Our début performance of French romantic choral music on October 8, 1995--Louis Vierne’s wonderful Solemn Mass, Gabriel Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine and his serene Requiem. It was a great success, with enthusiastic audience support!
In August, 1995, members of the San Francisco Lyric Chorus joined members of the Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal), San Jose, in performing the premiere of Brad Osness’ Lamentations, in an ecumenical service of remembrance for the victims of Hiroshima.
In December, 1995, we joined the San Francisco Choral Society in a spectacular Festival of Carols, conducted by our Music Director, Robert Gurney, and accompanied by brass and organ. First Unitarian Church in San Francisco rang with the sounds of Michael Praetorius’ In Dulci Jubilo and Psallite, Gabrieli’s O Magnum Mysterium for double chorus, John Rutter’s What Sweeter Music, Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, an Australian Christmas carol entitled The Three Drovers, a Shaker carol entitled O Shepherds, Aren’t You Happy?, finishing with Craig Courtney’s Musicological Journey Through The Twelve Days Of Christmas. The audience joined us in singing along with familiar carols. Portions of the concert were televised on a local cable station.
At Easter, 1996, members of the San Francisco Lyric Chorus joined the Trinity Episcopal Church Choir in a performance of Wayne Love’s Choral Introit for Easter and William Harris’ masterpiece Faire Is The Heaven. Our Spring, 1996 concert, Songs of Love and Spring, featured a wide variety of choral music: Johannes Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes, three settings of The Song of Solomon: Healey Willan’s Rise Up, My Love, Patrick Hadley’s My Beloved Spake, and William Billings’ I Am The Rose of Sharon, as well as Maurice Duruflé’s Ubi Caritas, P. D. Q. Bach’s Liebeslieder Polkas, Aaron Copland’s The Promise of Living (from The Tender Land), Leonard Bernstein’s Make Our Garden Grow (from Candide), madrigals, and other pieces. On May 19, 1996, members of the San Francisco Lyric Chorus joined with members of the Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal), San Jose, in a Choral Evensong, featuring the premiere of Brad Osness’ Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, as well as a performance of Franz Schubert’s German Mass. August 1996 brought a performance of Sacred Music of the 20th Century, centering on the Duruflé Requiem, Herbert Howells’ Te Deum and Magnificat Collegium Regale, Charles Villiers Stanford’s Beati Quorum Via, and Herbert Górecki’s Totus Tuus.. In December, 1996, the San Francisco Lyric Chorus presented A Winter Concert, which featured the Poulenc Gloria, and included performances of Ave Marias by Josquin des Pres, Tómas Luis de Victoria, and Igor Stravinsky, the Magnificat by Arvo Pärt, as well as the West Coast premiere of Ohio composer Robert Witt’s Four Motets To the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Victoria, an 8-part motet, and the Witt inaugurated The San Francisco Lyric Chorus Discovery Series which encompasses compositions or composers who are not well known, but are exceptional and ofspecial interest.
April 1997 brought a performance of The Music of Amy Beach (Mrs. H.H.A.), featuring her Grand Mass in E Flat Major, as well as the Panama Hymn,, a work which she wrote for the opening of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, and Let This Mind Be In You, a choral anthem. In Summer 1997, the San Francisco Lyric Chorus performed Mozart’s Requiem and Ave Verum Corpus, as well as Schubert’s Mass in G. The Winter Concert 1997 featured the compositions of San Francisco composer Kirke Mechem--Seven Joys of Christmas , Gloria from Three Motets, and the San Francisco premiere of Christmas, the Morn--as well as Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols..
In a program entitled Music Of Our Time, the San Francisco Lyric Chorus performed Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms for its Spring 1998 concert, as well as multiculural music from around the globe, including an Inuit song, the Shona Mass by Lee Kesselman, Stephen Hatfield’s Missa Brevis, the gospel song The Storm Is Passing Over, the spiritual Keep Your Lamps, and the folk song Shenandoah. In Summer 1998, the San Francisco Lyric Chorus performed Brahms’ Requiem. Fall, 1998 brought a concert entitled The English Sound, including Thomas Tallis’ Missa Puer Natus Est Nobis, Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols and The Blessed Son of God, Robert Parsons’ Ave Maria, Orlando Gibbons’ Hosanna to the Son of David, and Paul Manz’ E’en So Lord Jesus, Quickly Come. At the end of December, the chorus also sang with Robert Gurney as he played the magnificent Skinner organ at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Included on the program were a version of Von Himmel Hoch, with variations by Pachelbel, two pieces from the Fall concert, John Fenstermaker’s arrangement of What Child Is This, music for Channukah, several popular Christmas songs, and a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah.
Musical Poetry: 20th Century British and American choral settings was the theme of Spring 1999’s concert, and featured Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb, San Francisco premieres of Kirke Mechem’s Blessed Are They and To Music, as well as his Blow Ye The Trumpet from his opera John Brown, Randall Thompson’s Alleluia and The Best of Rooms, and William Harris’ Faire is the Heaven. In May, members of the chorus joined Music Director Robert Gurney at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor for a spring concert. In July, the Chorus joined the Trinity Episcopal Church Choir to celebrate the church’s 150th anniversary, performing William Harris’ Faire is the Heaven, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Antiphon from Five Mystical Songs, and Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (Land of Hope and Glory.) Summer 1999 featured Giuseppe Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces , Columba aspexit and O ignis spiritus by Hildegard von Bingen, Gabriel Fauré’s Messe Basse, Francis Poulenc’s Quatre Petites Prières de Saint François d’Assise, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs. Fall 1999’s program was entitled Concert Solennelle, a program of modern American and French music based on traditional liturgical texts: Morten Lauridsen’s recently composed Lux Aeterna, Maurice Duruflé’s Quatre Motets sur des Thèmes Grégoriens, and Louis Vierne’s Messe Solennelle. In addition, the chorus performed an additional November concert at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Ross, as part of that church’s concert series. The program included Hildegard von Bingen’s Columba aspexit, Gabriel Fauré’s Messe Basse, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Antiphon from Five Mystical Songs, Maurice Duruflé’s Quatre Motets sur des Thèmes Grégoriens, the spiritual Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen, the O Nata Lux from Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, and the Kyrie from the Vierne Messe Solennelle.
The San Francisco Lyric Chorus rang in the New Year 2000 and the millenium, joining Robert Gurney at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor for a January 2 concert, which included choruses from Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ the Kyrie from the Vierne Messe Solennelle, and popular songs of the season. Spring 2000 brought a San Francisco and an Oakland performance of Modern English Masterpieces by three gifted composers: John Ireland’s Greater Love Hath No Man, Herbert Howells Requiem, Magnificat Collegium Regale, and Te Deum Collegium Regale, and Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia and Festival Te Deum. Summer 2000 brought our biggest summer yet--All American Music, including Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Missa Brevis; Charles Ives Psalm 67, Kirke Mechem’s Blow Ye The Trumpet, Aaron Copland’s Promise of Living and Simple Gifts; and four American hymns arranged by Alice Parker: Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal, Wondrous Love, Come Away To The Skies, and Saints Bound for Heaven.
The 2000-2001 season celebrated the chorus’ fifth anniversary. Fall 2000, began with Renaissance classics--Tómas Luis de Victoria’s Requiem and eight part Ave Maria, as well as Claudio Monteverdi’s Mass for Four Voices A Cappella. The San Francisco Lyric Chorus ended the year 2000, joining Robert Gurney at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor for a December 31 concert, which included choruses from Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and popular songs of the season. Spring 2001 featured “The New Choral Sound”--music from the end of the 20th century: Arvo Pärt’s Cantate Domino and The Beatitudes; William Albright’s Chichester Mass; Javier Busto’s Salve Regina; John Tavener’s Hymn to the Mother of God ; Morten Lauridsen’s Dirait-on from Les Chansons des Roses and O Nata Lux from Lux Aeterna; David Conte’s The Waking; and Kirke Mechem’s Island in Space. Summer 2001 centered on two popular favorites: Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Bach’s Magnificat. The San Francisco Lyric Chorus performed with the well-known Jubilate Baroque Orchestra and outstanding soloists Jennifer Ellis and Catherine Webster, sopranos, Barbara Greeno and Carol Mersey, altos, Scott Whitaker, tenor, and Tom Hart, bass.
Fall 2001’s concert, entitled “The French Choral Tradition,” brought Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Messe de minuit pour Noël, Jean Langlais’ Messe Solennelle, Francis Poulenc’s Hodie, Maurice Duruflé’s Ubi Caritas, and Olivier Messiaen’s O Sacrum Convivium. Spring 2002 presented a concert devoted to the theme of “Peace,” with the Haydn Mass in Time of War and Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem. Summer 2002 explored “Choral Gems of the Romantic Era,” including the Schubert Deutsche Messe, Mendelssohn Ave Maria, Bruckner Ave Maria, second movement of the Brahms Requiem, Bortniansky Cherubic Hymn No. 7, Rachmaninoff Bogoroditse Devo and Cherubic Hymn No. 8, Verdi Te Deum, Laudi alla Virgene, and Sanctus from the Requiem.
Fall 2002 brought “Music of Thanksgiving and Harvest,” including Bach’s Cantata 192 (Nun danket alle Gott), Bernstein Choral Suite from Candide, Mechem Give Thanks Unto the Lord, Foss Cool Prayers from The Prairie, Copland The Promise of Living, Canadian composer Srul Irving Glick’s The Hour Has Come, and Alice Parker’s Wondrous Love, God is Seen, and Invocation:Peace, an arrangement of an Omaha Indian prayer. The end of December brought the chorus’ annual holiday pops concert at the Legion of Honor, including choruses from Die Fledermaus, Haro-no-uta, a Japanese New Year’s song, and holiday favorites. In Spring 2003, the chorus performed Duruflé’s Requiem and the American premiere of a new edition of French Baroque composer André Campra’s Requiem. Summer 2003 saw the presentation of choruses and arias (some never before presented) from two operas by San Francisco composer Kirke Mechem--John Brown and The Newport Rivals.
Fall 2003 was another milestone as we explored “Music for Chorus and Harp,” featuring Benjamin Britten’s popular Ceremony of Carols, along with other works for harp: two works by Minnesota composers: Marjorie Ann Hess’ setting of Thomas Hardy’s The Oxen and Steven Heitzeg’s setting of e.e. cummings’ little tree, as well as the San Francisco premiere of William Hawley’s The Snow That Never Drifts, a setting of two poems by Emily Dickinson. In addition, we performed the medieval carol Nova, Nova, William Walton’s All This Time, Arnold Bax’s difficult I Sing of a Maiden That is Makeless, John Wheeler’s Australian carol, The Three Drovers, and the irrepressible P.D.Q. Bach’s A Consort of Choral Christmas Carols. The end of December always means the annual New Year’s concert at the Legion of Honor, in which the chorus performs selections from Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, as well as holiday favorites. Spring 2004 brought performances of Antonín Dvorák’s Mass in D, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his death, and Zoltán Kodály’s Laudes Organi, his last published work. In Summer 2004, we presented a concert of “Calm and Passion,” featuring Charles Marie Widor’s Mass, Op. 36, Selections from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s All Night Vigil: Blagoslovi, dushé moyá, Ghóspoda; Blazhén Muzh; Svéte Tíhiy and Bogoróditse Dévo ; Rachmanininoff’s Bogoróditse Dévo and Cherubic Hymn No. 8, as well as Joseph Jongen’s Mass, Op. 130.
Fall 2004 brought a challenging and interesting program of “Choral Music of France,” including Guillaume Dufay’s Gloria ad modum tubae; Josquin des Pres’ Ave Maria; Marc Antoine Charpentier’s In nativitatem Domini canticum, H314; Gabriel Fauré’s Messe Basse; César Franck’s Psaume 150; Francis Poulenc’s Hodie; Camille Saint-Saëns’ Calme des nuits, Les fleurs et les arbres, Des pas dans l’allée; Hector Berlioz’ L’adieu des bergers; and selections from Arthur Honegger’s Une cantate de Noël. In Spring 2005, we sang Joseph Haydn’s beautiful Harmoniemesse and Anton Bruckner’s rare and infrequently performed Mass No. 1 in D Minor. In honor of our upcoming 10th anniversary year, our Summer 2005 concert featured the Brahms Requiem.
During our 2005-2006 season, we celebrated our 10th anniversary. Our Fall 2005 season was titled ‘An English Christmas’, and featured the Thomas Tallis Missa puer natus est nobis and If ye love me, William Mathias’ Sir Christèmas, Gustav Holst’s Personent hodie, Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin, and three works by Ralph Vaughan Williams” : The blessed son of God, No sad thought his soul affright and his wonderful Fantasia on Christmas carols. Our Spring 2006 program was titled American Spiritual Landscapes, and featured Ernest Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service), as well as our first commissioned work--Illlinois composer Lee Kesselman’s This grand show is eternal, settings of texts by naturalist John Muir. In addition, we performed Charles Ives’ Sixty-Seventh Psalm, and two works by San Francisco composers: Kirke Mechem’s Give thanks unto the Lord and Ludwig Altman’s Choral meditation. We concluded our anniversary year in Summer 2006 with performances of Michael Haydn’s rarely performed Requiem and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ profound Dona Nobis Pacem.
In Fall 2006, we performed a marvelous program of little known works by Mozart: the Missa Solemnis, K. 337, Kyrie in D, K. 341, and the beloved Ave Verum Corpus, K. 618. We also performed a selection from the rich English anthem tradition: William Byrd’s Sing Joyfully and Ave Verum Corpus; George Frideric Handel’s The King Shall Rejoice; Charles Villiers Stanford’s Beati Quorum Via; David Willcocks’ rarely performed arrangement of the medieval carol, Angelus Ad Virginem, Charles Wood’s Hail, Gladdening Light, and Gerald Finzi’s God Is Gone Up. Spring 2007 brought our program: Kaleidoscope: Different Cultures/Different Voices, in which we performed music from around the world: Lee R. Kesselman’s Shona Mass and This Grand Show Is Eternal; Juan Pérez Bocanegra’s Hancpachap Cusicuinnin; Gaspar Fernandes’ Xicochi Xicochi Conetzintle and Tleicantimo Choquiliya; J. David Moore’s Annual Gaudia; Chen Yi’s Arirang and Sakura; Zhou Long’s Words of the Sun; Stephen Hatfield’s Nukapianguaq; James Mulholland’s My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose and Highland Mary; Josef Spivak’s Ma Navu, and Se Enkhbayar’s Naiman Sharag (Eight Chestnut Horses). In Summer 2007, we performed Amy Beach’s Mass in E Flat Major, and two beautiful English Baroque works: John Blow’s Begin the Song, 1684, his first ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, and Henry Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art (minus the overture).
Our 2007-2008 Season began in Fall 2007 with our joyous program Magnificat!, which featured Francis Poulenc’s Gloria, as well as Magnificats by Francesco Durante, Franz Schubert, Herbert Howells and Arvo Pärt. We also sang Herbert Howells’ rarely performed Hymn for St. Cecilia.
In Spring 2008, we presented An American Sampler, featuring a variety of American music: Assistant Conductor Robert Adams; It Will Be Summer--Eventually; Samuel Barber’s The Monk And His Cat; Alfred Marcus Cagle’s Soar Away; Sheldon Curry’s arrangement of Down To The River To Pray; Emma Lou Diemer’s Three Madrigals; Daniel Gawthrop’s Close Now Thine Eyes; Irving Fine’s Lobster Quadrille and Father William from Alice in Wonderland; Lukas Foss’ Cool Prayers from The Prairie; Jeremiah Ingalls’ Northfield; Daniel Locklair’s Break Away; J. David Moore’s How Can I Keep From Singing; Stephen Sametz’s I Have Had Singing, Randall Thompson’s The Last Words of David; Virgil Thomson’s Four Southern Hymns: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need, Morning Star, Greenfields, Death ‘Tis A Melancholy Day; Eric Whitacre’s Sleep, and the wordless Shaker composition, Mother Ann’s Song.
Summer 2008 brought another blockbuster program: Te Deum! We featured George Friderick Handel’s Te Deum in A Major, Joseph Haydn’s lovely Te Deum in C, Benjamin Britten’s Festival Te Deum, and Antonin Dvorák’s dramatic Te Deum.
In Fall 2008, we celebrated the restoration of the Trinity Episcopal Church E.M. Skinner organ, performing the Britten Festival Te Deum and selection from the Louis Vierne Messe Solenelle with The Trinity Choir. Our Fall program included the entire Vierne Mass, as well as Heinrich Schutz’ Hodie Christus Natus Est; Michael Praetorius’ In Dulci Jubilo and Psallite, Robert Pearsall’s In Dulci Jubilo; Javier Busto’s Ave Maria and Ave Maria Gratia Plena, Virgil Thomson’s O My Deir Hert, Ned Rorem’s While All Things Were In Quiet Silence, William Bolcom’s Carol, Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco’s Lo, The Messiah, John Rutter’s Shepherd’s Pipe Carol, and Randol Bass’ Gloria.
In Spring 2009, we performed a wonderful program of classical choral music from Brazil and Canada. Our featured work was the Requiem by the remarkable Afro-Brazilian composer José Maurício Nunes Garcia, 1767-1830. Grandson of slaves, he is known as the Brazilian Mozart. his Requiem is reminiscent of Mozart’s great work, but with a Romamntic twist.
We also presented modern and contemporary choral music from Canada. Healey Willan’s Rise Up, My Love and O Sing Unto The Lord A New Song, are beautiful anthems by the father of Canadian choral music. Stephen Chatman’s Song and Music and Remember are lyrical settings of poems by Dante and Christina Rossetti. His Gloria is an energetic, rhythmic contrast. Latvian immigrant Imant Raminsh’s Ave Verum Corpus is an exquisite work in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Ruth Watson Henderson’s Sing All Ye Joyful is a delightful setting of text from Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Srul irving Glick’s What I Have Learned Is This is a movement from his memorial to Leonard Bernstein. His composition, The Hour Has Come, is the last movement of a six-part work with that title, expressing the urgent need for love in caring for the earth and the environment.
Summer 2009 brought a return to classical and Romantic favorites: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, K 339; Franz Schubert’s Mass in G, and several works by Felix Mendelssohn: Say Where Is He Born and There Shall A Star from Jacob from Christus; Lift Thine Eyes and He Watching Over Israel from Elijah; and his rarely-performed Kyrie in D Minor (SSATB), composed in 1825, when he was 16.
In Fall 2009, we celebrated the Christmas season with What Sweeter Music: Selections from BBC Music Magazine’s 50 most important Christmas carols and works, as chosen by major English and American choral conductors.