hero_A Choral Tribute to Leonard Bernstein

A Choral Tribute to Leonard Bernstein

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2014
at 4:00 PM
The National Presbyterian Church

Get Tickets for Leonard Bernstein Tribute, October 6 at 4:00pm
Orchestra – $50 / $35 / $25
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We open our 5th season with a tribute to the celebrated American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. The concert will include both beloved and rarely heard choral works by Bernstein, including his 1946 Hashkiveinu for chorus and organ, the French and Latin Choruses from The Lark, and his 1989 Missa Brevis, based on those choruses. In this our anniversary year, we mark the 50th Anniversary of the Chichester Psalms, his 1965 choral masterpiece in a setting for organ, harp, and percussion. We will also present excerpts from Candide and his Mass of 1971.

Appearing as special guests on the program will be the Children’s Chorus of Washington (directed by Joan Gregoryk) and Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio (NPR).  Ms. Totenberg will be the voice of “Joan of Arc” in her narration for The Lark.  The Children’s Chorus of Washington will be featured in selections from Bernstein’s Mass, and will join the Chorale in “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide. Thomas Lynch, a prominent soloist from the Children’s Chorus, will be featured in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.

View program order and read program notes »

Reproductions of holdings from the Library’s extensive collection will be on display including facsimiles of original manuscripts, photographs and letters. The concert will also include the voice of Bernstein himself in a brief audio excerpt from his famous Harvard Norton Lecture series delivered in 1973.

Pre-concert Discussion at 3:00 p.m.

Please join us for a pre-concert discussion moderated by Mark Eden Horowitz, Senior Music Specialist and Curator of the Leonard Bernstein Collection at the Library of Congress. Joining him will be Norman Scribner, Founder and Artistic Conductor Emeritus of the Choral Arts Society; Michael Slon, Director of Choral Programs at the University of Virginia; and, Alicia Kopfstein-Penk, Author of “Leonard Bernstein and his Young People’s Concerts.”

Meet the Guest Artists

The Children’s Chorus of Washington

Children's Chorus of Washington

Children’s Chorus of Washington

Internationally recognized and critically acclaimed for its nineteen-year history of outstanding artistry, the Children’s Chorus of Washington (CCW) has reached five continents through domestic and international tours, recordings, and frequent appearances on public radio and television. Emphasizing artistic excellence, responsibility, and personal development, CCW’s approach fosters students’ growth as young musicians and leaders. Read full biography »

Joan Gregoryk, director, Children’s Chorus of Washington

Joan Gregoryk, founder and artistic director, Children's Chorus of Washington

Joan Gregoryk

Joan Gregoryk, Founder and Artistic Director of the Children’s Chorus of Washington (CCW), is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of children’s vocal music. Ms. Gregoryk has prepared choristers for performances with leading conductors including Christoph Eschenbach, Julian Wachner, Leonard Slatkin, Scott Tucker, Norman Scribner, John Rutter, Valery Gergiev, and Philip Glass.
Read full biography »

Nina Totenberg, narration

Nina Totenberg, NPR (photo by Steve Barrett, NPR)

Nina Totenberg

Nina Totenberg is NPR’s award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR’s critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition. Ms. Totenberg will be the voice of Joan of Arc, providing the narration for our performance of Choruses from The Lark.
Read full biography »

Paul Skevington, keyboard

Organist, Paul Skevington

Paul Skevington

Paul Skevington is a sought after choral accompanist in the Washington, D.C. area, and has an active schedule as a solo performer.  He can be heard on five compact disc recordings, including two with trumpeter Phil Snedecor.  He is soloist on the internationally released Organ Concertos by Joseph Rheinberger on the Naxos label. Organist Paul Skevington has been at St. Luke Parish in McLean since 1993.
Read full biography »

Lee Hinkle, percussion

Lee Hickle, percussion

Lee Hinkle

Lee Hinkle, D.M.A. is a percussionist and baritone vocalist whose percussion playing has been called “rock-steady” by the Washington Post.  Dr. Hinkle is the principal percussionist with the 21st Century Consort, a position he has held since 2012.  He made his Carnegie Hall solo debut in March 2014 with the world premiere performance of Baljinder Sekhon’s Double Percussion Concerto for two percussion soloists and wind ensemble.  The live performance will be released on CD in Fall 2014.
Read full biography »

Susan Robinson, harpist

Susan Robinson, harp

Susan Robinson

Susan Robinson is the principal harpist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, a position she has held since 1995.  She also serves as the principal harpist of the Boston ‘POPS’ Esplanade Orchestra, with whom she has toured the Far East and the US, and she performs frequently with the Boston Symphony and Boston POPS.  Previously, Susan served as the acting principal harpist of Tampa’s Florida Orchestra and the Sarasota Opera Festival.
Read full biography »

Thomas Lynch IV, boy soprano

Thomas Lynch IV

Thomas Lynch IV

Young Thomas Lynch entered the Washington music scene less than a year ago, making his Kennedy Center debut as soloist for Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols under the direction of Joan Gregoryk, Founder and Artistic Director of the acclaimed Children’s Chorus of Washington (CCW), where Mr. Lynch is a member of the Concert and Chamber Choruses.
Read full biography »

James Rogers, baritone soloist

James Rogers, baritone

James Rogers

Hailed by The Washington Post as a “superb soloist” with a “sensitively turned lyric baritone”, Washington, D.C.-based James Rogers has been active in genres ranging from Viennese operetta to classical Lieder to challenging new works of the 21st century.
Read full biography »

Lena Seikaly, alto soloist

Lena Seikaly, alto soloist

Lena Seikaly

Lena Seikaly is a native of Falls Church, Virginia. She holds a B.M. in vocal performance from the University of Maryland School of Music, where she was a student of renowned bass-baritone Francois Loup, and appeared as a featured mezzo-soprano and alto soloist in several choral and orchestral performances.
Read full biography »

Additional instrumentalists include Kathryn Farenish, flute (“Simple Song”), and Danny Villanueva, percussion.

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Joan Gregoryk

Joan Gregoryk

Joan Gregoryk, Founder and Artistic Director of the Children’s Chorus of Washington (CCW), is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of children’s vocal music. Ms. Gregoryk taught for many years at Chevy Chase Elementary School where her work with the school’s chorus won her considerable acclaim within professional music organizations, as well as invitations to perform in the United States and Europe. She prepared members of the Chevy Chase Chorus for the Grammy Award-nominated CD and film soundtrack recording of Mussorgsky’s Boris Gudunov with Mstislav Rostropovich and the National Symphony Orchestra. Building on this accomplishment, she founded CCW in 1995 with the goal of developing the top children’s vocal ensemble in metropolitan Washington, DC. Since then, Ms. Gregoryk has prepared choristers for performances with leading conductors including Christoph Eschenbach, Julian Wachner, Leonard Slatkin, Scott Tucker, Norman Scribner, John Rutter, Valery Gergiev, and Philip Glass.

Ms. Gregoryk is in constant demand as a workshop leader and guest conductor throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. She has conducted numerous district and state children’s honors choruses and the American Choral Directors Association Children’s Chorus in the Southern, Southwestern, and Eastern Divisions. Since 2000, she has regularly conducted the Prague Children’s Music Festival.

A leading authority on children’s vocal development and children’s choruses, Ms. Gregoryk has taught numerous courses and authored formative texts and publications on these subjects. She has received many honors including Outstanding Arts Educator in the United States from the Rockefeller Brothers Funds Awards in Arts Education, the Washington Area Music Award (Wammies), the Greater Washington Choral Excellence Award, the Maryland Outstanding Elementary Music Educator Award, and the Conservatory Medal of Excellence from Shenandoah University. She holds both a Bachelor of Music from St. Catherine University where she received an Outstanding Alumnae Award, and a Master of Arts in Music Education from the University of Maryland. Ms. Gregoryk is an Artist-Teacher Associate at the Choral Music Experience Institute founded by Dr. Doreen Rao.

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Children's Chorus of Washington

Children’s Chorus of Washington

Internationally recognized and critically acclaimed for its nineteen-year history of outstanding artistry, the Children’s Chorus of Washington (CCW) has reached five continents through domestic and international tours, recordings, and frequent appearances on public radio and television. CCW’s highly-regarded music education programs engage and educate vocalists ages 6 to 18 regardless of background, financial resources, or prior experience. Emphasizing artistic excellence, responsibility, and personal development, CCW’s approach fosters students’ growth as young musicians and leaders.

CCW’s mission is to provide the best choral music experience to young people in the nation’s capital through exceptional educational programs, performance opportunities, and community partnerships. From CCW’s beginning PREP Classes to our more advanced performing ensembles, students learn how to use their singing voice in a healthy and artistic manner, and are taught to read music through the Kodaly-based pedagogical approach. Choristers begin by learning to read and sing simple melodies and advance to reading and singing full musical phrases. They gain an understanding of many musical genres by singing choral music written by composers representing a range of styles and cultures.

The Chorus made its debut at the Kennedy Center in November 1996, and the next year, at the invitation of former Music Director Leonard Slatkin, performed the Washington and New York premieres of Gabriel Pierné’s The Children’s Crusade, with the National Symphony Orchestra, The Washington Chorus, and members of the Chevy Chase School Chorus at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. Since that time, CCW has grown to encompass five auditioned ensembles, comprised of more than 160 young singers representing over 90 public and private schools throughout metropolitan Washington, DC.

CCW performs frequently in self-produced concerts and at a variety of public and private engagements throughout greater Washington, DC. Recent performances include a concert at the White House for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Louis Andriessen’s La Commedia with Great Noise Ensemble at the National Gallery of Art, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, Britten’s War Requiem with Julian Wachner and The Washington Chorus, Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier with Renée Fleming and the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, and Made in America, part of the Kennedy Center’s Voices of our Nation Festival with The Choral Arts Society, The Washington Chorus, and Great Noise Ensemble.

CCW also powerfully influences the evolution of youth choral repertoire through its history of commissions, including the Opera The Nightingale by Imant Raminsh, and works by Ysaye Barnwell, David Brunner, Stephen Hatfield, and Olli Kortekangas. CCW’s most recent commission, Wonderful Day Out With Nature by Emmy Award-winning composer Nathan Wang, was premiered during CCW’s China tour in 2013.

CCW recognizes the tremendous need for high-quality choral music education in metropolitan Washington and is committed to providing choral training to the broader DC community through SING DC, which offers vocal music training to students at Title 1 public schools at no cost to the students or schools, PREP Class which provides age-appropriate music education to first-time singers ages 6-9, and Teacher Workshops that offer professional development to local teachers who want to enhance the vocal ensembles in their schools. CCW offers scholarships so students who wish to participate in one of the performing ensembles are able to do so regardless of their family’s financial resources.

Every other year, members of the Concert Chorus and Young Men’s Ensemble tour internationally. In July 2002, the Chorus performed in the European Children’s Chorus Festival in Vienna, Salzburg, and Prague. CCW participated in the Melodia! Children’s Music Festival during its 2006 tour to Brazil and Argentina. On its first independent international tour to Italy in 2008, the choristers sang at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome among other spectacular venues. In 2010, CCW traveled to South Africa to perform in the Ihlombe South African Choral Festival. For CCW’s 10-day tour to China in July 2013, in addition to the commissioned work by Nathan Wang, the choristers learned popular Chinese folk songs that they sang in Mandarin.

Children’s Chorus of Washington has been selected as “one of the best small charities in the Washington, D.C. region” for 2010-2011 by the Catalogue for Philanthropy, a prestigious honour that recognizes high impact, carefully evaluated, and outstanding community-based non-profits in the area. CCW was recognized by the Washington Area Music Awards (“Wammies”) – Best Choral Group – in 2012 and Greater Washington Area Choral Excellence Awards (“Ovations”) – Best Educational Outreach in 2012 and again in 2014.

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Susan Robinson, harpist

Susan Robinson, harpist

Susan Robinson is the principal harpist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, a position she has held since 1995.  She also serves as the principal harpist of the Boston ‘POPS’ Esplanade Orchestra, with whom she has toured the Far East and the US, and she performs frequently with the Boston Symphony and Boston POPS.  Previously, Susan served as the acting principal harpist of Tampa’s Florida Orchestra and the Sarasota Opera Festival.

Avid performers of chamber music, Susan and her husband, violinist Joseph Scheer, are the founders of the IBIS Chamber Music Society (www.ibischambermusic.org).  Based in Arlington VA, IBIS presents between 6-10 concerts every season and has been praised as “splendid” and “compelling” by the Washington Post.  Susan is featured on the IBIS cd “Souvenir: Music for Violin and Harp”, and performs the Handel Concerto for Harp and the DebussyDanses Sacree et Profane on IBIS’ most recent release, “IBIS x 2”.

Among Susan’s solo engagements are performances of Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with the Opera House Orchestra under Heinz Fricke, and with the Virginia Chamber Orchestra and Emil de Cou.  Susan has also soloed with the Newton (MA) Symphony (William Alwyn’s Lyra Angelica), the Indian Hill Symphony, the New Hampshire Philharmonic, the Rhode Island Chamber Orchestra, and the Dedham (MA) Choral Society.  This season she will appear again with the Virginia Chamber Orchestra, performing Debussy’s Danses Sacree et Profane.

Susan is a graduate of Harvard University with a cum laude degree in Art History and French Literature.  She also holds an Artist Diploma in Harp Performance from the Boston University School for the Arts, where she studied with Lucile Lawrence.  She and Joseph are the parents of Lillie and Nathanael.

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James Rogers, baritone soloist

James Rogers, baritone soloist


Hailed by The Washington Post as a “superb soloist” with a “sensitively turned lyric baritone”, Washington, D.C.-based James Rogers has been active in genres ranging from Viennese operetta to classical Lieder to challenging new works of the 21st century.  He has created several opera roles in his career, including Howard Bright in Kyle Gullings’s Oblivion (2010 Capital Fringe), Father/Narrator in Gregg Martin’s Life in Death (Kennedy Center Millenium Stage; 2009 Capital Fringe), Apollo in Andrew Simpson’s The Furies (2006, Catholic University – guest artist) and Oakhurst in Simpson’s The Outcasts of Poker Flat (2012 Capital Fringe), and John Sloat in Damon Ferrante’s Super Double Lite (2004, SymphonySpace, New York).

Other opera roles include the title role of Don Giovanni (Opera AACC), Danilo Danilowitsch and Baron Mirko Zeta in The Merry Widow (Washington Savoyards, Opera AACC), Uberto in La serva padrona and Sam in Trouble in Tahiti (Inscape Chamber Orchestra), Albert inWerther (Opera Vivente), the Traveler in Curlew River (Cantate Chamber Singers), Lord Mountararat in Iolanthe, Captain Corcoran and Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore (Young Victorian Theatre Company), Escamillo in La tragédie de Carmen, Lescaut in Manon, Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Music Master in Ariadne auf Naxos—the last four at the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Marianna Busching and Wayne Conner. As an oratorio soloist, Mr. Rogers has performed such works as Messiah (Cantate Chamber Singers, the combined choirs of Hood College and the U. S. Naval Academy, Prince George’s Choral Society), The Creation, Dettingen Te Deum (The City Choir of Washington),Carmina Burana (World Bank/IMF Choral Society), J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (New Dominion Chorale) and Magnificat (Reston Chorale) and his cantata, BWV 56 “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen”, as well as the Requiems of Brahms (Washington Summer Sings!) and Fauré (Annapolis Chorale, Library of Congress Chorale). In addition, he has appeared regularly with Urban Arias and on the pops series of the Annapolis Chorale. Between 2009 and 2012, he and a chamber group of other Peabody Conservatory alumni presented Ligeti’s Aventures  and Nouvelles aventures at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia; New York’s 92nd Street Y; and Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, under the baton of Leon Fleisher.

Mr. Rogers is the founder of the Song Club of Washington, whose inaugural program in June 2009 featured three soloists performing the complete songs of Henri Duparc. As a member of the group Festa della Voce, he was heard in recital at such Washington-area venues as the Corcoran Gallery and the Embassies of Italy, Switzerland, and Canada. In solo recital, he has given world or North American premières of works by composers including Mikis Theodorakis, Paul Kletzki, Toby Twining, Richard Lake, and Benjamin CS Boyle.

Upcoming engagements include the title role in Noye’s Fludde with Cantate Chamber Singers and the Mozart Requiem with The Arts Chorale of Winchester (VA).

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Lena Seikaly headshot (for online promo)

Lena Seikaly. alto soloist

Lena Seikaly is a native of Falls Church, Virginia. She holds a B.M. in vocal performance from the University of Maryland School of Music, where she was a student of renowned bass-baritone Francois Loup, and appeared as a featured mezzo-soprano and alto soloist in several choral and orchestral performances. In March of 2008, Lena was named the D.C. chapter winner of the Eleanor Searle Whitney McCollum Vocal Award, sponsored by the National Society of Arts & Letters. She then received fifth place—the “Roberta Peters Award”—at the national level of the competition in May, which was adjudicated by tenor Nathan Gunn, Maestro Joel Revzen, and director of MET Council auditions Gayletha Nichols. Professionally, she has served as the alto soloist and choral section leader at Westmoreland Congregational Church in Bethesda, MD since 2006. She has been a featured soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s Magnificat, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, Debussy’s Trois Chansons, Kodaly’s Missa Brevis, Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, and Duruflé’s Requiem, among many others.

As a jazz vocalist, Lena performs regularly with several D.C.-area jazz bands and leads her own ensembles. Dubbed a “major league young talent in jazz” by Smithsonian jazz curator Dr. John Hasse and “one of Washington’s preeminent jazz singers” (The Washington Post), she has sold out performances at D.C.’s top venues, including Blues Alley, the Strathmore Mansion, the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Carlyle Club, and various Smithsonian venues. She has three jazz albums to her name – “Written in the Stars” (2009), “Lovely Changes” (2011) and “Looking Back” (2013) – the most recent of which was reviewed as “the work of a supremely confident master of her instrument” by the Washington City Paper. Information about jazz performances can be found at www.lenaseikaly.com.

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Nina Totenberg, NPR (photo by Steve Barrett, NPR)

Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio (photo by Steve Barrett, NPR)

Nina Totenberg is NPR’s award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR’s critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

Totenberg’s coverage of the Supreme Court and legal affairs has won her widespread recognition. Newsweek says, “The mainstays [of NPR] are Morning Edition and All Things Considered. But the creme de la creme is Nina Totenberg.” She is also a regular panelist on Inside Washington, a weekly syndicated public affairs television program produced in the nation’s capital.

In 1991, her ground-breaking report about University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas led the Senate Judiciary Committee to re-open Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings to consider Hill’s charges. NPR received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for its gavel-to-gavel coverage — anchored by Totenberg — of both the original hearings and the inquiry into Anita Hill’s allegations, and for Totenberg’s reports and exclusive interview with Hill.

That same coverage earned Totenberg additional awards, among them: the Long Island University George Polk Award for excellence in journalism; the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting; the Carr Van Anda Award from the Scripps School of Journalism; and the prestigious Joan S. Barone Award for excellence in Washington-based national affairs/public policy reporting, which also acknowledged her coverage of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s retirement.

Totenberg was named Broadcaster of the Year and honored with the 1998 Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcasting from the National Press Foundation. She is the first radio journalist to receive the award. She is also the recipient of the American Judicature Society’s first-ever award honoring a career body of work in the field of journalism and the law. In 1988, Totenberg won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for her coverage of Supreme Court nominations. The jurors of the award stated, “Ms. Totenberg broke the story of Judge (Douglas) Ginsburg’s use of marijuana, raising issues of changing social values and credibility with careful perspective under deadline pressure.”

Totenberg has been honored seven times by the American Bar Association for continued excellence in legal reporting and has received a number of honorary degrees. On a lighter note, in 1992 and 1988 Esquire magazine named her one of the “Women We Love”.

A frequent contributor to major newspapers and periodicals, she has published articles in The New York Times Magazine, The Harvard Law Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Parade Magazine, New York Magazine, and others.

Before joining NPR in 1975, Totenberg served as Washington editor of New Times Magazine, and before that she was the legal affairs correspondent for the National Observer.

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Program Order

All works composed by Leonard Bernstein, 1918-1990

Sanctus from “Mass” (1971)

Stephanie Lange, soprano, Laura Choi Stuart, mezzo-soprano, Lena Seikaly, alto
Alexei Ulitin, piano, Paul Skevington, organ, Lee Hinkle, percussion
Children’s Chorus of Washington

Choruses from The Lark (1955)
(The Life of Joan of Arc)
With spoken text based on the play by Jean Anouilh, adapted by Lillian Hellman
Narration adapted by Nathaniel Lew and Louise De Cormier

Robin Steitz, soprano, Lena Seikaly, alto, Lee Hinkle, percussion
with special guest Nina Totenberg as Joan of Arc

Chorus: Prelude / Scene: On the farm
Chorus: Spring Song Part 1 / Scene: In the meadow
Chorus: Spring Song Part 2 / Scene: At court of Charles VII of France
Chorus: Court Song / Scene: Outside Orleans
Chorus: Soldier’s Song / Scene: In a prison cell
Chorus: Requiem / Scene: After the execution
Chorus: Gloria (Coronation Scene)

Ensemble:
Amy Broadbent, soprano, Rachel Carlson, soprano, Shauna Kreidler-Michels, mezzo-soprano, Andrew Hill, tenor, David Gradin, baritone, Brian Isaac, bass

Missa Brevis (1988)
Kyrie / Gloria / Sanctus / Benedictus / Agnus Dei / Dona Nobis Pacem

Lena Seikaly, alto, Lee Hinkle, percussion

INTERMISSION

Hashkiveinu (1945)

James Rogers, baritone, Paul Skevington, organ

Chichester Psalms (1965)
I. Psalm 108, vs 2 Psalm 100, entire (Maestoso ma energico – Allegro molto)
II. Psalm 23, entire Psalm 2, vs 1-4 (Andante con moto ma tranquillo – Allegro feroce – Meno come prima)
III. Psalm 131, entire Psalm 133 vs. 1 (Peacefully flowing)

Thomas Lynch, boy alto
Lee Hinkle, percussion, Susan Robinson, harp, Paul Skevington, organ
Robin Smith, soprano, Lena Seikaly, alto, David Miranda, tenor, David Gradin, bass

Simple Song from “Mass” (1971)

Children’s Chorus of Washington
Joan Gregoryk, conductor

Make Our Garden Grow from Candide (1956)

Amy Broadbent, soprano, James Rogers, baritone, Paul Skevington, organ
Children’s Chorus of Washington

Program Notes

“There’s only one Lenny, and he’s Bernstein.”
—Leonard Slatkin, former Music Director, National Symphony Orchestra

Leonard Bernstein is nothing short of a musical icon. Any attempt to list his many contributions to the American public’s knowledge and appreciation of classical music will surely fall short of its goal; and yet, indulgence is requested for this fool’s errand of litanizing his impact. Bernstein was the first American-born conductor to reach international stature, bringing the New York Philharmonic into a golden age of cultural prominence. Their Young People’s Concerts, televised for over a decade, were the first (and sometimes only) experiences that countless children had with the inner workings of music, and remain popular to this day to people of all ages. Bernstein was instrumental in bringing Mahler’s music to an American audience, and Ives’s to the wider world. He didn’t just make classical music accessible—he made it sexy. In the midst of all of the terrible news surrounding American orchestras and surrounded by new additions to the centuries-long legion of articles forecasting the doom of classical music, we must pause and give thanks for Bernstein’s legacy. One could hardly imagine what today’s audience would be like without the gift of Lenny’s thoroughly public and infectious love of music, shared freely with anyone with ears to listen.

For all of his success as a conductor, Bernstein was a man out of his time when it came to his own compositions. During his life, many in the academic establishment wrote off his works as reactionary for their gauche inclusion of traditional harmony and stylistic borrowing. How could such a passionate (some might proffer the word ‘sentimental’ in whispered hisses) character fit in amongst the stark edifices and heady intellectual purity of mid-20th century modernism? Nearly a quarter century after his death, this patronizing assessment has been turned on its head. Bernstein’s embrace of a wide-reaching eclecticism and socially conscious music making reveals him to be a spiritual forerunner to today’s postmodernists. But this is now, and that was then—it was because of such criticism that much of Bernstein’s music found a safer haven not in the symphony hall, but on Broadway, where the tastes of critics and audiences were on far more even ground.

It is precisely because of Bernstein’s connection with the stage that we choose to bookend tonight’s concert with music from this theatrical tradition. Mass is a work with special connections to our local community, as it was commissioned for the opening of the Kennedy Center. Despite its liturgical title, Mass is actually a stage work requiring a considerable number of multidisciplinary performers. The “Sanctus” presents its ancient prayer in no less than three languages, grounding the vernacular form in its Latin and Hebrew roots. Bernstein first assigns each language its own particular melody, then layers each in both the voices and instruments as a subtle reminder of their shared meaning, heritage, and legitimacy.

The next two works on our program showcase Bernstein’s ability to engage with the sacred via the stage. While working on the operetta Candide, Bernstein was asked by its playwright Lillian Hellman to produce incidental music for her  adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s The Lark. The play takes place during the final days of Joan of Arc, using her trial as a backdrop for a series of flashbacks that tell the story of the young protagonist’s life. Bernstein’s incidental music seeks to  conjure images of Joan’s 15th century France by deliberately referencing the music of her day. One can hear echoes of medieval polyphony in its chamber vocal forces, vacillation between tense dissonances and hollow harmonies, and its heavy reliance on irregular, speech-inspired rhythms. The French choruses evoke the secular world, from rustic folk scenes and marching armies to courtly banality. In contrast, the Latin choruses are music of the church, sometimes reverential, sometimes austere, with two sets of chimes ringing like church towers on either side of the stage. The great American conductor Robert Shaw attended the play’s premiere, remarking that the incidental music could be adapted to the text of the Roman Catholic Mass. Over three decades later, Bernstein took up his colleague’s suggestion, presenting the Missa Brevis, scored for full chorus, as a gift for Shaw’s retirement from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

The dramatic roots of the Missa Brevis impart a certain episodic quality to its structure. The closing “Agnus Dei” is a perfect example of this mosaic-like form, with its sudden alternations between luminous block chords and Renaissance counterpoint. The movement closes, quite unexpectedly, with a country dance to the text of “Dona nobis pacem.” While its shifting rhythms might remind some of “America,” Bernstein is actually reaching back almost half a millenia to reference Le Jeune’s “Revecy venir du printans,” a perky chanson celebrating the arrival of spring. Though his philosophical influences were as myriad as his tastes, Bernstein came from a proud Jewish heritage that left a notable impact on his output. Haskiveinu, commissioned by Cantor Dr. David Putterman for Park Avenue Synagogue, is Bernstein’s only work explicitly written for Jewish worship. One can hear the leadership role of the cantorial tenor soloist from his very first statement, which jump-starts a flurry of imitative choral melodies. These modal canons create a subtly shifting aural canvas to support the cantor’s prayerful recitations, later affirmed by strident proclamations of “l’chayim!” The exuberant leaps of the work’s central section show that, even when within the walls of the Synagogue, Bernstein’s boundless energy is impossible to contain.

Such unstoppable vigor also pervades Bernstein’s most popular sacred work, Chichester Psalms. Interestingly, this thoroughly extroverted piece parodies Stravinsky’s austere Symphony of Psalms in its general structure and concept. Its overall tone, however, could not be more different–Stravinsky’s clean-cut sonorities, rife with woodwinds and punctuated by two pianos, are traded in for expressive harp arpeggios and swinging dance tunes discarded from various musicals. One can even hear the energetic Quintet from West Side Story in the second movement, with Bernstein replacing the feuding Jets and the Sharks with the war cries of heathen nations. Despite the women’s unbroken calm in the sight of their foes, the fate of Psalm 23’s little lamb remains unclear—the brooding threats  refuse to abate, but rather lead into an anxious instrumental reimagining of the first movement’s opening bars. This same music is transformed yet again to close the piece with a magnificent chorale for unaccompanied chorus.

Bernstein’s all-giving, all-encompassing love of his fellow human beings was well documented; at times, it almost seemed out of place for someone of his position. Such innocence could be mistaken for naiveté, and neither was becoming for a conductor of the grand Western canon. Yet, this apparent contradiction vanishes when one considers his ability to dispel the mysteries of the transcendental, sharing its treasures with all around him. Perhaps Bernstein’s pedagogical gifts were an extension of his personal philosophy, one that was as optimistic as it was inclusive. Our final pieces represent a distillation of these values into two concise, powerful gems. Simple Song teems with the ardent faith of childhood, spinning the Latin word for “praise” into a sort of schoolyard improvisation. It portrays a sincere relationship with the divine, one that can never be confused with the trappings of liturgy or the security of dogma.

This return to wholesome existence, grounded in the natural order of things, is at the heart of Bernstein’s operetta Candide. Its titular character, unfailingly upbeat and certain of the benevolent forces governing this, the best of all possible worlds, is sent on a series of perilous and hyperbolic adventures that test his core principles. Bruised and beaten by the world’s travails, he eventually discovers an Eden-like happiness in the simple life, working the land with those dearest to him at his side. “Make Our Garden Grow” serves as the show’s closing moral, precluded by Candide’s touching invitation to his beloved, world-weary Cunegonde: “We will buy a little farm and, casting aside all vain speculations as to the meaning of this meaningless world, we’ll live in harmony together—fulfilling Man’s natural function.”

— Brian Bartoldus

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Brian Bartoldus is a Washington, D.C. area choral conductor serving as the Artistic Director of Third Practice as well as Music Director and Organist of Frederick Presbyterian Church. He holds an MMA from the Yale School of music, as well as undergraduate degrees from Shenandoah Conservatory.

Thomas Lynch IV

Thomas Lynch IV

Young Thomas Lynch entered the Washington music scene less than a year ago, making his Kennedy Center debut as soloist for Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols under the direction of Joan Gregoryk, Founder and Artistic Director of the acclaimed Children’s Chorus of Washington (CCW), where Mr. Lynch is a member of the Concert and Chamber Choruses.  His 2014 engagements included soloist in Bernstein’s Mass at the Kennedy Center in collaboration with The Washington Chorus and The Choral Arts Society of Washington.  He is also scheduled to make his National Symphony Orchestra debut later this month singing selections of Tim Burton’s film scores.

The twelve year old middle schooler is delighted to mark his first appearance with The Washington Master Chorale with this afternoon’s performance.  Thomas is grateful to God for the blessing of a voice that allows him to sing with joy, to his family for their unlimited support, to all his CCW friends with whom he shares the love of music, and to his voice teacher and vocal coach, Amy Ayre, who enabled him to soar.