May 022012
 

Greetings and Program Notes from the Director

Welcome to the Stambaugh Chorus Spring Concert-2012!

When we look around in this country, we see all sorts of people from around the world. In a sense we are all immigrants from distant lands. The only difference is whether you are the first generation of immigrants or their descendants. Regardless of where we live, we are people on a journey away from home.

The familiarity of home brings us comfort. At home, all is in a familiar place in a familiar order and we understand certain expectations. As a foreigner, everything is unfamiliar including language, culture, food and expectations. In learning other languages and cultures we become more comfortable with people living those languages and cultures. I believe that culture is a matter of taste, learning and experience. Here lies the genesis of the “Many Voices, One World” program. When we learn, sing and listen to the songs of distant lands with different cultures and languages, we get one step closer to understanding people of distant lands. In addition, through the process of learning and singing those songs, we become richer in culture.

Last year when preparing for this program, I was curious about the different ethnicities of our members. After taking some time to assemble their backgrounds, I discovered more than 40 different ethnic origins. As a person from a country of single ethnicity, to me it was quite shocking. Stambaugh Chorus members drawing their roots from over 40 different distant lands gather and make beautiful harmony every Tuesday evening here in this auditorium. For this concert I wanted to represent the very group singing here today, a microcosm of greater Youngstown. As a result, I selected 15 songs from different countries and backgrounds, including nine different languages. A good starting point to accepting others can be learning their cultures and languages. We may be able to familiarize ourselves with different cultures, stories, and different languages tonight through hearing those songs. It is my sincere hope that our audience has a deep level of cultural experience through each and every song of the program.

As we live in a land of many immigrants, today’s program begins with two songs about coming to America. Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears shares the story of a fifteen-year-old girl arriving at Ellis Island in 1892 with hope and tears. When Ellis Island was closed in 1943

seven million people had passed through its gate for sanctuary in the United States.

The lyrics of the second song, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, were taken from the inscription on the Statue of Liberty written by Emma Lazarus. It is a song which is deeply attached to yearning freedom in a new land: “Give me your tired, your poor….Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

With the next group of songs, we will travel through the distant lands. Our first destination is Western Europe where most of us came from. First we visit Scottish/Irish country to hear a love song I Know Where I’m Goin’. This song is about a woman pining for her “bonnie” lover Johnny.

The next song is Celtic Mouth Music, which is music straight from the heart and the mouth. From its inception, Celtic mouth music was a music meant to fill the gaps created by poverty, religious oppression, and/or a lack of good instrumentalists. Can you hear how the rhythms make the music?

The third is a Gypsy Song from Vier Zigeunerlieder (1891) by Brahms. The Romantics’ fascination with Gypsy life and lore was not only an aspect of the craze for the exotic, but also of the attractiveness of the emotional directness in the words and the music: “fair and bright the heavens above, fairer, brighter your eyes my love….Sun’s kisses heat the earth around! Warmer love from your kisses found!” Brahms used free translations (by Hugo Conrat) of Hungarian Gypsy songs that German Romantics regarded as authentic folk songs.

Now we move south to Italy to hear Funiculi, Funicula. It was composed to commemorate the opening of the first funicular cable car on Mount Vesuvius in 1880. The premiere of the song was met with huge success and it continues to be one of the most beloved songs by Italians. The original Italian lyrics celebrate the festive occasion with witty and dynamic texts such as “Yesterday evening, O Nannina, I climbed up, Do you know where? To where an ungrateful heart can no longer vex me! Where a fire is burning, but if you flee it lets you be. Let’s go to the top, funiculi, funicula!”

The following songs are representative of Northern and Eastern Europe. First we visit the country of Sweden to hear Hugo Alfven’s A Maiden Is In a Ring, a beloved Swedish dance song. It is about a humorous love story where a maid’s brothers shoot 15 rifles at the run-away groom at the end of the story. Listen to the rifle shooting sound “pang, pang” at the end of the song.

Now we move to Russia to hear Orthodox Church music, Blagoslovi, dushe moya, Ghospoda (Bless the Lord, my soul) composed by Ippolitov-Ivanov. The song is from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Opus 37, published in 1903. The text is taken from Psalms 103:1-6.

This leads us to a mountainside in Poland to hear Regle (Forests), a song from the beautiful Tatra Mountains of Poland. The people of this region are called Gorale. That translates to Tatra Mountaineers. They are primarily sheepherders and a very proud people who live through harsh winters and enjoy beautiful but short summers. Regle is traditionally sung by a girl. Imagine standing in a clearing on a mountainside overlooking a valley. She would sing out strongly, hoping to hear her own voice echo back.

To close our trip to Europe, we will experience a polka. Polka is a Bohemian dance (originated c. 1830) in quick double meter with characteristic rhythms. As it soon spread salons all over Europe, it may not be an overstatement to call it a lively Central European dance. Don Large’s Springtime Polka shares the joy of having springtime again after a long winter, using polka rhythm and a brisk tempo: “Comes the time when the grass is green, old man winter cannot be seen. That’s the time when the folks convene to dance the springtime polka.”

In our next grouping, we momentarily return to America to hear a Native American Indian song. The words and melody of Lakota Wiyanki (Beautiful Women) was caught by C. Willowbrook and given to her friend, Gail Woodside, an Apache Nation musician and artist. Gail then gave it to Judy Herrington to be arranged, published and enjoyed by others. Here we can experience a beautiful pentatonic melody carrying American Indian’s thought and heartfelt emotion echoed over American landscape: “Hey ya hey ya hey ya yo.”

Now we move to the Middle East where many people live under ongoing war conditions. Nurit Hirsch is one of Israel’s leading songwriters, and her songs have become standard in Israeli and Jewish culture. Bashana Haba’ah (Next Year) looks forward with optimism to a period of normalcy, untroubled by fears of war: “Next year we will sit on the porch and count the migrating birds. Children on vacation will play catch between the house and the fields. You will yet see how good everything will be in the coming year.”

From the far Eastern Asian nation, Korea, we bring you next a soothing lullaby, Suhm-jeeb Ah-gee (Island Child). This is one of those songs that strikes the heart of every Korean, evoking emotional childhood memories. The slow 6/8 meter and running 16th notes of the accompaniment represent the gentle breeze and ocean waves while telling about an anxious mother’s rush to return to her sleeping child.

Our final destination is South Africa. We will hear a South African freedom song in the Zulu language. In addition, Hope for Resolution is a celebration of diversity in its juxtaposition of a European chant melody and an anti-apartheid song from South Africa. The arrangement reflects our respect for divergent musical styles and points us toward our innate potential for peaceful coexistence.

Now we are back home ending our musical journey of the world here in the United States of America. We have heard heart-felt stories and songs from distant lands and cultures in different languages. The Stambaugh Chorus not only represents many voices from distant lands, but also signifies one world living together here in harmony. Through our music we have learned to listen to other voices before singing out with our own. Yet in singing out, we have shown respect to those around us—not singing too loudly or too softly, but blending in harmony. Therefore we end the program with We Are the World. We want to say that “We are all a part of God’s great big family, and the truth, you know, love is all we need. We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones to make a brighter day, so let’s start giving.…” We would like you to join us.

—Hae-Jong Lee, Director of Stambaugh Chorus

written on April 27, 2012