8 September, 2015

In this issue:

  • Menotti’s Madrigal Fable
  • Swanky Fundraiser for St. Andrew’s Friends of Music
  • This Week at St. Andrew’s



The theme for St. Martin’s Chamber Choir’s 22nd (2015-’16) Season is “Stories in Choral Song,” where every concert has a narrative of some kind built into the programming.  In our first concert of the season, it’s a single work that tells its own story, Menotti’s Madrigal Fable “The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore; or The Three Sundays of a Poet.”


The Madrigal Fable (or Comedy) is an old genre where a group of madrigals is pieced together to tell a sort of story, usually light-hearted.  The earliest example is Il cicalamento delle donne al bucato (“The Gossip of the Wives in the Laundry” – sounds hilarious!!) by Alessandro Striggio (1567); but the best known is Orazio Vecchi’s L’Amfiparnaso (1594).  It is now considered, as a genre, a precursor to opera, although there was no acting by the singers and only minimal scenery involved.


Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) borrowed this long-dead form for his 1956 work “The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore,” which, although it is comical in places, is definitely not a “comedy” in the sense of a happy ending.  In this piece, which is made up of 14 choral movements (12 of which are a cappella) and 5 instrumental movements, Menotti asks for dancers to act out the story as the musicians sing and play (St. Martin’s will be joined by dancers from Ballet Arts, choreographed by Paul Noel Fiorino).  The story is of a poet (“The Man in the Castle”) who successively appears in the town with the three mythical creatures of the title as pets.  Each in turn becomes fashionable among the shallow and trendy townspeople; and when the next creature appears, they kill off the previous one on the assumption that this is what the poet did to his pet.  In the end, the townspeople are berated by the dying poet as they storm the castle and find that all three creatures are still alive and surrounding his bed as he dies.  Menotti explains that they represent, successively, youth, prime of life, and old age; and the fable, with text also by Menotti, is a critique of transient fads, the shallowness of those who blithely toss aside that which is no longer considered stylish, and the unwitting cruelty of many people towards artists in general.


Menotti’s original instrumentation calls for an odd assemblage of 11 instruments.  I have done my own arrangement of the instrumental parts for string quartet (a big summer project, that!!), which will be played by the Confluence Quartet, with which fine ensemble we have previously collaborated at least twice before (William Grant Stills’ “Christmas in the Americas,” and Haydn’s “Seven Last Words” spring immediately to my mind).  The Confluence Quartet will also be playing Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” during the concert; and the choir will sing Barber’s “Reincarnations” (Barber’s lifelong close connection to Menotti is, I believe, well known).


The concert will be performed twice, as follows:


  • Friday, October 9, 2015, 7:30pm, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Denver
  • Sunday, October 11, 2015, 3:00pm, St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, Cherry Hills Village


Tickets may be purchased at www.StMartinsChamberChoir.org, or (303) 298-1970.  The Sunday venue has limited seating, so advance tickets are strongly recommended there.



The St. Andrew’s Friends of Music was established early this year with a mission to maintain and enhance the music program at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, where I am choirmaster.  We have held a handful of concerts, recitals, and other musical events in support of this; and this Saturday, Sept. 12, 6-9pm there will be a very swanky food/wine pairing event at the beautiful foothills home of some St. Andrew’s parishioners, including live Jazz from the Stu MacAskie Duo.  Here’s a foretaste (pun intended) of just a few items on the menu:


  • Seared Ahi Tuna – orange, tobiko, bonito gel, plantain

to be paired with pinot gris


  • Moroccan Chicken marinated in yogurt and aromatic spices, served with mint crème, on a bed of puffed rice noodles

to be paired with chardonnay


  • Potato Wrapped Bison Sausage – house made sausage, champagne poached apple

to be paired with sangiovese


  • Duck Prosciutto – black garlic, basil seeds, roasted red pepper on a spoon

to be paired with pinot noir


The tickets are $125 per person (understandably steep for some — but it is a fundraiser after all! J), but the breathtaking views from the house, the excellent high-end jazz, and the exquisite food represent about what you’d pay for a swanky night on the town anyway.  And the amount is tax deductible, andsupports a great cause!  Ticket sales have been healthy, but there’s still room, and still a day or two to respond (the hostess needs a reliable count soon in order to purchase the right amount of food and wine).  If interested, get more details (like the address) and purchase tickets at the following site:www.Flahivefundraiser.org


Hope to see many of you there, and thanks for supporting the St. Andrew’s music program!



Our first Evensong, in memory of John Scott, was really thrilling – thanks to all involved, from the 24 in the choir to the 30 in the congregation, and especially to Ralph, our peerless organist.  I was overcome with chills, as usual, on the first chord of the Magnificat from Stanford in C.


Our second Evensong (this Thursday at 5:45pm) is sung by an a cappella quartet, and here’s the repertoire:


September 10, 2015, 5:45pm, Choral Evensong: Thursday in Proper 18

Preces & Responses: M. J. Gibson (2006)

Canticle of Light: “O Lord, the maker of all things” by William Mundy (d. 1591)

Psalm: 96 (plainchant)

Service: Charles King (1687-1748) in F

Anthem: Vox in Rama by Mikolaij Zielinski (c. 1550-1615)

Office Hymn: 247 (Coventry Carol)


The Gospel reading for the Thursday in Proper 18 happens to be from Matthew 2, the slaughter of the innocents.  As the actual feast for the Holy Innocents falls on Dec. 29, when every church and choir in the world is on vacation, it’s nice to have an opportunity to sing one of the many beautiful and poignant settings of Vox in Rama, this one by a composer of the Polish Renaissance (that’s a pair of terms not heard often together!).  The service setting is a winsome one by Charles King, master of the choristers (i.e. boys) at St. Paul’s Cathedral under organists John Blow and Jeremiah Clark.


Then this Sunday, Sept. 13, which still features a single choral service at 10:00am, the music will be as follows:


September 13, 2015, 10:00am: Proper 19

Introit: Jesu dulcis memoria by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548‑1611)


Anthem: “Let this mind be in you” by Lee Hoiby (1926-2011)

Fraction Anthem: O salutaris hostia by Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

Communion motet: Ecce quomodo moritur justus by Georg Reutter, Jr. (1708-1772)

Hymns: 525 (Aurelia), 448 (Deus tuorum militum), 254 (Wyngate Canon), 522 (Austria)


The Hoiby is a “big sing,” and an even bigger job for the organist.  Lots of fun.  Reutter was the Kapellmeister of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna when the Haydn brothers were boy choristers there, and has garnered a bad reputation in history because Joseph Haydn later said that Ruetter, though he was supposed to be providing private musical instruction to the boys, never gave Haydn a single lesson. This is a rather nice little piece, however (I actually recorded it with St. Martin’s Chamber Choir on our “It is Finished” CD, in case you’re interested), and the Haydn brothers turned out to be pretty good composers anyway, so I forgive him.  The Victoria is attributed to but actually probably not actually by him.  Oh well, some things become so ingrained in people’s heads, it’s best not to set them straight.


All the best this coming week!



Posted in Musical Weekly.