I will lie down in autumn
let birds be flying
Swept in a hollow by the wind
-- In Autumn, music by Gwyneth Walker, poetry by May Swenson
As the birds fly and grass and leaves turn, it is once again time for the Melodia Women’s Choir holiday concert -- an autumn tradition since 2004, when New York City’s premier choir for female voices first debuted on the choral scene. A hallmark of any Melodia concert from the past decade is the choir’s emphasis on searching out rare and unique pieces, taking programmatic risks, and featuring women composers, lyricists, musicians and performers from across the musical spectrum. This season’s concert “Windsong” is no different, as the choir highlights the music of composer Gwyneth Walker, performing her setting of May Swenson’s poem In Autumn.
“I’m very excited about In Autumn,” says choir director Cynthia Powell, “It’s a moody piece, steeped in the realization that summer has ended and that submission to the inevitable coming of winter is really the only way to deal with what’s ahead. In so doing, the singer becomes one with nature—the leaves, the migrating birds, the snow, the sky.”
Fans of Walker should note that several of the composer’s works, including the world premiere of This Train, are a part of the DCINY concert series at Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall on November 29.
Another composition Melodia is looking forward to performing is the very interesting Ubi Caritas, a Gregorian chant-influenced work from the young Norway-to-New York transplant Ola Gjeilo. It’s an exciting new piece that Powell says is, “absolutely exquisite,” and an excellent example of the kind of fresh, new work Melodia often pairs alongside classics.
This year, that "classic" is audience favorite, Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, here arranged by the composer for treble choir. Though originally popularized by male choirs, women’s voices bring a light and peaceful warmth to the well-loved, familiar harmonies and devotional texts perfect for the holiday season.
And what would the holiday season be without snow? It’s the inspiration for several works for “Windsong,” including Reginald Unterseher's First Snow, Alan Bullard's Snow, E. J. Moeran's Icicles Hang By The Wall and Edward Elgar's The Snow. Elgar’s sweet composition The Snow is set to poem by his wife, Alice. “The snow is a metaphor for the purity of the soul, and the result is a heartfelt collaboration between Elgar and his wife,” said Powell. Works by Richard Donovan, Harri Wessman and C. Armstrong Gibbs, as well as two works by Claude Debussy, performed by the award-winning pianist and longtime Melodia collaborator Taisiya Puskhar, round out the program.
“We hope to get our audience in the holiday spirit with evocative soundscapes that describe the fall and winter atmosphere,” said Powell. “We’re eager to share these rare choral gems with our audience, as some of the most gifted composers of recent years have contributed works of stunning beauty to the treble voice choral canon.”
The weekend of Melodia's fall season November 22 and 23, also marks the release of the choir’s first commercial recording project, Lullaby, a collection of beautiful and favorite lullabies selected from among the many rare and special works Melodia has performed over the past decade. The dream-weaving pieces for women's voices include works by composers Franz Schubert, Gustav Holst, Sally Lamb McCune (an original Melodia Composer's Commission), Ned Rorem, Eric Whitacre, Charles Villiers Sanford, Veljo Tormis and Paul Csonka. Lullaby will be first available to concertgoers at "Windsong" and at Melodia’s Second Annual Holiday Gift Bazaar.
The Second Annual Holiday Gift Bazaar will feature original art, jewelry, wool-crafts, Kenyan textiles, cards and more, by women artists. The Bazaar will be held in the Chapel at West End Collegiate Church following Sunday’s performance of “Windsong” Admission to the Bazaar is free and all are welcome.
“Melodia’s performance was the highlight of our musical experiences in New York,” said a holiday concertgoer from a previous season. “We enjoy the music, the energy, and the joy.”
Saturday, November 22 at 7:30 PM at Holy Apostles Church, 296 Ninth Avenue (at 28th Street). Reception to follow concert.
Sunday, November 23rd at 3:00 PM at West End Collegiate Church, 245 West 77th Street (at West End Avenue). Second Annual Holiday Gift Bazaar from 4:30 to 6:00 PM.
Tickets are $20 ($15 for seniors and students) and may be purchased in advance at www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 800-838-3006.
Teri Duerr provides publicity for Melodia Women's Choir.