offers study in the Liberal Arts, Fine Arts, and Humanities. This includes The Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir in the Department of Fine & Performing Arts.
The Choir founded by Booker T. Washington in 1886
Tuskegee’s first singing groups were organized by Washington as early as 1884 with the choir formally founded by Washington in 1886. Booker T. Washington, who grew up in slavery as a child, had witnessed music and singing’s central value to the African-American experience.
In chapter one of his highly readable and interesting American classic autobiography, Up From Slavery, Washington writes: “Finally the war closed, and the day of freedom came. It was a momentous and eventful day to all upon our plantation. We had been expecting it. Freedom was in the air, and had been for months… As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom. True, they had sung those same verses before, but they had been careful to explain that the “freedom” in these songs referred to the next world, and had no connection with life in this world. Now they gradually threw off the mask, and were not afraid to let it be known that the “freedom” in their songs meant freedom of the body in this world.“
Tuskegee’s deep love and appreciation for the arts, especially music
Washington insisted that Tuskegee’s always augmenting student body at the Christian nondenominational school sing spirituals at weekly Chapel worship services. Washington, and all Tuskegee’s successor presidents to the present day, have maintained a deep love and appreciation for the arts, especially above all music. Booker T. Washington wrote the students, exhorting them: “…If you go out to have schools of your own, have your pupils sing [Negro spirituals] as you have sung them here, and teach them to see the beauty which dwells in these songs…“
Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir
In each academic year the Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir performs extensively throughout the state of Alabama, as well as nationally and internationally (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Canada in 2018).
Their Christmas Concert is held each December in the University Chapel under the direction of Dr. Wayne Anthony Barr. Dr. Barr is assisted by Mrs. Brenda Shuford at the piano who herself is a lifelong music educator and ordained minister at her Baptist church in Montgomery. Also taking significant part is Warren L. Duncan who heads the Department of Fine & Performing Arts at Historic Tuskegee University.
The choir has had a momentous performance history performing before American presidents and this entire concert offers the listener the flavor of its wonderful spirit and deep talent shared at Christmas-time.
The concert is approximately two hours and fifteen minutes.
For over 40 years, the Angeles Chorale has brought inspiring choral music to greater Los Angeles, California. It is an all-volunteer choral group comprised of about one hundred voices. The Angeles Chorale was founded in 1975 as one of the local Valley Master Chorales and merged in 1987 with California State University Northridge’s Masterworks Chorale under the baton of Artistic Director John Alexander.
For the next nine years Alexander led the assemblage into a professional standard, and changed its name to the Angeles Chorale. Donald Neuen took over the podium in the 1996-1997 season. Neuen, Director of Choral Activities at UCLA, focused the chorale’s repertoire on classical music masterworks for chorus and orchestra such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler. For the 2010-2011 season, Neuen handed the baton to its present-day Artistic Director Dr. John Sutton, who had been with the chorale since 2004. Sutton continues to actively study with Professor Neuen, now retired, among others, and utilizes the Angeles Chorale’s versatility and mastery in classic music and current music in concert programming.
WHO IS JOHN RUTTER AND WHAT IS HIS GLORIA ABOUT?
Gloria by English composer John Rutter (b. 1945) is a musical setting of parts of the Latin Gloria which is a Christian hymn. Rutter’s work was written in 1974 and has been part of the Christmas concert tradition ever since.
The Latin Gloria is known as “The Hymn of the Angels” because they are the words the angels sang in Luke 2:14. The angelic host hovered over the shepherds in the field to announce Christ’s birth. “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” the shepherds heard the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest.”
Only twenty minutes long, John Rutter’s chorale masterpiece Gloria is reputed to be a challenging work. The performance by the Angeles Chorale at First United Methodist Church in Pasadena on December 15, 2012 strives for perfection in this excellent all-volunteer chorus porformance.
MUSIC THAT IS VIBRANT, ACTIVE, PERSONAL, ALIVE
The Angeles Chorale takes the three movement work as its own. This is a musical performance that is vibrant, active, personal, alive, and while not perhaps the most refined performance of this favorite work on record, it provides the listener with an aural experience that leaves one on the edge of their seat which is a power not typically found in other performances. This engaging vibrancy could be part of Sutton’s ease and familiarity with popular musical forms, such as for film and television, that infuses this choral piece’s unique harmonies, structures, and rhythms with a branded verve and, if imperfectly, then confidently based on the chorale and brass’s obvious performative exuberance and enjoyment.
The St. Bavo Cathedral Choir performs Christmas carols and other seasonal music for voice, many in modern settings.
CONCERT SPACE IS EARLY 20TH CENTURY CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL IN HAARLEM, NETHERLANDS
The concert was performed and recorded at the (Catholic) Cathedral Basilica St. Bavo in Haarlem on December 16, 2012 during Advent. The construction of the immense church took place between 1895 and 1930 on the Leidsevaart. It is different from and not the iconic Grote Kerk on Haarlem’s main square. As a cathedral, St. Bavo Basilica was built as the Catholic bishop’s church but it is also an active local parish. The St. Bavo Cathedral Choir is the church’s largest choral group, and an important part of the dual activity of the church.
The monumental church building, its art collection, organs, future museum, and the liturgical support of its Music Institute are all important aspects of serving and celebrating the Gospel in the service of others. The church community does not limit itself solely to believers within the territory of the parish, but offers a hospitable home for all who feel connected to it. https://rkhaarlem.nl/kerken/bavo-kathedraal-haarlem/
ORIGIN, PRACTICE OF THE CATHEDRAL CHOIR. WORKS PERFORMED
The Cathedral Choir who performs this Advent 2012 concert is comprised of all the choirs put together and can hold more than 100 people. The “Kathedrale Koor” sings on average once a month and for the major festivals such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
The full Cathedral choir is also used at large concerts and other important diocesan and other large events. The choir’s repertoire is wide with centuries of church music being represented. Large works with organ are especially performed, such as Masses by Louis Vierne (1870-1937) and Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) as well as works by Louis Andriessen (b. 1939) and Herman Strategier (1912-1988). The works of Jan Valkestijn, former Magister Cantus of the Music Institute and composer of several works for the Cathedral Choir, are also regularly performed.
The Advent 2012 program includes well-known carols along with Anton Diabelli’s Pastoral Mass In F Major For Solos, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 147. It includes excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s 11-part choral piece, A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28.
Fons Ziekman conducts the Promenade Orchestra and Sanne Nieuwenhuijsen directs the chorus with soloists Jasper Schweppe, Anouk van Laake, Floris Claassens, Hidde Kleikamp and Frank de Ruijter.
The impressive vocal and orchestral ensemble is accompanied by Ton van Eck on organ and Auréli Husslage on harp.
Program: John Francis Wade (1711-1786) : Oh, come all ye faithful Anton Diabelli (1781-1858): Pastoral Messe in F-dur, op.147 Willcocks: The First Nowell Benjamin Britten (1913-1976): A Ceremony of Carols Richards: Over the Country Britten: A New Year Carol Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847): Hark the herald angels sing Vaughan Williams (1872-1958): Fantasia on Christmas Carols
The concert is 1 hour, 3 minutes and 48 seconds long.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Model for Altarpiece in St. Peter’s, Italy, Rome, 1625, oil on canvas 16 x 24 1/4 in. (40.64 x 61.6 cm). The Ciechanowiecki Collection, Gift of The Ahmanson Foundation, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
I. Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come.”
Field of Dreams is a 1989 sports fantasy starring Kevin Costner. It is a creative film about, one could say, the intersection of reality and fantasy on the American landscape—or simply the intersection of what are different realities.
Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, is a young husband and father, who hears voices to build a baseball field on his low-income Iowa farm. Ray is promised that “If you build it, he will come.”
The “he” is Kinsella’s own deceased father John who had played baseball as a young man, got old too quick, and died after he and teenage Ray had a falling out over the 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox team.
The late-1980’s Ray, married with a family, still thinks about his relationship with his father that was cut short. The film asks whether it is possible for adult Ray to meet his father and baseball player John Kinsella on his “field of dreams.”
Ray never doubts his voices but is never sure what they mean except when he tries to connect the dots by traveling across long distances of place and season to meet strangers for whom the answers most matter.
Ray’s efforts lead to surprising, mysterious and ultimately fulfilling encounters for those who come to play on his field of dreams—or are there simply to watch.
Pontormo (1494-1557), Visitation (detail), c. 1529, oil on panel, 20.2 x 15.6 cm, Church of San Francesco e Michele, Carmignano, Italy.
II. Hinduism and the Christian Ashram Movement.
Bede Griffiths (1906-1993) was a Catholic English monk. He is known as Swami Dayananda (bliss of compassion) as he dedicated his life’s work to the Christian Ashram Movement and its role in the development of dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism.
Swami Dayananda said in an interview: “I feel that in the Christian view, which I share, the body is of very great importance. There is a tendency in certain forms of Hinduism, certainly, to think that the purpose of spiritual exercises is to get beyond the body.
But in my understanding, the human being is body, soul, spirit, and it is an integrated whole. Body and soul – the body is dependent upon and integrated with soul, and body and soul are dependent upon and integrated in spirit. The body is part of the wholeness of the human being.
And that’s why incarnation is very important. God enters the psycho-physical realm and assumes it and doesn’t discard it. And at the resurrection the body is not discarded, it is assumed into the life with the soul and the spirit. I think the place of the body is a significant part of the Christian contribution. It is the total human being which is to enter into the life of the spirit.”
SOURCE: Marvin Barrett, “The Silent Guide,” Parabola, v.xi, no. 1.
Our Lady of the Pillar, 1508, Chartres Cathedral. In her right hand she holds a pear.
Odilon Redon (1840-1916), Mystical Conversation, c. 1896. Oil on canvas, 65 x 46 cm, The Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu, Japan.
III. Christmas clothes
There is a drive in today’s society to be singular, intimate, and well known in a society that is, paradoxically, vast and impersonal, as well as incredibly common and conventional.
Seeking to be “authentic” in the public domain, we are, at the same time, insecure or unsure about the people we meet there. Many don’t know their next door neighbor but presume to be intimate with the wider world. To be intimate and authentic in a vast and alien society―and one needs to only surf the net for five minutes to see its revelations ― is the modern age’s new growth industry.
Yet there remain less flashy moments of behavior regarding the private self in the public space. Such is, for instance, the thriving language of love—the raised eyebrow; dropped glove; the rush to light the proverbial (and sometimes actual) cigarette. Each small, well-timed gesture and inflection of voice can raise the romantic pitch and without loss of boundaries between a private self and the public space.
These silent cues can be applied in many venues, although absconded by the tactical importance of self-image (interchangeable, often) striving for immediate intimacy—a glimpse of the inner self, the cult of personality—in the public space.
Fashion changes clothes with the seasons in a modern-age attempt to convey private personality (“taste”) in the public arena. For an important (re: popular) social model, it is important to take the world by storm—and in each and every instance so that a costumed though exposed private self does not disintegrate before public scrutiny or is destroyed by it, i.e., the social media “mob.”
Clothing provides a rich metaphor for the dilemma of the private self in the public space. It serves those seeking to make hyperbole of their private personality and its fluctuating nature as well as those seeking to downplay and even hide the same.
In a world of omnipresent cellphone and security cameras and airport pat downs, a traditional notion of clothing to exclude public encroachment on the private and (trustingly) sacred self appears to be increasingly gone with the wind. At Christmas the use of clothes in a sacred context is important. In the Gospel of Luke the angel told the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people….there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2: 10-12).
Odilon Redon, Night, 1910-11, Distemper on canvas, 200 x 650 cm. Abbaye de Fontfroide.
In the Bible a major teaching tradition is that when one discovers the Divine Presence—for God makes every attempt to self-disclose—the moment of recognition is like putting on a new garment that is tailored to the individual’s exact measurements.
This Divine garment endows a person with a specific sense of dignity and private self-awareness―a hopefully sacred and highly personal investiture that turns the modern notion of the private-as-public self upside down.
This rule of clothes extends to John the Baptist—a figure who is important in both Christianity as saint and prophet as well as in Islam as a prophet.
John is described as coming out of the wilderness wearing “a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3). When God “dresses” humanity in the divine image something is expected of them in ways other than the modern idea of a new image or appeal.
It is an inner and private change which takes on a significantly different meaning than just one more public role.
SOURCES: Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, W.W. Norton, 1976; Joseph Wolf, “Divine Clothing,” Parabola, v.xix, no. 3.
Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), Adoration of the Magi, 1636-1639, Prado.
Parmigianino (1503-1540), Holy Family with the Infant Baptist, c. 1535-39, tempura on canvas, 65 5/8 x 52 in. (159 x 132 cm), Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples.
IV. Child Hunger in the U.S.
Hunger is defined as “the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food as well as an exhausted condition caused by want of food.”
While being homeless as an adult is a harsh test, to be homeless as a child is worse. Society’s striving to make it scarce or nonexistent is painfully incomplete. Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children who are the country’s future.
In this year’s presidential campaigns we hear rhetoric from candidates of the major parties about the safety and security of the American people and mainly in regard to terrorists who threaten bodily harm. But each night, including tonight, over 15 million American children go to bed hungry according to Feeding America. Where is the public and media outcry for their bodily safety and security?
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, today there are 74 million children in the United States, an all-time high. Still, more than 20% of these children are food-insecure and go to bed hungry at night.
In a land of plenty, where more than 2 in 3 adult Americans are considered to be overweight or obese, food injustice is not confined to Christmas season but each day of the year.