CU Choirs (2021)

CU Choirs (2021)

Jan 14, 2021

CU Choirs (2021)

Free or pay what you can

Free or pay what you can

  • Presented by: CU Boulder College of Music

The Collegiate Chorale and University Men’s and Women’s choruses perform contemporary and historical choral literature for mixed and voice-specific ensembles.

Streamed performance

Even though we are not gathering in person, you can still enjoy this performance from the comfort of your home. Stream this performance Thursday, January 14, 7:30 p.m. MST right here at

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Program notes

Mata del Anima Sola (“Tree of the Lonely Soul”)

Text by Alberto Torrealba (1905-1971)
Music by Antonio Estévez (1916-1988)

“The piece has two distinct sections: one slow and meditative, and the other very quick and rhythmic based on a combined 3/4 and 6/8 meter which is characteristic of a dance called joropo.The music depicts the solitude and mystery of the Ilanos, the high plains of Venezuela, while the tenor solo represents the Ilaneroor “man of the plains” whose songs are improvised. In the joropo section, the choir imitates the instruments that are traditionally used to play the dance. The altos and tenors have the rhythm of the cuatro (a small guitar with only four strings), the sopranos imitate the diatonic harp and the basses sing the guitar bordones, all of which combine to provide the ‘instrumental’ accompaniment to the tenor soloist. The composer Antonio Estévez was one of the second generation of important Venezuelan composers in [the twentieth] century … The poetry of Alberto Arvelo Torrealba is always related to life and traditions in the Venezuelan plains, his motherland …” —Maria Guinand

Mata del ánima sola,
boquerón de banco largo
ya podrás decir ahora
aquí durmió canta claro.

Con el silbo y la picada
de la brisa coleadora
la tarde catira y mora
entró al corralón callada.

La noche, yegua cansada,
sobre los bancos tremola
la crin y la negra cola
y en su silencio se pasma
tu corazón de fantasma.
Tree of the lonely soul,
wide opening of the riverside–––
now you will be able to say:
Here slept Cantaclaro.

With the whistle and the sting
of the twisting wind,
the dappled and violet dusk
quietly entered the corral.

The night, tired mare,
shakes her mane and black tail
above the riverside;
and, in its silence,
your ghostly heart is filled with awe.

“Victimae” (Learning to Breathe)

arr. Raul Dominguez (b. 1989)

Octet number one begins with “Victimae” which is a collaborative piece based on the chant "Victimae paschali laudes" from the Liber Usualis (the reference book of Gregorian Chants). In reaction to the racial injustice of the summer of 2020, I was inspired to partner with Colorado Springs pastor, attorney and poet, Wanda G. Anderson. Anderson’s poem “Don't Hold Your Breath” is superimposed onto the chant's melody retaining only the Latin text (to the praised paschal victim). Each individual singer had the opportunity to commemorate someone—who has passed—that worked against racial injustice or became a victim of its violence. The improvisational section symbolizes the masses speaking out as the poet recites her poem.

Finally, the choir gives one last statement of “Victimae paschali laudes” as we send our cries to the paschal victim.

Next, we'd like the audience to envision these works as connected to Octet number four’s music, which contains the Requiem texts, and begins an intercession for peace that concludes in “Wanting Memories.” —Raul Dominguez

“Victimae paschali laudes” (To the praised paschal victim)

DON’T Hold Your Breath (a poem)

Whispers and dreams...
Don’t know what it means
To speak what is in our heart.
Years of excusing,
Denials and refusing
That which sets me apart.
Weariness takes over,
As hearts grow colder
To all of the tragedy around.
Voices are groaning,
Hearts are bemoaning
The blood which cries out from the ground.
Families are shattered,
Because Black lives don’t matter
And fathers are killed in the streets.
Our hearts are pounding,
From injustice abounding
And hatred donned in white sheets.
Bombarded by violence,
With deafening silence
from the church we hoped would speak.
Hierarchy is taught,
Loyalty is bought
Our infrastructure has become weak.
We’re inhaling the fumes,
Of bodies exhumed
From the graves of barren fields.
No headstones to mark,
The tragedies of the dark
And the generational pain that it yields.
Words unexpressed,
By the millions oppressed
Still searching for justice and peace.
Silent no more,
When our feet hit the floor,
We are now learning to BREATHE.

Wanda G. Anderson © July 2020 (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

“Wanting Memories”

Ysaÿe M. Barnwell (b. 1946)

Imagining as if one has heard University Singers Octet number four’s music and “Victimae” (Learning to Breathe) before this piece, which ask for eternal rest for the departed and peace on earth, we now come to “Wanting Memories.” Barnwell's poem dwells on those who have passed and how they helped us to see the "beauty in the world through [our] own eyes." In this respect, octet members offer up principles and ideals to pass onto their listeners in an effort to spread beauty into our world. With a unison exclamation of “We are one,” thus ends our journey for the University Singers’s Octets number one and four, a journey from darkness to light. —Raul Dominiguez

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

You used to rock me in the cradle of your arms,
You said you'd hold me ‘till the pains of life were gone.
You said you'd comfort me in times like these and now I need you,
And now I need you, and you are gone.

Since you've gone and left me, there's been so little beauty,
But I know I saw it clearly through your eyes.
Now the world outside is such a cold and bitter place,
Here inside I have few things that will console.
And when I try to hear your voice above the storms of life,
Then I remember all the things that I was told.

I think on the things that made me feel so wonderful when I was young.
I think on the things that made me laugh, made me dance, made me sing.
I think on the things that made me grow into a being full of pride.
Think on these things, for they are true.

I thought that you were gone, but now I know you're with me,
You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.
I know a please a thank you and a smile will take me far,
I know that I am you and you are me and WE ARE ONE,
I know that who I am is numbered in each grain of sand,
I know that I've been blessed again, and over again.

“Thula Baba, Thula Sana”

Traditional South African

Our selections were designed to explore the experience of social injustice in America. In this set we have embarked on a journey from grief, to repentance, to empowerment, whereby we affirm our commitment to stand with communities for justice for all people.

“Thula Baba” is a South African lullaby, made popular by the singer and United Nations goodwill ambassador Miriam Makeba (1932-2008). The piece took on a greater meaning for our octet when Miriam Makeba—who was forced to find work as a child due to the death of her own father—used her international performances to raise awareness of the injustices of apartheid in South Africa. Inspired by the recorded performance of the Soweto Gospel Choir, and coached by Mulalo Mulovhedzi, we sing this lullaby for children whose fathers have been taken from them, and we pray that “a star will lead” them to eternal peace. —Jessie Flasschoen

Thula thul, thula baba thula sana;
thul’ u bab’uzo fika eku seni;
thula seni
kukh’in kanyezi ziholel’ u baba,
zimkhan yisela indlel’e
ziyekhaya sobelekhaya.
Tula thula, thula baba
sikhona xa bonke beshoyo,
bethi buyela ubuye
ziyekhaya sobelekhaya.
Thula san.

Keep quiet my child
Keep quiet my baby
Be quiet, daddy will be home by dawn
There's a star that will lead him home
The star will brighten his way home

The hills and stones are still the same my love
My life has changed, yes my life has changed

The children grow but you don't know my love
The children grew but you don't see them grow

“Ave Maria”

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
adapted by Charles Gounod (1818-1893)
arr. Russell Robinson (b. 1963)

Charles Gounod’s renowned “Ave Maria”—an original Gounod melody with the Latin text “Ave Maria” incorporating J.S. Bach’s Prelude in C—was composed in the 19th Century. I selected this arrangement for the choir to perform as a meditation on the suffering of African American mothers who have lost children to violence, in the 21st Century. —Jessie Flasschoen

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


Arianne Abela (b. 1986)

Arianne Abela’s “Rise” comes from The Justice Choir Songbook, a collection of songs seeking to build community through music. The piece progresses from one melody sung by all to three different parts in harmony as we declare our intention to “spread love across this bitter land,” signifying the joining of voices to the cause of love and justice.

—Jessie Flasschoen

I will rise with all my daughters, I will rise against my foes
I will rise with all the mothers, I will carry all their woes
I will rise to fight for freedom, I will rise though faced with fears
I will rise against all hatred, though my eyes are filled with tears
I will rise for religious freedom, for a rich diversity
I will rise for all the weary, for each lonely refugee
I will work for all our women who deserve equal pay
I will work for all our children who await a better day

Sisters, oh, stand with me
Rise up hand in hand
Oh, stand with me
We will rise to spread love across this bitter land
I will rise for love and justice, that we may see a better day
I will rise in peace and service for our world in disarray
I will rise with all my brothers for all those who cannot stand
I will rise with all our fathers who have lost a home and land

Brothers, oh, stand with me
Rise up hand in hand
Oh, stand with me
We will rise to spread love across this bitter land

“Sweet Day”

Ralph Vaughan Williams

British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams set George Herbert’s poem with a melancholy, yet soothing melody. “Sweet Day” is the first of three pieces in the composer’s Three Elizabethan Part Songs originally published in 1913. The text explores the sad reality of all things having to come to an end in this life, but hopefulness and comfort in the virtuous soul lives on. —Natalie Werner

Sweet Day! So cool, so calm, so bright;
The bridal of the earth and sky,
The dew shall weep thy fall tonight;
For thou must die.

Sweet spring! Full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie,
My music shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.

Only a sweet and virtuous soul, 
Like seasoned timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.

“Good Night, Dear Heart”

Dan Forrest (b. 1978)

Set to the words placed on the tombstone of Mark Twain’s daughter after she unexpectedly passed away, contemporary composer Dan Forrest composed this tender and beautiful composition in response to a loss in his own extended family. The text is woven into an expansive texture of the voices as they whisper “good night” back and forth to one another.  —Natalie Werner

Warm summer sun, shine kindly here
Warm southern wind, blow softly here
Green sod above lie light, lie light
Good night, dear heart
Good night, good night

“Kyrie” from Missa O Magnum Mysterium

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

Spanish Renaissance composer Tomás Luis de Victoria wrote his renowned motet, O magnum mysterium in 1572. Twenty years later, he used components of that same work as the parody or basis for a complete mass. The “Kyrie” movement showcases Victoria’s quintessential polyphonic style in the threefold part Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie. The four vocal lines intertwine in duets creating a colorful, unified tapestry of sound. —Dan Wessler

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

“Be Unto Me”

William Byrd (1543-1623)

Published in 1614 as part of The Teares or Lamenacions of a Sorrowfull Soule (a compilation of poems by William Laughton, set to music by various composers), “Be Unto Me” may be one of William Byrd’s final works. This work is a distinctive example of Byrd’s compositional style, in which he utilizes contrapuntal techniques (imitation by each voice), but in a restrained manner befitting the Anglican/Puritan musical tradition by which he had to abide. The result is a style that features clarity of text and harmony in simple, vertical musical textures, but with short, tasteful separate melodic digressions. —Dan Wessler

Be unto me, O Lord, a tower
of strength against my mortal foe.
O guard and ward me with thy power,
which way soever I shall go.
Then shall my heart and soul rejoice
in God my Lord with cheerful voice.

“When Will the Scholartree Blossom?” from Chinese Mountain Songs

Chen Yi (b. 1953)

“When will the Scholartree Blossom?” is the first of five folksongs from various regions in China arranged by Kansas City composer Chen Yi. This collection of songs—created for Chen Yi’s favorite women’s choir, Kitka—was premiered on June 17, 2001 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The composer gathered the melodies of these folk songs while studying composition at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. “When will the Scholartree Blossom?” is a SiChuan folk song, a love song, about a young girl daydreaming about her lover appearing at their meeting place as depicted in a conversation between mother and daughter. —Alexandra Leonard

There is one Scholartree standing on the mountain
Holding onto the railing, looking for my lover to come
Mother asks daughter, “what are you looking for?”
“I look to see when the flowers of the Scholartree will bloom.”

“The Willow Song”

Ralph Vaughan Williams
arr. by W.R. Pasfield

“The Willow Song,” a sorrowful song composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams, is set to text from William Shakespeare’s Othello. In this Shakespearian tragedy, Desdemona sings her lament in the bedchamber after being sent there by Othello, her angry husband who has been falsely convinced she was unfaithful to him. She sings it believing in the power of love to overcome the hatred he feels for her. —Alexandra Leonard

The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
Sing all a green willow
Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee
Sing willow, willow, willow

The fresh streams ran by her and murmur’d her moans
Sing willow, willow, willow
Her salt tears feel from her, and soften’d the stones
Sing willow, willow, willow
Sing all a green willow must be my garland.

“Quam pulchra es”

John Dunstable (1390-1453)

During his career, John Dunstable composed in all of the traditional polyphonic genres of the late Medieval period (settings of chant and liturgical texts, mass ordinaries, isorhythmic motets, and more). This setting of a text from the Biblical book Song of Songs features his use of the English style of polyphony, with its prominence of thirds and sweet-sounding harmonic pillars (in comparison to the still modal sounds of the melodically-oriented Italian style or the structurally-focused French). The listener can note his use of controlled dissonance at important moments of the text. The poem seems surprisingly sensual for a selection from the Bible; however, its references are understood as allusions not to sexual love, but rather as metaphors for the love between Christ and the Church. —Dan Wessler

Quam pulchra es et quam decora,
carissima in deliciis.

Statura tua assimilata est palme,
et ubera tua botris,

caput tuum ut carmelus,
collum tuum sicut turris eburnea.

Veni dilecte mi; egrediamur in agrum
et videamus si flores fructus parturierunt,
si floruerunt mala punica.
Ibi dabo tibi ubera mea.


How beautiful and fair you are, my beloved,
most sweet in your delights.

Your stature is like a palm tree,
and your breasts are like fruit.

Your head is like Mount Carmel
and your neck is like a tower of ivory.

Come, my beloved, let us go into the fields
and see if the blossoms have born fruit,
and if the pomegranates have flowered.
There I will give you my breasts.


“Story of the Rose” (Heart of my Heart)

Andrew Mack (1863-1968)

While modern barbershop singing culture has carved its own musical path for the past century, the style is indeed a direct descendant of African American musical traditions of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Barbershop harmony developed concurrently with the African American choral spiritual, gospel quartet singing and the beginnings of jazz in places such as New Orleans, with individuals the likes of Scott Joplin and Louis Armstrong singing in quartets of their own, developing the harmonic and textural style that would come to be known as “barbershop.” In this performance, we wish to honor those African American groups that contributed to the birth of this style of singing.  —Dan Wessler

Heart of my heart, I love you,
life would be naught without you.
Light of my life, my darling,
I love you, I love you.
I could forget you never,
from you I ne’er can sever.
Say you’ll be mine forever,
I love you.

O Sacrum Convivium (“O Sacred Banquet”)

James Biery (b. 1956)

O sacrum convivium, a sacred Latin text, honors the Eucharist or the Sacrament of Holy Communion, which was initiated by Jesus Christ on Holy Thursday, “the night on which he was betrayed,” as he partook in the Last Supper with his apostles. The sacrament is observed with a meal of bread and wine, a manifestation of Christ’s sacrifice of body and blood on behalf of mankind. The origin of the text is attributed to the great 13th-century Italian philosopher and Catholic priest, St. Thomas Aquinas. This particular musical setting of the text was composed by contemporary American composer and organist, James Biery. The harmonic structure of the piece is grounded on a continuous pedal-point which evokes a mood of sacred mystery and also supports the layering of voices which grows to reach two victorious musical peaks, effectively representing the sanctity of personal sacrifice and the sanctity of communal exultation. —Elizabeth Swanson

O sacrum convivium
in quo Christus sumitur
recolitur memoria passionis ejus:
mens impletur gratia,
et future gloriae
nobis pignus datur. Alleluia!                                  

O sacred banquet
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his passion is recalled:
the mind is filled with grace,
and the pledge of future glory
is given to us. Alleluia!

“There is a Balm in Gilead”

William Dawson (1899-1990)

William Levi Dawson, American composer, choir director, professor and musicologist is considered to be one of the most prolific American composers and arrangers of the twentieth century, having contributed to both choral and orchestral literature. He has been particularly known for his arrangements of Black American spirituals.   

The term spiritual, otherwise known as the religious folksongs or hymns of Black Americans, is a unique genre that began to flourish in the early nineteenth century. The spiritual undoubtedly stems from a lineage by which biblical stories, lessons and verses were shared through an oral tradition by generations of Black American slaves as they survived incomprehensible circumstances of profound dehumanization. The original text and message, from Jeremiah 8:22 (KJV), says “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” This text speaks to the “weeping prophet’s” plea for a healing balm, or a healing spiritual medicine, for the people of Israel who had succumbed to hypocritical and evil religious practices, including the worship of false gods.

This profound text and sentiment continues to endure today. W.E.B. Du Bois, American civil rights activist, leader, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, educator, historian, writer, editor, poet and scholar writes, “through all the sorrow of the [spiritual] there breathes a hope—a faith in the ultimate justice of things. The minor cadences of despair change often to triumph and calm confidence. Sometimes it is a faith in life, sometimes a faith in death, sometimes assurance of boundless justice in some fair world beyond. But whichever it is, the meaning is always clear: that sometimes, somewhere, men will judge men by their souls and not by their skins.”—Elizabeth Swanson

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin-sick soul.
Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin-sick soul.
If you cannot sing like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus, and say He died for all.

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin-sick soul.

“Responsorio XI” from Matinas e Encomendação de Defuntos

José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767-1830)

The ninth responsory from the matins and ordering of the dead by Brazilian composer, José Maurício Nunes Garcia, asks for deliverance and eternal rest for those who have departed this world while we, here, wait in fear of our own judgement. While listening (following University Singers Octet number one’s "Victimae”), we hope for all—who have worked against racial injustice or fallen victim to its violence—to find rest. —Raul Dominguez

Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra
Dum veneris iudicare saeculum per ignem.

Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra.

Dies illa, dies irae, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde
Dum veneris iudicare saeculum per ignem.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day,
When the heavens and the earth shall be moved,
When thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.

I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath,
When the heavens and the earth shall be moved.

That day, day of wrath, calamity and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness,
When thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.

Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

“Agnus Dei” from Mass of Saint Peter of Alcántara

José Maurício Nunes Garcia

Garcia's setting of the Roman Mass ordinary text Agnus Dei is a simple intercession for peace from our sins. In a similar way, our singers provide statements of peace for our world in an effort to bring our journey from Victimae into the light. Our virtual audience should imagine the end of this recording going back into University Singers Octet number one’s “Wanting Memories” to complete the journey from darkness to light. —Raul Dominguez

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

“Domine Jesu”

José Maurício Nunes Garcia

“Domine Jesu” is a motet by Brazilian composer José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767-1830). A prolific South American composer of sacred music for the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral, Garcia composed many large-scale works for choir and orchestra. This piece demonstrates Garcia’s skill for musical drama in miniature. After an elegantly reserved introduction and middle section, the upper voices rise to a climax while the bass sustains a long tone on the text “And I will be saved.” While stylistically influenced by his contemporaries Franz Joseph Haydn and Gioachino Rossini, this piece also demonstrates the continued baroque-era practice of basso continuo which, in this performance, consists of organ and cello accompaniment. —Daniel Parks

Domine, Jesu,
Te desidero, te volo, te quaero
Ostende mihi faciem tuam
Et salvus ero.

Lord Jesus
You I long for, I want, I search for,
Show me your face
And I am saved.

“We Are…”

From lessons by Y.M. Barnwell ©1993

“We Are…” was originally composed and performed by Ysaÿe M. Barnwell as a member of the vocal ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock. In addition to composing for film, dance and theater, Barnwell is a master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. In “We Are…,” layered vocal patterns provide support to a soloist. The rhythmic patterns interlock to form an energetic groove that runs the length of the piece. Barnwell, also the lyricist, crafts a meditation on new life and generational legacy. This virtual choir performance includes three soloists to illustrate the message of unity through shared humanity. —Daniel Parks

For each child that's born
a morning star rises
and sings to the universe
who we are.
We are our grandmothers' prayers.
We are our grandfathers' dreamings.
We are the breath of our ancestors.
We are the spirit of God.

We are
Mothers of courage
Fathers of time
Daughters of dust
Sons of great vision.
We are
Sisters of mercy
Brothers of love
Lovers of life and
the builders of nations.
We are
Seekers of truth
Keepers of faith
Makers of peace and
the wisdom of ages.
We are our grandmothers' prayers.
We are our grandfathers' dreamings.
We are the breath of our ancestors.
We are the spirit of God.

For each child that's born
a morning star rises
and sings to the universe
who we are.


“Ogo ni fun Oluwa” (Glory to God in the Highest) from Christmas Give

Rosephanye Dunn Powell (b. 1962)

Commissioned for the Baltimore Choral Arts Society in 2010, “Ogo ni fun Oluwa” is the fifth work of a six movement piece, composed for the holiday season. The composer (Rosephanye Dunn-Powell, Auburn University) and I spoke, and she explained the “Yoruba Translation and Pronunciation is by Henry Fadamiro, a native of Nigeria, Africa. Yoruba is spoken all over western Nigeria and in other regions of Nigeria as well. ‘Ogo ni fun Oluwa’ is a song of praise that celebrates the birth of Jesus.” —Gregory Gentry

Ogo ni fun Oluwa
Abi Jesu Kristi

Glory be unto the Lord!
Jesus is born

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