Saturday, February 4, 2023 • 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church (3200 3rd Ave W)
Harmonia Orchestra & Chorus
William White, conductor
Allison Pohl, soprano
Danielle Reutter-Harrah, soprano
José Luis Muñoz, countertenor
Brendan Tuohy, tenor
Darrell J. Jordan, baritone
Shelia Bristow (*1969)
When Music Sounds [world premiere]
Robert Kechley (*1952)
Hard Times: Antiphonal Conversations [world premiere]
— intermission —
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
Magnificat in D major, BWV 243
About the Concert
“When music sounds, gone is the earth I know, and all her lovely things even lovelier grow.” That line from the poet Walter de la Mare forms the core notion of Sheila Bristow’s new work, which celebrates the many gifts music bestows upon us. Another of our lockdown-era commissions, this piece was written in the hope of a return to the very art form that brings us all together.
Bob Kechley’s Hard Times, also a pandemic project, explores some of the darker sides of living in a time of turmoil: disagreement, conflict, and acrimony. But in the end, this work — a “concerto” scored for a unique lineup of two harpsichords and three chamber ensembles — seeks reconciliation and enlightenment.
Bach’s Magnificat is a perennial favorite, one of the major delights of the Baroque repertoire. The shortest of Bach’s major choral works, the Magnificat displays just how much variety can fit into a small package.
Health & Safety
Harmonia musicians are all fully vaccinated and those performing without masks undergo testing prior to each performance. We ask that in-person audience members be fully vaccinated and request that they wear masks while in our performance spaces. (These policies are subject to change throughout the season based on local health guidelines and mandates, as well as the policies of the venues at which we perform.)
About the Soloists
Soprano Allison Pohl made her professional debut as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro at Boston Lyric Opera. Her work has drawn positive reviews for her “sparkling voice” (outerstage.com) and “exuberant” performances (Opera News). Of her performance in L’elisir d’amore at Virginia Opera, The Washington Post wrote: “Allison Pohl stood out with a ripe, flavorful soprano and ample character." Ms. Pohl made her Seattle Symphony debut as soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah in 2018. In 2022, she will return to Benaroya Hall to perform a set of songs by Richard Strauss with the Seattle Philharmonic, as well as making her Symphony Tacoma debut as soloist in Mozart’s Requiem. She has previously appeared with Tacoma Opera, Vashon Opera, Bremerton Symphony, Opera Providence, Canton Symphony, Opera in the Heights, New Rochelle Opera, Richmond County Orchestra, Shrewsbury Chorale, Camerata Philadelphia, Garden State Philharmonic, Bronx Opera, North Shore Music Festival, Buck Hill Skytop Music Festival, One World Symphony, Big Apple Baroque and New York City Opera’s education program. A 2016 Seattle Opera Career Grant recipient, she performed in the chamber ensemble of their world-premiere O+E, a modern adaptation of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. Ms. Pohl holds degrees from Boston University and SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music. She also performs with Soprello, a chamber duo with cellist Alistair MacRae
Learn more: allisonpohl.com
Soprano Danielle Reutter-Harrah 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 St. 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.
- Learn more: daniellereutter-harrah.com
Countertenor José Luis Muñoz has been described as “a fabulous countertenor” with “amazing, powerful expression.” He has premiered principal roles in Juana (San Francisco), Monticello Wakes (Los Angeles), Yoshinaka (Seattle), Kakitsubata (Köln) and Magda G (for which he was featured in the Los Angeles Times). In concert he has sung Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem and Missa Brevis (K. 275), Bach’s Mass in B minor, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Bernstein’s Missa Brevis. He has appeared with Opera Southwest, Musikpunkt Köln, Portland Symphonic Choir, City Opera Ballet, Orcas Choral Society, Seattle Early Music Guild, E.O.S. Opera (Germany), Federal Way Symphony, Washburn Symphony (Topeka), San Francisco Baroque Opera, First Congregational Church Music Series (Berkeley), Mission Cultural Center (San Francisco), Theater Artaud (San Francisco), Foro Cultural Coyoacanense Hugo Argüelles (Mexico) and the Ludinghaüsen Summer Art Festival (Germany). This season he sings Don Quijote in the the U.S. premiere of Mauricio Sotelo’s opera Dulcinea and returns to Opera Modesto to sing The Owl in Hector Armienta’s Bless Me, Ultima. Mr. Muñoz is a soloist at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Seattle and teaches voice, piano and viola.
- Learn more: joseluismunoz.com
Tenor Brendan Tuohy has been praised by The Cincinnati Post for his “big, bold tenor edged with silver,” and he continues to move audiences both in the U.S. and overseas. Recent appearances include Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore with Tacoma Opera, David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion with Eugene Opera, and the role of Rent-a-Cop in the world premiere of Evan Mack’s Yeltsin in Texas. In 2018 he returned to the Grant Park Music Festival to sing Haydn’s Theresienmesse, following a 2017 performance of Beethoven’s Ninth. Other engagements have included Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince with Opera Theater Oregon, Haydn’s The Seasons and Handel’s Messiah with Harmonia, Britten’s War Requiem at the University of Washington, and the iSing International Music Festival in Suzhou, China. He has performed on the opera stage at Eugene Opera, City Opera Bellevue, Vashon Opera and Berlin Opera Academy, and in concert with the Oregon Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Pacific MusicWorks and Symphony Tacoma. Mr. Tuohy completed his academic training at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with a master’s degree in vocal performance. In 2008, he had the honor of singing and competing in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Semi-Finals in New York City.
- Learn more: brendan-tuohy.com
Baritone Darrell J. Jordan has been praised for his “shining, beautiful voice” (Broadway World), “expressive baritone and facial expressions” (The SunBreak), and as “the star of the show” (Columbia Heart Beat). He holds a B.A. in both Psychology and Music and a M.M. in Voice Performance from the University of Missouri, and a D.M.A. in Voice Performance from the University of Washington. Before matriculating at the UW, he served on the faculty at the University of Missouri, Swinney Conservatory of Music, Columbia College and Stephens College. This season he sings Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos with Barn Opera, Montano in Otello and Don Fernando in Fidelio with Pacific Northwest Opera, Carmina Burana with Tacoma City Ballet, and Huntley Beyer’s World Out of Balance with Harmonia. Recent engagements include Tacoma Opera, Wilmington Concert Opera, Missouri Symphony, Southside Philharmonic, Toledo Symphony, Thalia Symphony and Olympia Chamber Orchestra. He can be heard on the album St. Lawrence Psalter as well as two upcoming albums from the Seattle Art Song Society, and is a member and co-artistic director of the nationally recognized, award-winning professional vocal chamber ensemble Vox Nova.
- Learn more: darrelljjordan.com
When Music Sounds
Bristow was born in August 1969 in Versailles, Kentucky, and currently resides in Tacoma. She composed this work in 2020 as the result of a commission from Harmonia, which premiered the second movement on August 1, 2021, under the direction of William White. The complete work receives its first performance this evening. 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, then Orchestra Seattle and now the Harmonia Orchestra), 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
Magnificat in D major, BWV 243
Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, on March 21, 1685, and died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750. He composed the original version of his Magnificat for use during church services on Christmas Day 1723, revising the work sometime between 1728 and 1731. In addition to SSATB soloists and SSATB chorus, Bach utilizes 2 flutes, 2 oboes (both doubling oboe d’amore), 3 trumpets, timpani, strings and continuo.
In 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach took up a new post in Leipzig, where he would reside for the rest of his life — in spite of the often unpleasant treatment he received from city officials, which caused him to actively seek other employment on more than one occasion. As cantor of St. Thomas’ School and music director for the city’s four churches, his responsibilities included producing roughly 60 cantatas a year for weekly services and feast days. During his first year in Leipzig, Bach composed almost 40 new cantatas and re-worked about 20 others from among his pre-existing compositions. In addition, he planned extra-special music for both Christmas 1723 (a Magnificat) and Good Friday 1724 (the St. John Passion).
In Luke 1, Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. Upon Mary’s greeting, the child leaps inside Elizabeth’s womb, prompting the expectant mother to commend Mary’s faith. Mary’s response (Luke 1:46—55) in praise of the Lord forms the text of Magnificat, to which the Doxology is appended. Churchgoers during Bach’s time would typically sing this canticle in German (and in plainchant), but high feast days dictated the use of Latin, sung to fully composed music.
The original 1723 version of Bach’s Magnificat, in E♭ major, interpolated four Christmas hymns. A few years later, Bach reworked the piece slightly, excising the interpolations to allow the piece to be used on any feast day, not just at Christmas. His other significant modification involved transposing the work down a half-step to D major, a highly festive key that benefits from the sound of open strings and better suits the brilliant trumpet writing that begins and concludes the work.
In the opening movement, a jubilant orchestral ritornello bookends a concise 45-measure choral setting of Mary’s assertion of her faith (“My soul magnifies the Lord”). There follows an aria for the second soprano, still in D major and in a sprightly 3/8 meter, featuring a central minor-key episode for a 41-note vocal run on the word “salutari.” (Bach often employed symbolism in his music, and in the numerical alphabet equivalency prevalent at the time A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, , H = 8, I = J = 9, ,S = 18, so that B+A+C+H = 14 while J+S+BACH = 9+18+14 = 41.)
The rejoicing gives way to a more contemplative aria (in the somber key of B minor) in which the first soprano sings Mary’s words about her “low estate,” engaging in a duet with solo oboe d’amore (pitched a minor third lower than a standard oboe). In the last segment, the vocal line becomes simpler as Mary predicts that future generations will consider her blessed.
Bach takes advantage of the fact that the words “all generations” fall at the end of the Latin phrase, using this moment to bring back all of the voices in the choir, which initiates a brief but thrilling fugue with a musical motive that appears exactly 41 times. Bach repeats the first of the two words (“omnes, omnes generationes”) so that, as Kenneth Kilfedder has noted, each new “omnes” overlaps the preceding “‑tiones,” just as the generations overlap throughout time.
A stately bass aria in A major, accompanied by continuo only, leads to an E-minor duet for alto and tenor in 12/8 meter against sighing phrases from flutes and muted strings. The choir and the full force of the three trumpets and timpani return to evoke “strength.” Bach staggers the vocal entrances for the word “dispersit” but the choir aligns to shout a single “superbos,” at which point the tempo suddenly switches gears from an implied allegro to an expansive adagio for seven of the most amazing measures not only in this piece — but in all of Bach’s choral writing.
Solo tenor engages in a stern aria, marked by descending phrases on the opening word “deposuit” (answered by running sixteenth-note figures from unison violins) as the mighty are deposed from their seats of power. Two flutes provide a pastoral accompaniment for the alto aria that follows; at the very end, Bach sends the flutes “away empty” along with “the rich” by omitting their final cadence, concluding with a single note from the continuo. Next, the upper three solo voices (parts sung by boys in Bach’s time — the Latin word “puerum” translates literally as “boy”) create a magical texture against which unison oboes intone the melody of the chorale Meine Seel’ erhebt den Herren (a German-language setting of the Magnificat text familiar to Leipzigers of Bach’s time).
The chorus returns for a fugue in an “old-fashioned” style (with only continuo accompaniment) employed by Bach’s musical predecessors, perhaps in response to the mention of “our fathers” dating back to Abraham: unlike “Omnes generationes,” this fugue looks backward rather than forward. The final movement opens grandly, with ascending vocal lines rising toward the heavens in praise of the Holy Trinity. At the words “as it was in the beginning,” Bach reprises 23 measures of material from the opening movement to conclude in a joyful blaze of D major.
— Jeff Eldridge