Programme Notes for The ACJC Alumni Choir Tour 2019

In no particular order:

Damijan Mocnik

Translated literally as “acclamation”, Acclamatio is written by one of the most performed Slovenian composers. This stately song of praise is a palindrome of sorts, with musical motives from the opening unfolding in reverse in the second part. While it begins softly and modestly as in a Gregorian chant, and with all parts in unison, the piece gradually grows in grandeur as different voices build over each other, proclaiming the glory of the Saviour Jesus Christ.

Jesu, Jesu Christe,
Salvator Jesu Christe, benedictus,
Jesu Christe benedictus!

Quia tu um est regnum et potestas,
et gloria in saecula.
Mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, et tuam resurrectionem confitemur donec venias in gloria.

Quia tu um est regnum et potestas,
et gloria in saecula.

Salvator Jesu Christe, benedictus,
Jesu Christe benedictus!
Salvator Jesu Christe, Jesu Christe, Jesu.
Jesus, Jesus Christ,
Saviour Jesus Christ, blessed be,
Jesus Christ blessed be!

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
We proclaim your death, O Lord, and your resurrection until you come again in glory.

For yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever.

Saviour Jesus Christ, blessed be,
Jesus Christ blessed be!
Saviour Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus.

Three Metaphysical Motets
Z. Randall Stroope

In Stroope’s three-movement response to the Metaphysical style of poetry, he brings to life poems by three seminal figures of the genre: George Herbert, Henry Vaughan and John Donne.

With its use of accents and sustained dissonance, The Collar depicts a desperate desire to break free from what Herbert’s speaker believes is a deprived religious life. The voice of God eventually penetrates the shouting and raving, however, and musical tension is finally resolved as the speaker recognises his Lord and master once more.

Stroope’s second motet, set to part of a longer poem by Vaughan, focuses on the juxtaposition of an earthly world of shadow and an enlightened, transcendent state of eternal salvation, with the disparity between the two being portrayed musically in repeated suspension and release.

Using text from one of Donne’s Holy Sonnets, the final movement describes the speaker’s confidence at being ready for the Last Judgment, its spirited rhythm and tempo adding another dimension to the poem’s apocalyptic imagery. The speaker ultimately perceives his need for God’s grace though, and the piece ends with his fervent, frantic plea, asking God to teach him how to repent.

The Collar
I struck the board, and cried, “No more;
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me bleed, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it,
Not so, my heart;
Forsake thy cage,
Away! take heed;
Call in thy death’s-head there; tie up thy fears;
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need
Deserves his load.”
But as I raved and grew more wild
At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Child!
And I replied My Lord.

I Saw Eternity The Other Night
I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world
And all her train were hurl’d.

At The Round Earth’s Imagined Corners
At the round earth’s imagin’d corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scatter’d bodies go;
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o’erthrow,
All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you whose eyes
Shall behold God and never taste death’s woe.
But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space,
For if above all these my sins abound,
‘Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace
When we are there; here on this lowly ground
Teach me how to repent; for that’s as good
As if thou’ hadst seal’d my pardon with thy blood.

The Isaiah Carol
Kim André Arnesen

With text taken from the Book of Isaiah, The Isaiah Carol reflects the supreme peace and profound change the world will face with the Messiah’s coming. Each verse paints a picture of a world without fear, pain and suffering, that is celebrated and affirmed through an Alleluia refrain. The piece gently builds to an ecstatic and radiant climax, marked by the ground clause of Isaiah’s message: “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
Alleluia, alleluia!
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
Alleluia, alleluia!
The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand
into the viper’s nest.
Alleluia, alleluia!
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Alleluia, alleluia!

Tri La Li La
Iskandar Ismail

Written for The ACJC Choir in 2006 by Singaporean composer Iskandar Ismail, Tri La Li La is a Peranakan* folk song with a contemporary joget (traditional Malay dance) feel. As the joget is normally performed at festivals, weddings and other social functions, the song takes on a cheerful, upbeat tempo, while incorporating the celebratory rhythm of the dance as singers call on others in the kampong (village) to be happy and carefree.

*A native Singaporean ethnic group

Baba dan Nyonya gembira!
Tri la li la la Baba
Tri la li la la Nyonya.
Pucuklah pisang si bunga rampei!
Hatiku bimbang hajat tak sampei.

Malam ini malam gembira,
Berjumpa tuan puan tua dan muda.
Bertarik hati sebagai syurga.
Marilah kita bersukaria ah!

Mari bersama kitakan bergembira,
Hiburkan hati dan bersuka ria.

Tri la li la la Baba
Tri la li la la Nyonya.
Pucuklah pisang si bunga rampei!
Baba dan Nyonya berame-rame
Mari bersama!

Happy Baba¹ and Nonya²!
Tri la li la la, Baba
Tri la li la la, Nonya.
The fragrant banana trees are flowering!
Yet my heart is heavy and I am worried.

On this night, this happy night,
I will meet charming men and women,
both old and young.
Let us all have fun!

Let’s be happy together,
Comfort your heart and let’s have fun.

Tri la li la la, Baba
Tri la li la la, Nonya.
The fragrant banana trees are flowering!
All the Baba and Nonya
Come together!

¹ Peranakan men
² Peranakan women

Tread Softly
Kelly Tang

Commissioned in 2015 by The ACJC Choir, Tread Softly is Singaporean Kelly Tang’s setting of William Butler Yeats’s poem He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. The song explores the precious fragility of human intimacy, with the poem’s speaker wishing he could present his beloved with the “cloths of heaven”, the splendour of which is reflected in the piece’s rich layers and dynamic shifts in harmony. However, in the powerful silence following the climax, the speaker reveals he has no lavish fabrics to give and that he can only offer his dreams. The vulnerability of the moment is celebrated in the quiet and simple cadences that bring the music to a close.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Yukamuli-Uta (Song of Spa)
Ko Matsushita

Yukamuli-uta is a rhythmic folk song sung in Japanese onsens (hot springs) that traces its origins to the Edo era in a town, Iwami, in Tottori prefecture. The song pulsates with the repeated motif ya-re, an expression of exhaustion, as workers look to unwind after a long day. The clapping and stamping also mimic the actions of bathers who paddle the surface of the hot water with wooden ladles. In Matsushita’s light-hearted composition, frequenters of the onsen also share the local gossip with each other in order to prolong their time there, allowing them to reap the full benefits of the springs.

Hajimaru tokoro wa Inshu Inaba wa Iwai no onsen Yukamuriuta dayo
Mittsu ni yottsu wa itsudemo muttsu nanna yatsu nara hajime no otoyo

Hajime no otoyo da oto ni nadakai
Tsurugaoka ni te
Nittano okabuto aratame mekiki no yakume wa Kao yo gozen de hana no sugata no yasashi sa
Moronao misomete tamazusa okurita
Mittsu ni yottsu wa itsudemo muttsu nanna yatsu nara hatachi no nesan

Hatachi no nesan ningen sekai wa yume no awayuki neta no ga gokuraku okita no ga jigoku Yo ake no karasu wa Urazato tokijiro mittsu ni yottsu wa itsudemo muttsu nanna yatsu nara Osan no yado de ya

Osan no yado de sankin kotai toji hinode no Ashikaga shogun motenashi yakume ga
Enya hangan Moronao zogon denchu kenka de tsunanaorimono da yo
Madamada yarimasu mattaku

Yarimasu Ohichi wa hayalu toshimada Yaegaki himeni wa Takeda no Katsuyori eko shoto te e ni wa kakasenu hangonko da yo
Mittsu ni yottsu wa itsudemo muttsu nanna yatsu nara oshimai de ari mosu

This is Yukamuli-uta from Iwai in Inshu Inaba
Three, four and we can count five, but six, seven, eight and go back to the first note

The first note is Nitta-no-okabuto in Tsulugaoka, rootin’-tootin’ place of the note.
What is his purpose? Molanao fell for the pretty tender girl and he sent a letter to her.
Three, four, and we can count five, but six, seven, eight then a girl of twenty years old.

For a girl of twenty years old, the real world is a bubble of a dream.
When she is asleep it is paradise, but when she is awake it changes into hell.
Urazato tokijilo is the crying crow at the break of dawn.
Three, four, and we can count five, but six, seven, eight and go to the lodge of Osan.

In the lodge of Osan, there is an officer of Ashikaga shogun.
He is under his job of sankinkoutai.
At the feast, he and Molanao get into a fight and this will be told to the local lord.
Still we continue, we know, we continue.

And we continue, as Osan the year of trend, suitable is Katsuyoli ekoh for the daughter Yaegaki hime.
What we cannot miss is the Hangon-ko.
Three, four, and we can count five, but six, seven, eight and then go to the end.

Missa Papae Marcelli: Kyrie
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli (dedicated to Pope Marcellus II) is widely regarded as the pinnacle of his output. “Kyrie”, one of the mass’s most famous movements, is based on the ancient prayer of the same name and features the Renaissance composer’s characteristic contrapuntal textures enlivened by intricately woven melodic lines that are at times grand, at times intimate. With the phrases Kyrie Eleison and Christe Eleison being sung repeatedly in polyphony, the work expresses a profound need for God’s great love and mercy.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy

Os Justi
Josef Anton Bruckner

Meaning “the mouth of the righteous”, Os Justi is a sacred motet set to the text of Psalm 37: 30-31, remarkable in that it achieves its harmonic lushness without sharps or flats, having been written in the Lydian mode. Completed in 1879, the work’s central fugal section is followed by a chordal passage, before the final line et non supplantabuntur is sung quietly by the soprano over a sustained tonic chord. The piece closes serenely with an introspective Alleluia chanted in unison.

Os justi meditabitur sapientiam
Et lingua eius loquetur judicium
Lex Dei eius in corde ipsius
Et non supplantabuntur gressus eius
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom
And his tongue speaks what is just
The law of God is in his heart
And his feet do not falter

San Ge Mei Er San
Arr. Leong Yoon Pin

San Ge Mei Er San is a 1981 arrangement of a delightful folk song originating from the Hubei region in China. Penned by one of Singapore’s pioneer composers, the call and response style of the piece depicts the playful, carefree banter between workers harvesting mulberry leaves to feed silkworms which, in turn, produce the silk for making the beautiful clothes that the women workers wear. The cyclical nature of the routines of climbing mountains, picking leaves, feeding silkworms and weaving silk is echoed in the oft-repeated melodies and phrases throughout the song.

San ge de mei er, san na wei
Shang shan qu cai sang luo, ai!
Cai song lai wei can na wei,
Wei chan kai ji xing luo, ai!
Ji xing zhi chou duan luo wei,
Chou duan feng yi shang luo, ai!
Yi sheng jie er chuan na wei,
Chuan qi le zhen hao kan na, ai!
Zhen hao kan!
Ya hei ya de er feng yi shang luo, ai!
Yi ya yo ye! Ai ya yi yo ye!
Three girls
went up the mountain
to pick mulberry leaves;
To pick leaves to feed the silkworms;
Feed the silkworms to start the loom;
Start the loom to weave silk;
and use it to make silk clothes –
The silk clothes that the women are wearing
The clothes make them look beautiful!
(Echoing that the clothes are beautiful)
Yi ya yo ye! Ai ya yi yo ye! (Excited banter)

Un Soir de Neige
Francis Poulenc

In Un Soir de Neige, Poulenc draws on the writings of surrealist poet Paul Éluard in a four-movement work reflecting the desolation and bleakness of winter, used in the poems as a metaphor for war. The chamber cantata showcases Poulenc’s expressive word painting, as seen in the extensive use of chromatic harmonies and drastic changes in dynamics that give life to the chilling poems, evoking the hopelessness and repression of the war-torn Paris Éluard lived in during the German occupation of France, yet occasionally hinting at the resilient optimism of the human spirit.

De grandes cuillers de neige
De grandes cuillers de neige
Ramassent nos pieds glacés
Et d’une dure parole
Nous heurtons l’hiver têtu
Chaque arbre a sa place en l’air
Chaque roc son poids sur terre
Chaque ruisseau son eau vive
Nous nous n’avons pas de feu

Great scoops of snow

Shovel up our frozen feet
And with harsh word
We stumble into stubborn winter
Each tree has its place in the sky
Each rock its weight on earth
Each stream its spring
We have no fire

La bonne neige
La bonne neige le ciel noir
Les branches mortes la détresse
De la forêt pleine de pièges
Honte à la bête pourchassée
La fuite en flèche dans le cœur

Les traces d’une proie atroce
Hardi au loup et c’est toujours
Le plus beau loup et c’est toujours
Le dernier vivant que menace
La masse absolue de la mort

Fine snow, dark sky

Dead branches, the torment
From the forest strewn with traps.
Shame on the hunted animal
Fleeing swiftly as an arrow through the heart

The tracks of a terrible prey
That fears no wolf

And it is always the most beautiful
And it is always the last left alive
That is stalked by the full weight of death

Bois meurtri
Bois meurtri

Bois perdu d’un voyage en hiver
Navire où la neige prend pied
Bois d’asile

Bois mort où sans espoir je rêve

De la mer aux miroirs crevés
Un grand moment d’eau froide
a saisi les noyés

La foule de mon corps en souffre
Je m’affaiblis, je me disperse
J’avoue ma vie, j’avoue ma mort,
j’avoue autrui
Bois meurtri bois perdu
Bois d’asile bois mort

The slaughtered wood,
The wood lost on a winter voyage
A ship upon which snow takes hold
The wood that is a sanctuary
The dead wood, where, with all hope lost,
I dream of the sea of splintered mirrors
One great moment in the cold water
Seized the drowned men
My scrambled body is racked with pain
I grow weaker, I am fading away
I acknowledge my life, my death,
The rest of the world.

La nuit le froid la solitude
La nuit le froid la solitude
On m’enferma soigneusement
Mais les branches cherchaient leur voie dans la prison
Autour de moi l’herbe trouva le ciel
On verrouilla le ciel ma prison s’écroula

Le froid vivant le froid brûlant m’eut bien en main.

Night, cold, solitude

Closed carefully in upon me
But the branches sought out their path in the prison
Around me the grass found the sky
The sky was bolted shut, my prison came tumbling down
The living cold, the burning cold
Holds me firmly in its hand.

Down by the Riverside
Arr. Robert Rice

First published in 1918 by the Rodeheaver Company, Down by the Riverside is a gospel spiritual exhorting people to leave behind the pessimism and aggression brought about by World War 1. Rice’s arrangement of the song opens with a smooth layering of male voices that establishes the main theme of the piece. As it progresses with rhythmic and melodic twists, the expressive intensity builds and culminates in a magnificent jazz conclusion.

Lay that burden down,
Lay that burden down,
Lay that burden right down, right down.

I’m gonna lay down my burden
Down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside.
Gonna lay down my burden
Down by the riverside,
And study war no more.

Ain’t gonna study war no more.

I’m gonna put on my long white robe
Down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside.
Gonna put on my long white robe
Down by the riverside
And study war no more.

Ain’t gonna study war no more.

I’m gonna walk with the Prince of Peace
Down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside.
Gonna walk with the Prince of Peace
Down by the riverside
And study war no more.

Ain’t gonna study war no more.

I’m gonna lay down my burden
Down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside,
Way on down by that riverside.

Oh, lay down my burden
Down by the riverside
And study war no more.

Love is Here to Stay
Arr. Richard Rodney Bennett

A popular jazz standard composed for the 1938 film Goldwyn Follies, Love is Here to Stay was composer George Gershwin’s last work before his death in 1937. With lyrics written by Ira Gershwin as a tribute to his brother, the song depicts love as the only constant in a world where most things are “passing fancies, and in time may go”. This choral arrangement by Bennett builds on the jazz harmonies of the original work, creating a soothing and heartwarming piece about the undying nature of love.

It’s very clear
Our love is here to stay
Not for a year, but ever and a day.

The radio and the telephone
And the movies that we know
May just be passing fancies
And in time may go.

But oh, my dear,
Our love is here to stay
Together we’re going a long, long way.

In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble
They’re only made of clay.
But our love is here to stay.