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Release: Oct. 27, 2000

Kantorei will sample the breadth and depth of American music in free concert Nov. 11

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- American music, from the hymns of the early settlers and the spirituals of the first African-Americans to the latest work of the University of Iowa faculty, will provide the program for Kantorei in their first concert of the 2000-2001 season, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The premier vocal ensemble of the UI School of Music, Kantorei performs under the leadership of UI Director of Choral Activities Timothy Stalter. Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Eberle, a member of the UI faculty, will be a soloist on the concert, which will be free and open to the public.

Two of America’s most revered composers, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, are represented on the program, along with a new piece by UI faculty member David Gompper and arrangements of hymns and spirituals.

"We wanted to provide a sample -- and it’s only a sample -- of American music, in all its diversity and hybrid vigor," Stalter said. "There’s much more, of course, but these works are indicative of the breadth and depth of American music."

The concert will be presented in four parts: the Missa Brevis (Short Mass) of Leonard Bernstein; ""Cædmon’s Hymn" by David Gompper; "In the Beginning" by Aaron Copland, performed in honor of the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth; and a selection of "American Hymns and Spirituals" as arranged for mixed choir by Alice Parker and conductor Robert Shaw.

"Shaw, who died last year, was one of the most influential American musicians of his generation" Stalter commented. "Through his work as conductor and teacher he helped raise the level of choral singing in America, and he was associated with many of the most important musicians in this country since the 1940’s. This concert is dedicated to some of these associations."

A composer, conductor, author, lecturer and pianist, Bernstein had an extremely eclectic compositional style that drew from American popular music and jazz as well as classical models. In 1955 Bernstein wrote French and Latin choruses for "The Lark," a play adapted by Lillian Hellman from an original French play by Jean Anouilh. The incidental music for "The Lark" was written in a medieval style in order to capture the ambiance of this story of Joan of Arc.

Shaw attended one of the performances and suggested to Bernstein that this music could become a Missa Brevis. Thirty-three years later Bernstein presented Shaw with the completed Missa Brevis in honor of his retirement as Musical Director of the Atlanta Symphony orchestra.

"Cædmon’s Hymn," the earliest known Old English poem, was written between 657 and 680. The poet Cædmon, who was formerly unable to sing, had a dream in which he sang this hymn. On awaking he made known his new gift of song to the Abbess Hild, who instructed him to become a monk. He did so, and wrote many other poems on religious subjects.

Gompper’s setting of "Cædmon’s Hymn" is in three main sections, attempting to mirror the three phrases of Cædmon’s life; his life as a cowherd, the night in which he received the divine gift of song and poetry, and his vocation to this passion for his remaining years.

Aaron Copland is one of the most popular and recognizably American composers of the 20th century. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Copland gained attention with a series of works with distinct American traits, including the use of jazz and an "American sound" that used simple harmonies and folk melodies. This harmonic language is evident in his composition "In the Beginning," written in 1947 for the Harvard Symposium on Music Criticism. The text is taken from the biblical account of creation, Genesis I:1 through II:7. Among Copland’s choral works "In the Beginning" is the most difficult and the most significant.

Parker and Shaw have long been known in the choral profession as great arrangers of folk tunes. The pieces on the Kantorei program are but just a few of the many songs arranged for the Robert Shaw Chorale in the late 1950s and ‘60s. For well over three decades these arrangements continue to be enjoyed for their sincerity and lack of excessiveness in style. Alice Parker was first a student of Robert Shaw and later became his conducting assistant for the Robert Shaw Chorale.

Stalter joined the UI faculty as director of choral activities in 1999. He directs Kantorei, teaches graduate conducting courses and administers the graduate program in choral conducting. He has research interests in teaching conducting to undergraduate and graduate students and historical music performance practices. An active member of the American Choral Directors Association, he frequently presents clinics and workshops in choral conducting around the United States.

In addition to conducting and teaching choral music, Stalter is active as a tenor soloist in the United States and abroad. A specialist in the music of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods, he is known for his performances as the Evangelist in the Passions of J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz. He has appeared as tenor soloist with the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in France and the Robert Shaw Chamber Choir in Atlanta, and he recorded as tenor soloist with Shaw on two compact discs released on the Telarc label.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Eberle has performed internationally in opera, concert and solo recitals. She has performed with the opera theater of Lille, France, the Academy of the West, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Aspen Festival Opera Theatre, the American Institute of Music Studies in Graz, Austria, and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. She made her New York debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 1993. In 1994 and ‘95 she toured as a musical ambassador for the United States Information Agency, performing in South America and Korea.

Gompper joined the music theory and composition faculty of the UI School of Music in 1991. He has received numerous awards for his academic and musical achievements. His "Lament for Bosnia" was premiered in 1998 by the UI Symphony and Choruses as part of "Global Focus: Human Rights ’98," the UI’s year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. More recently, he presented a faculty recital of his works in Clapp Recital Hall Sept. 27.

For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu>.