Program Notes

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Heralded as having “one of the most gorgeous baritones on earth” by The Dallas Morning News, baritone Jason Awbrey is a two-time Grammy nominated choral artist and concert singer. His lyric voice has garnered critical acclaim for his performances of literature ranging from the early Renaissance period through the 21st century. In a recital with Voces Intimae to honor the late Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Scott Cantrell of The Dallas Morning News wrote “everything sounded so easy, so natural” and “[it] was sheer magic.” He has performed with professional ensembles throughout the US, Mexico, and Europe, including the Grammy award-winning ensembles Conspirare and experimental vocal octet Roomful of Teeth, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, LA Philharmonic, San Antonio Symphony, Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Bach Society, Texas Camerata, Ars Lyrica of Houston, The Orchestra of New Spain, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Orpheus Chamber Singers, Verdigris Ensemble, and Vox Humana. Jason has recorded with numerous ensembles and appears on Conspirare’s Grammy-nominated albums, The Poet Sings: Pablo Neruda and The Hope of Loving: Choral Music of Jake Runestad.

For over 1000 years, music has played an important role in official royal occasions in British history – from coronations to funerals to weddings. Written for the 1981 wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer in St. Paul Cathedral by Welsh composer William Mathias, Let the People Praise Thee, O God is an ebullient setting of Psalm 67. Buoyant, syncopated organ music supports the jubilant choral writing in the opening and closing sections. Mathias sets the prayerful text, “God be merciful unto us” as a tender melody passed from high to low voices, accompanied by a rocking motion in the organ.


Maurice Duruflé was renowned as a virtuoso organist. He was a fastidious composer, whose small but significant oeuvre has become firmly established in concert repertoire. Requiem was originally a commission for an organ mass, but upon the death of his father, Duruflé chose to complete it as a Requiem Mass. Although completed in 1947, only within the last several decades has the work begun to take its rightful place among the major choral masterworks.


Duruflé wrote in unpublished program notes for a 1980 concert... "This Requiem is composed entirely on the Gregorian themes of the Mass for the Dead. Sometimes the musical text has been respected in full, the orchestra intervening only to sustain or to comment on it; sometimes I was simply inspired by it or sometimes removed myself from it altogether... This Requiem is not an ethereal work which sings of detachment from earthly worries. It reflects, in the immutable form of the Christian prayer, the agony of man faced with the mystery of his ultimate end. It is often dramatic, or filled with resignation, or hope, or terror, just as the words of the Scripture themselves which are used in the liturgy. It tends to translate human feelings before their terrifying, unexplainable or consoling destiny. It represents the idea of peace, of Faith, and of Hope." 


The subtle rhythms and fluid lines of Gregorian chant permeate the whole work, but they are personalized by the colors, harmonies, and rhythms of a deeply religious 20th-century musician. The work is conceived as a whole, with very few moments of repose; there is always a sense of movement, of continuing for eternity. This is achieved through carefully structured layers of rhythms, through harmonic ambiguity caused by simultaneously mixing Gregorian modal rhythms with traditional major-minor tonality, and by nuances of color and harmony created by adding unresolved tones to primary chords. Like the requiems of Brahms and Fauré, Duruflé chose to adhere closely to the central themes of the requiem mass: peace, light, hope, and rest. Consequently, he omits all but the final verses of the dramatic and terrifying sequence Dies Irae and includes only the Pie Jesu. Although most of the Dies Irae is a stern call for repentance, the final verses, "Pie Jesu Domine," are a gentle prayer for eternal rest. Duruflé's setting evokes the awareness of the fallible human soul and has an earthly, humble attitude similar to that of the Sanctus.


He also adds two movements to the traditional Requiem Mass; Libera me, which is a responsory sung during the Burial Rite, and In Paradisum, which would be sung while the coffin is being carried to the grave after the Requiem Mass and after the Rite of Absolution, (Libera Me.) In Paradisum is a prayer of ascent into paradise, which is portrayed through the use of soprano voices and a tone cluster slowly built from the bass up in the opening three measures. The purity, peacefulness, and unending nature of the final chord is a masterful summary of this Requiem seeking peace and eternal rest. The unresolved tones eloquently depict the flight of the soul to paradise, the ultimate answer of Faith to all the questions. –


Gabriel Fauré is best known today for his Requiem, but his second most famous choral work is his Cantique de Jean Racine, which he composed while a student at the École Niedermeyer, a college that specialized in preparing for careers in religious music. The piece won his school’s first prize for composition in 1865. Originally composed for four-part mixed chorus and organ, the work was revised in 1866 for chorus, harmonium and string quintet, and then fully orchestrated in 1906. John Rutter’s transcription for harp and strings is the version we are performing this evening. The piece is named for Jean Racine (1639–1699), a leading French dramatist during the time of Louis XIV, who translated an ancient Latin hymn into French. Cantique​ displays Fauré’s gift for restrained, serene melody. The musical simplicity and emotional allure of this setting perfectly complement and harmonizes with the power of Racine’s poetry.


Karl Jenkins is one of the most performed living composers in the world. Born in Wales and educated at Cardiff University and the Royal Academy of Music, London, Jenkins writes music that transcends musical boundaries encompassing jazz-rock, the global crossover phenomenon Adiemus, soundtracks for Levis jeans and British Airways, movie scores, and classical music. In addition to Adiemus, his best-known works are The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, and his Requiem.


The Te Deum’s title is taken from the opening line, Te Deum laudamus, which translates as We praise you, O God. The text, which dates from the 9th century or earlier, has been set to music by many composers, including Haydn, Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, Dvorák, Britten, and Handel. Jenkins composed his setting on a commission by the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union in 2008. He conducted the premiere on November 30, 2008, with the choir and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Philharmonic Hall.

A review noted:

What he has created is a joyous, theatrical piece of music, from the opening Bernstein/Gershwinesque rhythmic fanfare, through a sweeping, lyrical vocal line to a march-like Sanctus with the massed voices emulating the beat of percussion's drum, and trumpets spiralling over the top in a Penny Lane-style voluntary.


The 5 movements flow together without break