Summer Serenade

Sunday, August 1, 2021 • 5:30 p.m.
Mount Baker Community Club (2811 Mt Rainier Dr S)

Harmonia Orchestra & Chorus
William White, conductor
Danielle Sampson, soprano
Carson Lott, tenor
Ryan Bede, baritone


Sheila Bristow (*1969)
When Music Sounds [world premiere]

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140

— intermission —

Wolfgang Amadè Mozart (1756–1791)
Marcia from Serenade No. 6 in D major, K. 239 (“Serenata notturna”)

Arthur Honegger (1892–1955)
Pastorale d’été

Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904)
Serenade for Strings in E major, Op. 22

About the Concert

OSSCS returns with a world premiere by Sheila Bristow and one of Bach’s most beloved cantatas (“Sleepers Awake”), plus utterly delightful music by Mozart, Honegger and Dvořák — along with a surprise or two. This concert is now sold out.

In recognition of the most recent public-health guidelines, we are now asking audience members to wear a mask at this concert. (We’ll even have masks on hand in case you need one.)

We would kindly request that any ticketholders who are not fully vaccinated exchange their ticket for a future event (we will be offering a live-streaming option for our concerts this the coming season) or return it for a full refund. E-mail for assistance.

Parking: Street parking is available in the vicinity of the concert venue, but we suggest you allow some time to find a spot.

This concert will adhere to all public-health guidelines in effect on the date of the performance. Nevertheless, an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public space. By attending this performance, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.

About the Soloists

Soprano Danielle Sampson is an avid performer of Baroque, Classical and contemporary music known for her “youthful and light timbre” (Classical Voice North America) and “a compassionate calm and a warm, glowing tone” (The Boston Globe). She has appeared with Pacific MusicWorks, Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, California Bach Society, Early Music Vancouver, Boston Early Music Festival, American Bach Soloists, Stanford Chorale, San Francisco Bach Choir, Black Box Baroque, St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, Amaranth Quartet, Guerrilla Composers Guild, Prodigal Opera Productions and the Alabama Symphony. With guitarist/theorbist/lutenist Adam Cockerham, Ms. Sampson is a founding member of the duo Jarring Sounds, which released a self-titled album in 2012. She also appears on a 2015 recording of Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Stanford Chorale and the Lawrence String Quartet. Now a resident of Seattle, she earned her BM from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music and her MM from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Born and raised in Seattle, tenor Carson Lott has been active as a choral singer in Washington and Oregon since 2016. He earned a BA from Seattle University, where he studied choral conducting with Joy Sherman and voice with Ross Hauck, and an MM from the University of Oregon, where he studied voice with Eric Mentzel. He has sung with the choruses of Eugene Opera and the Oregon Bach Festival and appeared as soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Stravinsky’s Renard (Rooster), Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto (Paolino), Perti’s La beata Imelde and a Boston Camerata production of The Play of Daniel (King Belshazzar). He can be heard singing regularly with the choirs of Epiphany Parish Seattle, where he is a staff soloist.

Baritone Ryan Bede made his Seattle Opera solo debut in The Magic Flute during May 2017, followed by Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, Jim Crowley in An American Dream, Fiorello in The Barber of Seville and Moralès in Carmen, as well as the Jailer in Dan Wallace Miller’s film version of Tosca in May 2021. For the 2021–2022 season he returns to Opera Idaho for its inaugural “Opera in the Park” and in An American Dream. In October 2019 he made his role debut as Belcore in The Elixir of Love with Tacoma Opera, where he has appeared in numerous roles, such as Moralés/Le Dancaïre in Carmen, Tiger Brown in The Threeepenny Opera, Papageno in The Magic Flute, Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette, Schaunard in La Bohème and the Pirate King in The Pirates Of Penzance. Recent concert engagements have included Handel’s Messiah with the Bremerton Symphony and Federal Way Symphony, Spectrum Dance Theater’s acclaimed production of Carmina Burana and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Early Music Vancouver/Pacific MusicWorks, as well as the Fauré and Duruflé Requiems, Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten and Carol Sams’ The Earthmakers with Harmonia.

Maestro’s Prelude

Gentle Listeners,

On today’s program, you’re going to hear the world premiere of a new work by Sheila Bristow, an incredibly talented composer who also happens to be one of our own musicians. It’s called When Music Sounds, and it sets a poem by Walter de la Mare: “When music sounds, gone is the earth I know / And all her lovely things even lovelier grow.”

For many of us here today, this will be the first time we’ve heard music sounding in close to a year and a half. Prior to March of last year, music was something that I took for granted. Perhaps you did too. And why shouldn’t we have? Access to great art is a human right, and we are lucky to have so much of it here in Seattle. But now that I know what it’s like to go for so long without making music — and, crucially, without the deep relationships that come with communal music-making — well, let’s just say that not only will I never again take it for granted, but my commitment to making and sharing music is more fervent than ever.

This concert not only marks the first time that we’ve joined together as chorus and orchestra since December 2019, but it also opens a new chapter in our organization’s history: after intermission, we’ll be revealing our new name! Why a new name? Well, the thing is, we didn’t really have a name — we’ve had two names smooshed together. But ours is a special, unconventional performing ensemble and we need a unique, simple name to bring it together into one harmonious whole.

I invite you to sit back and enjoy today’s concert and to check out the details of our upcoming season — which you’ll hear a bit more about today — and continue with us on this journey as we do what we can to make “the earth we know” grow into a lovelier place.

— William White

Program Notes

Sheila Bristow
When Music Sounds

Bristow was born in August 1969 in Versailles, Kentucky, and currently resides in Tacoma. She composed this work, which receives its world premiere this evening, in 2020 as the result of a commission from OSSCS. In addition to SATB chorus, the score calls for 2 flutes, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba and strings.

Sheila Bristow is a composer and collaborative keyboardist who currently serves as organist and choirmaster at Kenmore’s Church of the Redeemer. She is also an Affiliate Artist at Pacific Lutheran University (where she works with the opera program), and orchestral keyboardist and choral accompanist for OSSCS. Ms. Bristow received her BFA in music composition from Cornish College of the Arts and MM in organ performance from the University of Washington. Her choral works have been performed by many Northwest choirs, and she is published by GIA Publications.

Bristow’s childhood violin teacher, Eileen Lusk, was a founding member of the Broadway Chamber Symphony (later renamed the Broadway Symphony and then Orchestra Seattle), and as a college student Bristow herself played violin in the Broadway Symphony. “I’m delighted to now be back onstage with the group as keyboardist,” she writes, “and am grateful for the opportunity to write for this ensemble!” Her newest composition, When Music Sounds, sets a 1915 poem, “Music,” by the English poet and author (his ghost stories were favorites of H.P. Lovecraft) Walter de la Mare (1873–1956).

“The poem alludes to Greek mythology about the power of music,“ the composer writes. “In each of the three verses, music summons forth a different part of the cosmos: first nature responds, then naiads (water nymphs) arise, and finally time itself sings. Thinking about Greek mythology, I imagined a sylvan setting for the poem’s action, and the piece opens with a calm ‘forest’ theme. As the chorus sings about burgeoning plants, the string lines rise and become more complex. This is followed by the entrance of the naiads—whom I cheekily imagine rehearsing a water ballet. After the dance break, the chorus sings them up from the forest pool, accompanied by soft winds and strings.

“In the final verse, an ambiguous juxtaposition of keys and colors heralds time’s arrival on the scene. The full chorus and brass ‘break into distant song’ in the home key, then quickly taper off as the protagonist exits. The work concludes with a reprise of the forest theme, layered with relaxed version of the naiads’ ballet.”

Johann Sebastian Bach
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140

Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, on March 21, 1685, and died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750. He composed this cantata in Leipzig for Sunday, November 25, 1731. In addition to chorus and three vocal soloists, the work calls for 2 oboes, English horn, French horn, strings and continuo.

Part of Bach’s duties as Cantor and Director of Music at St. Thomas’ Church and Choir School in Leipzig, a position he held from 1723 until his death, was to provide music for each Sunday’s church service (except for the Lenten periods preceding Christmas and Easter), as well as various feast days, roughly 60 dates per year. Although he could have performed pre-existing music, on Trinity Sunday 1723 Bach set about composing a new cantata for each of these occasions. He then repeated the process for 1724–1725, and then again for 1725–1726, and again for 1728–1729. Bach then continued to compose cantatas from time to time. One such occasion was the 27th Sunday after Trinity, which only arises when Easter falls before March 27 (and which occurred for the first time during Bach’s adult life in 1731).

About 40 of the cantatas in Bach’s second cycle took the form of a chorale cantata, for which the entire piece (both text and melody) is based on a single Lutheran hymn. Bach chose this form for the work we now know as BWV 140, perhaps as part of an effort to complete his cycle of chorale cantatas from 1724–1725. The epistle for this Sunday (1 Thessalonians 5: 1–11) concerned being prepared for the Last Judgement, while the Gospel reading (Matthew 25: 1–13) involved the parable of 10 virgins who went out to meet a bridegroom, five wise ones who brought along extra oil for their lamps and five foolish ones who did not. Bach chose a hymn based on this parable written in 1598 by Lutheran pastor Philipp Nicolai during a plague that claimed the lives of 1300 of his parishioners. The three verses of Nicolai’s hymn form the basis for the first, fourth and seventh movements of Bach’s cantata, interspersed with two pairs of recitatives and duets (on biblical texts drawn largely from the Song of Solomon by an unknown librettist).

The extensive chorale fantasia that opens the cantata begins with dotted-rhythm chords (reminiscent of the French ouverture style, the 12 beats perhaps suggesting the tolling of the “midnight hour”) alternating upper strings with double reeds, followed by a syncopated figure (derived from the chorale melody) in the first oboe and first violins. Sopranos (supported by horn) sing the chorale melody in long notes over livelier counterpoint from the other choral voices. Bach includes a fugal treatment on the word “Alleluia!”

Next comes a recitative about the arrival of the bridegroom sung by tenor (acting as a narrator), followed by a duet between soprano (the “Soul” of the church) and bass (Jesus, the bridegroom) that features an obligatto violin solo (originally violino piccolo, pitched a minor third higher), its virtuoso figurations perhaps suggesting the flickering of the lamps. Alfred Dürr considers it “among the most beautiful love duets in the history of the musical world.” In the centerpiece of the cantata, tenors sing the second verse of the hymn against one of Bach’s most famous melodies played in unison by violins and violas.

Another recitative with the bass singing as Jesus (accompanied by a string “halo”) leads to a second duet, this one featuring obbligato oboe, as the bride and groom celebrate their marriage. The cantata concludes with a four-part chorale setting of the final verse of Nicolai’s hymn.

Wolfgang Amadè Mozart
March from Serenade No. 6 in D major, K. 239

Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756, and died in Vienna on December 5, 1791; he began calling himself Wolfgango Amadeo around 1770 and Wolfgang Amadè in 1777. The autograph score for this work, which calls for timpani and strings, is dated January 1776.

Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians defines a serenade as “music intended to be sung at night in the open air,” hence Serenata notturna (a title inscribed by the Mozart’s father, Leopold, to his 20-year-old son’s composition now known as K. 239) is redundant. Mozart produced more than four dozen pieces variously dubbed serenade, divertimento, cassation or notturno, typically consisting of a longer opening movement followed by several short dance movements and often intended as background music for social occasions. His many serenades include three works for wind instruments as well as one of his most famous compositions, Eine kleine Nachtmusik.

K. 239 is atypical in several respects: it consists of only three movements; it employs the unusual combination of timpani and strings; and, perhaps in a nod to the Baroque concerto grosso form, it pits a solo quartet (two violins, viola and bass) against the larger ensemble. The occasion for which Mozart composed this piece (from which we hear the opening march) remains unknown, although Christian Moritz-Bauer posits that “there is good reason to believe that the Serenata notturna was composed for one of the … masked balls held at Salzburg’s Town Hall … every Wednesday and Sunday between Candlemas and Ash Wednesday, and were regularly and enthusiastically attended by both upper and middle classes, including the Mozart family. According to the privy councillor Ferdinand von Schidenhofen, a short comic scene was performed at one of these balls, held on February 14, 1776, a week before the beginning of Lent, on the theme of the recruitment of volunteers to take part in the American War of Independence.”

Arthur Honegger
Pastorale d’été

Honegger was born March 10, 1892, at La Hâvre, France, and died in Paris on November 27, 1955. Composed during the summer of 1920, this work had its premiere on February 17, 1921, in Paris at the Salle Gaveau, with Vladimir Golschmann conducting. The score calls for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn, plus strings.

Although Honegger was born to Swiss parents and retained his Swiss citizenship throughout his life, he spent most of his years in Paris, where he studied at the Conservatoire (from 1911 to 1918) with Charles-Marie Widor and Vincent d’Indy. He became identified as a member of “Les Six” (a group that also included composers Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, Louis Durey and Germaine Tailleferre), although Milhaud would later complain that the French critic who coined the moniker “chose six names absolutely arbitrarily … because we knew each other and we were pals and appeared on the same musical programs, no matter if our temperaments and personalities weren’t at all the same! Auric and Poulenc followed ideas of Cocteau, Honegger followed German Romanticism, and myself, Mediterranean lyricism!”

A few months after the article anointing Honegger as one of Les Six appeared, he departed for a summer vacation in the Swiss Alps. In July 1920, he wrote to Milhaud that he was working on a piece for 10 instruments entitled Poème pastoral, on a commission from Léo Sir, an instrument-maker who had invented six new string instruments ranging from “sursoprano” (pitched a fourth higher than the violin) to “sousbasse” (pitched between a cello and string bass) that filled the gaps between the traditional four string instruments, and when combined with those created a dixtuor for which Milhaud scored his fourth chamber symphony. Perhaps sensing that his work-in-progress would benefit from wider exposure than Sir’s unique ensemble could provide, Honegger retitled his Poème as Pastorale d’été and orchestrated it for single woodwinds, horn and strings, completing the work during August 1920. After finishing a cello sonata the following month, Honegger then produced a Hymne for Sir’s dectet.

The score for Pastorale d’été includes a line from Arthur Rimbaud’s poem “Dawn” — “J’ai embrassé l’aube d’été” (“I have embraced the summer dawn”) — as well as a dedication to composer Alexis Roland-Manuel. Honegger entered the piece in a competition for the Prix Verley, held during February 1921 and decided by an audience vote. “The Pastorale I wrote last summer was a huge success. I won the prize with 374 votes out of a total of 700,” Honegger wrote to his ailing mother the following day. “I had to go and take a bow to the audience, who were yelling.”

French horn introduces the languid first theme over undulating strings, while the faster, dance-like central section revolves around a sprightlier woodwind melody. Honegger combines both themes in the coda, which reverts to the calm opening tempo.

Antonín Dvořák
Serenade for Strings in E major, Op. 22

Dvořák was born September 8, 1841, in the Bohemian town of Nelahozeves (near Prague, now in the Czech Republic), and died on May 1, 1904, in Prague. He composed this work between May 3 and May 14, 1875. Adolf Čech conducted the first performance, in Prague, on December 10, 1876.

Trained as an organist, Dvořák played viola in Prague’s Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra during the 1860s, supplementing his income by giving piano lessons. Although his Op. 1 dates from 1861, his music apparently received no public performances until a decade later, when he quit the orchestra to devote more time to composing. While his compositions began to achieve some measure of success in Prague, he remained in need of two things: money and wider recognition of his talents.

In 1874, Dvořák applied for the Austrian State Stipendium, a composition prize awarded by a jury consisting of music critic Eduard Hanslick and Johann Herbeck, director of the Imperial Opera. The composer learned that he had won the initial prize (he would over the course of the next few years receive additional stipends) in February 1875. It was during this presumably happy time that he produced his Serenade for Strings over the span of a mere 12 days in May 1875. A hoped-for performance by the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Hans Richter did not materialize, so the serenade was instead premiered in Prague in December 1876. But in the interim Dvořák had included the work in an application for an additional award from the Stipendium committee — which now included composer Johannes Brahms, who was overwhelmingly impressed by Dvořák’s music, so much so that he would soon help launch the Czech composer to worldwide fame.

By the latter part of the 19th century, the serenade had transitioned from occasional music intended for performance at a social function to a work intended for the concert hall. Dvořák would go on to compose another serenade — in D minor and scored for wind instruments — during January 1878, and soon thereafter began working on a third, which instead became his Czech Suite, written around April 1879. (In 1873 he had produced an octet — now lost — for winds, strings and piano that he subtitled “Serenade.”)

For many years, Dvořák’s music had been heavily under the influence of Richard Wagner, but around 1872 he revamped his compositional approach, “his melodic invention once again preferring traditional four-bar structure,” according to Klaus Döge, “and his formal language becoming more balanced in its proportions and architecture.” This period also saw his first use of Bohemian and Moravian folk music, which would feature prominently in the works that would fuel his rise to popularity: the Moravian Duets and the Slavonic Dances. Although none of the material in the E-major serenade comes directly from any actual Czech folk music, its themes, writes Döge, “are so carefree, simple and instantly comprehensible that they are clearly indebted to the formative principles of folk music.”

The five movements of Dvořák’s string serenade “are all so interesting in overall thought conception and in thematic work,” wrote a local critic in a review of the first performance, “and also clear in their overall design, that they will surely be received as favorably everywhere as each of them was on this occasion.” The opening movement is not in sonata-allegro form, as might be expected, but instead possesses an A–B–A′ structure, with an idyllic opening theme in E major yielding to a gentle, dance-like dotted-rhythm second subject in G major, followed by variants of the opening material. Next comes a waltz in C♯ minor with a more relaxed trio section in D♭ major, then a scherzo in F major (with a contrasting A-major trio and a coda combining material from both preceding sections) that suggests the character of one of the composer’s Slavonic Dances. The wistful slow movement (which makes use of a theme from the waltz) precedes a spirited finale (in modified sonata form) that incorporates references to both the Larghetto and the opening theme of the work.

— Jeff Eldridge