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Prayers and Remembrances To Be Performed At Lincoln Center On September 11

Memorial Concert Information

Please join us on September 11, 2015 when Prayers and Remembrances will be performed at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall by True Concord Voices and Orchestra which will also coincide with their release of Far In The Heavens: Choral Music of Stephen Paulus.

Prayers and Remembrances (2011) was commissioned for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy by True Concord Voices & Orchestra, Eric Holtan, Music Director, and Mrs. Dorothy Vanek, in loving memory of her husband, Robert Vanek, and in memory of friends of the Vaneks from United and American Airlines who were lost on September 11, 2001.

For more information on the concert, please visit: https://www.dciny.org/concerts/true-concord-voices-orchestra/.

Regular tickets can be purchased by calling Centercharge at 212-721-6500, or by visiting

http://www.lincolncenter.org/show/true-concord-voices-orchestra.

Free Tickets for Families Of Victims And First Responders

Families of victims and first responders of the September 11th terrorist attacks can receive free tickets to the memorial concert at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.

Families of victims and first responders can reserve their free tickets here: http://bit.ly/1hzttgX (please note that there is a limited number of free tickets available)

For more information on the free tickets for families of victims and first responders click here

Far In The Heavens

Far In The Heavens is comprised of recently composed and previously unrecorded works by Stephen Paulus, including two works that were commissioned and premiered by True Concord Voices & Orchestra: The Incomprehensible for their fifth anniversary season in 2009, and Prayers and Remembrances for the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 tragedy in 2011. GRAMMY®-award winning producer Peter Rutenberg of Los Angeles produced the album, and Mr. Paulus supervised the recording in Tucson, Arizona. Tragically, Stephen Paulus suffered a major stroke just six weeks after recording the album. He never recovered, and passed away in October 2014 after being in a coma for more than a year.

The Original Program Note From Composer Stephen Paulus

Prayers and Remembrances (2011) was commissioned for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy by True Concord Voices & Orchestra, Eric Holtan, Music Director, and Mrs. Dorothy Vanek, in loving memory of her husband, Robert Vanek, and in memory of friends of the Vaneks from United and American Airlines who were lost on September 11, 2001.

The idea for Prayers and Remembrances began with Eric Holtan. He approached me a few years back with a vision of writing a commemorative work for chorus and orchestra. We had several discussions and emails, especially about the text, and eventually, with the commission in place, I was ready to begin.

My concern was to write a work that would not only honor the 9/11 tragedy and all those who perished, but also one that would address the memories, the grieving and the recovery for anyone dealing with a circumstance in which loved ones had perished. Early on, Eric and I decided we wanted to create a work that would be spiritual but not necessarily religious. The goal was to find a combination of poems that were both secular and sacred—from poets who addressed grief, recovery, and a spiritual focus in life—that would highlight common beliefs across distinct religious traditions. I ended up with a healthy mix of poets from different cultures, centuries and faiths.

The orchestra is approximately the size of the Mozart Requiem (since that was to be the companion work on the concert), with the addition of flute, oboe, horns, harp, and percussion.My approach was to use the orchestra to adorn and emphasize the text. I consider the words such an important part to a piece like this, and my intention, as always, was to make sure the choir could be heard without being overwhelmed by the orchestra.

Throughout the work I have been conscious of trying to bring melodic and harmonic ideas to the fore that would suggest hope, light and a future. To me, this seems to be the hardest thing to accept in any tragedy, whether it involves one person or thousands. So there are sometimes bright, colorful harmonies or melodies in both the orchestra and the chorus: this is not a work meant to wallow in self-pity or dwell in tragedy. I am hopeful that the sounds and words meld, going at least some distance towards repair and healing.

I am so grateful to True Concord Voices & Orchestra and their wonderful director, Eric Holtan, for asking me to create a work for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. I hope this piece will have reason to be performed in other situations. And I am especially grateful to Dorothy Vanek for her generosity in commissioning the work. Without patrons and wonderful performers, composers would simply be artists working alone, like a tree falling in the forest when no one is around to hear it. —Stephen Paulus

The above text is from the composer's introduction to the work before its world premiere performance on September 11, 2011.

Handwritten Manuscript Scans From Prayers And Remembrances

Below is the first page from each of the movements of Prayers and Remembrances.

Video Of The 2011 Rehearsals With Composer Stephen Paulus

Below is footage from True Concord Voices & Orchestra's 2011 rehearsals with composer Stephen Paulus before the world premiere of Prayers and Remembrances:

 

For any questions or inquiries please email Andrew Paulus at ap@stephenpaulus.com 

Beyond the Notes: To Be Certain of the Dawn

This is the third installment of a monthly series of stories on the work of American composer Stephen Paulus. The previous stories were on Pilgrims' Hymn and The Road Home

I grew up watching and listening to my Dad compose music on the grand piano in our family house. Over the years, memories of what pieces he was working on start to blend together, but a few stand out. One of those is To Be Certain of the Dawn. My Dad approached writing this piece with a particularly deep level of compassion and empathy that made an impression on me even as a young teenager at the time. The connection between Stephen, his long-time collaborator and librettist Michael Dennis Browne, and Father Michael O'Connell from the Basilica of St. Mary who commissioned this work was particularly strong throughout the entire process. They all seemed to profoundly understand the importance of this piece and its potential impact. Given the tremendous energy that went towards bringing this piece to life it has been wonderful to see it receive over 20 additional performances across the world since its premiere by The Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Osmo Vänskä in 2005.

Stephen did not get a chance to write a personal reflection on this piece, but below is a video interview with Stephen and Michael taken in 2011 as well as note from the librettist, and a video of a recent performance by the Corvallis-OSU Symphony and OSU Chamber Choir. For those on the west coast, there will be two performances this weekend from San Diego State University Symphony Orchestra on Saturday April 25th (tickets here) and the Festival Chorale Oregon on Sunday, April 26th (tickets here).

-Andrew Paulus

Stephen Paulus and Michael Dennis Browne discuss To Be Certain of the Dawn

 

A note from librettist Michael Dennis Browne

This oratorio was commissioned by Fr. Michael O’Connell, rector of the Basilica of Saint Mary, and intended as a gift from the Christian community to the Jewish community. The first performance was at the Basilica in November 2005, a year which marked the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the death camps and the fortieth anniversary of the Vatican document Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), which had much to do with the renewal of dialogue between Jews and Christians. The twentieth and twenty-first performances of the work are being held in San Diego and Salem, Oregon, in the month of April.

In Part One (Renewal), we hear from the chorus Christian grief at their failure to support Jews in the terrible ordeal of the Shoah and for many centuries of “the teaching of contempt.” We hear their desire for teshuvah—repentance, atonement, a return to the spiritual roots of their faith in Judaism. We also hear four blessings sung by the children: this is an example of the impulse to praise God, daily, frequently, even while storm clouds are gathering. We also hear from the cantor the Sh’ma and phrases from the Kaddish, as well as the introduction of the recurring theme “You should love your neighbor as yourself.”

In Part Two (Remembrance), the soloists sing dramatizations of four photographs taken from Roman Vishniac’s book Children of a Vanished World—glimpses of what Geoffrey Hartman calls “a vanished life in its vigor.” The chorus continues with more expressions of Christian remorse together with a wish to “grow and be known by our love.” We also hear quotation from the Nuremberg laws of the 1903s with their inhuman constrictions upon Jewish life. The section concludes with Hymn to the Eternal Flame, which is based on the children’s memorial of multiple reflected flames at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

In Part Three (Visions), several themes are woven: the desire for Jews and Christians to walk together in solidarity of interfaith in “the country of justice,” however scarred the world; divine promises as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures; quotations taken from interviews with three Minnesota-based survivors and the daughter of one survivor. At the conclusion, both choruses, together with the cantor, sing “You should love your neighbor as yourself” in Hebrew, and we hear the sound of the shofar, with which the work began.

                                                                                 -Michael Dennis Browne

A performance by Corvallis-OSU Symphony and the OSU Chamber Choir

For those who may be interested in performing To Be Certain of the Dawn there is also a set of performance guidelines to ensure a successful performance that you can download here. It describes everything from context for the piece to a cue sheet for the photos that are projected during the piece.

If you are interested in purchasing a recording you can find a CD of the premiere on Amazon here.

If you are interested in learning more about To Be Certain of the Dawn or purchasing study scores, piano/vocal scores, a children's chorus score or the excerpted Hymn to The Eternal Flame you can buy digital scores from our website or purchase paper scores from our partner distributor Subito Music here. If you have any questions about performing this piece please feel free to email ap@stephenpaulus.com.

WORK STORY: The Road Home

This is the second in a monthly series of stories on the works of American composer Stephen Paulus. For last month's inaugural story on Pilgrims' Hymn click here. Stephen wrote a a small number of personal reflections on some of his better known works, one of which being The Road Home, which is included below.

 

A note from composer Stephen Paulus on The Road Home

In the Spring of 2001 I received a commission from the Dale Warland Singers to write a short "folk" type choral arrangement.  I had discovered a tune in a folk song book called "The Lone Wild Bird."  I fell in love with it, made a short recording and asked my good friend and colleague, Michael Dennis Browne to write new words for this tune. The tune is taken from The Southern Harmony Songbook" of 1835.  It is pentatonic and that is part of its attraction.  Pentatonic scales have been extant for centuries and are prevalent in almost all musical cultures throughout the world.  They are universal.  Michael crafted three verses and gave it the title "The Road Home."  He writes so eloquently about "returning" and "coming home" after being lost or wandering.  Again, this is another universal theme and it has resonated well with choirs around the world as this simple little a cappella choral piece has become another "best seller" in our Paulus Publications catalogue and now threatens to catch up with "Pilgrims' Hymn."  It is just more evidence that often the most powerful and beautiful message is often a simple one.

Stephen Paulus

         May 2013

 

A note from librettist Michael Dennis Browne on The Road Home

In the spring of 2001, Stephen received a commission from Dale Warland to write a new arrangement of an old or traditional melody, and he asked me to write the words. He played the notes for me on the piano, I recorded it, and in the following weeks played the melody over and over while I formed some words to fit its shape. When I went for walks with the dog, which was often, I sang the notes quietly to myself. (I had done something like this a couple of times before, notably with “Pilgrims’ Hymn” from The Three Hermits.)

All I knew about the tune was that it was from the Southern Harmony songbook of 1835 and that it had been performed under various titles, including “The Lone White Bird,” and that Brian Wren had written some words for it. I also knew that I found it haunting, and I welcomed the (huge) challenge to come up with words in some way worthy of it.

I did what I needed to do: spent a lot of time with the melody and tried to see what it might be trying to say. I was between visits to England, where my beloved sister Angela had become ill, and I was certainly thinking, on one level, of “the old country” which I left in 1965 to come to the United States. I could also hear in the first three notes the beginning of “Loch Lomond,” a song I had sung and loved since I was a child.

What I was looking for was a significant simplicity, something memorable and resonant and patterned, but not as complex as poems can often be, need to be; I wanted something immediate. Little by little, the words came. I thought of the speaker as a persona rather than myself, though of course there needed to be a “personal vibration” to it (to use Robert Lowell’s term). I was also trying to suggest the consolation that can come to someone of faith, in times of great stress, as a result of prayer and an abiding belief in divine mercy.

In a short essay called “Words for Music,” I have written of lyrics for music as “boats on sand” when they appear on the page. In writing words for “The Road Home,” I was writing something to be heard as many voices carrying the stirring melody and not as something self-reliant, to stand on its own the way a poem must do. In doing so, I was aware of steering close to the sentimental and, as I said in my essay, I would never present the words as a poem in a poetry reading, though I have spoken them on occasion as an example of the kind of writing I have done for music.

The song has proved popular—not quite as popular as “Pilgrims’ Hymn,” written four years earlier, though perhaps it is catching up, and has been recorded many times, with several groups using it as the title track. This is very gratifying to Stephen and myself, and for me, as a poet, it constitutes what I call “a different kind of belonging” in that it is heard in churches and concert halls and on recordings by hundreds of thousands of people, whereas my books of poems sell in very modest numbers. Poetry is my original love, and I bring to the writing of libretti and lyrics any skills and energies I may have as a poet, but it is a joy to know how this piece affects people and, in some cases, becomes a part of their lives. This is a privilege I do not underestimate and I am profoundly pleased, and honored, by this reality. 

Michael Dennis Browne

         September 2010

 

The Road Home is one of Stephen's most popular works and continues to be performed and loved by choirs and audiences all over the world. Here is The Road Home performed by Conspirare:

The Road Home

Tell me, where is the road

   I can call my own,

That I left, that I lost,

   So long ago?

All these years I have wandered,

   Oh, when will I know

There's a way, there's a road

   That will lead me home?

 

After wind, after rain,

   When the dark is done.

As I wake from a dream

   In the gold of day,

Through the air there's a calling

   From far away,

There's a voice I can hear

   That will lead me home.

 

Rise up, follow me,

   Come away, is the call,

With the love in your heart

   As the only song;

There is no such beauty

   As where you belong:

Rise up, follow me,
   I will lead you home.

 

Here is Stephen's handwritten manuscript for the SSAA version.

 

If you are interested in learning more about The Road Home or purchasing scores in SATB, SSAA or SSAA voicing you can find digital downloads on our website or order paper scores from Subito Music.

WORK STORY: Pilgrims' Hymn

In the spring of 2013 I suggested that my Dad to start writing short stories for each of his works so that people who were looking at his music online would know a bit of the backstory behind each work. He liked the idea, but unfortunately only made it through a half dozen before his stroke in July of 2013. In the following months we will be publishing one of these every month. To start we'll begin with his first work story, Pilgrims' Hymn, and also include a note from the librettist, close friend, and long-time collaborator, Michael Dennis Browne.

-Andrew Paulus

 

A note from Stephen Paulus on Pilgrims' Hymn

In April, 1997 I had a one-act opera called The Three Hermits (based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy) premiered at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, MN.  That organization also commissioned the work which was written for a small cast, an orchestra of 11 players and the church's Motet Choir. Thomas Lancaster was the conductor and the one hour work received four sold-out performances.  My friend and colleague, Kathy Romey, conductor of the Minnesota Chorale and also the Head of Choral Activities at the University of Minnesota, saw one of the premiere performances and encouraged me to have the final chorus in the opera published as a separate work.  I thanked her for her interest and put off the task.  I really like to move on to the next commission and not dwell over any past work.  She persisted and eventually I sort of grudgingly adapted and extracted a short choral work from the opera consisting of just the final chorus.  I printed up a 1000 copies at a local print shop and decided that this would be the first work to be published by my own company - Paulus Publications, Inc.  I did it as a favor to Kathy and never expected it to garner any great results.  The first 1000 copies sold out quickly and we eventually started printing up 3000 copies and then 10,000 copies at a time.  To date the work has sold over 160,000 copies and is the lead seller in our choral catalogue.  It has also been sung at the funeral services of both Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.  It pays to listen to your conductor friends!

                                             --Stephen Paulus

 

A note from Michael Dennis Browne on Pilgrims' Hymn

Stephen called me over one afternoon in January 1997 to hear his setting of the words from Russian Orthodox liturgy, an evening hymn, that conclude the second scene of The Three Hermits, the church opera, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, which was scheduled for its first performance in April at House of Hope Church in St. Paul. The words begin with: “Now that the day has come to a close / we ask Thee, O God.” (Words from the Orthodox liturgy are woven throughout the work.)

The music was haunting, memorable. We had been needing a hymn to conclude the work, at the end of scene three, and I intended to write it making use of the words from scripture (Matthew 6, verses 7 and 8) that Tolstoy had selected as an epigraph to his re-telling of the old folk-tale: “And in praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

I asked Stephen if he would consider using the same melody at the end of scene three, for which I would write new words. He was uncertain, since it is not customary to repeat a theme in this way, but he ended up playing the melody for me while I recorded it, and so for a week or two after that I went on my walks humming the music to myself and gradually coming up with the words for “Pilgrims’ Hymn” (Stephen’s title, by the way). It was an extraordinary privilege, and challenge, to come up with words that matched, in some measure, Stephen’s very beautiful music. The resulting piece has changed both our lives.

After the premier, Kathy Salzman Romey suggested to Stephen that he might make a separate anthem out of “Pilgrims’ Hymn,” and so he did, doubling up the voices and changing the key (from D flat to F major), and the response in terms of sales was so strong that Stephen founded Paulus Publications and began to publish more and more of his own music. It is a deep joy to both of us that this piece has entered the choral repertory, and that it brings peace and comfort to so many.

                                             --Michael Dennis Browne

 

Pilgrims' Hymn has been performed by thousands of choirs all over the world, but on the morning Stephen Paulus passed away it was being sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Here is that performance:

Pilgrims' Hymn Lyrics (Lyrics by Michael Dennis Browne)

Even before we call on Thy name
   To ask Thee, O Lord,
When we seek for the words to glorify Thee,
   Thou hearest our prayer;
Unceasing love, O unceasing love,
   Surpassing all we know.

Glory to the Father,
   and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.

Even with darkness sealing us in,
   We breathe Thy name,
And through all the days that follow so fast,
   We trust in Thee;
Endless Thy grace, O endless Thy grace,
   Beyond all mortal dream.

Both now and forever,
   And unto ages and ages,
Amen

 

If you are interested in learning more about Pilgrims' Hymn or purchasing scores you can find digital downloads on our website or order paper scores from Subito Music.

 

Singers needed for Stephen Paulus Celebration!

A musical celebration of Stephen Paulus is being held at Central Presbyterian Church on Sunday, March 22.  Musicians include soprano Maria Jette, pianist Stephen Swanson, organist/cellist Joseph Trucano, and vocalists Shanta Hejmadi, Emily Greenleaf, Bill Haugen, and David Winkworth. 

A mass choir will be singing Paulus’s “Mass” as well as “The Road Home”.  The concerts are March 22 at both 10:30 a.m. (“Mass” only) and 1:00 p.m. (“Mass” along with special musical guests).  

Rehearsal are on Wednesday nights from 7:15—9:15:

  • Feb. 11
  • Feb. 25
  • March 4
  • March 11
  • March 18
  • Dress:  Saturday, March 21 from 9  - 11 a.m.

Performances on Sunday, March 22 at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Singers need to attend at least 4 of the rehearsals.  Professional childcare for rehearsals and performances is provided! Free parking. 

Proceeds from a free-will offering will benefit the Paulus Fund at the American Composers Forum. 

This is a very special opportunity to sing wonderful repertoire alongside fantastic musicians, including Maria Jette!

Please contact Jennifer Anderson, Director of Music, to reserve your place in the choir!  RSVP by Feb. 1.  JenniferA@cpcstpaul.org

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