Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thoughts on Programming

Recommended reading: Richard Sparks made some great posts in the early months of 2008 on programming - which start here and continue as a thread throughout his posts, I encourage you to read them! The following post is more of a rambling on the process and results of my programming for my chamber choir next season.

Yesterday was a tough day. I have an AGM tonight for my chamber choir, and in that report, I have to announce my season to them. We have our dates planned, carefully trying to avoid conflicts with most of the similar choirs in the city, as well as the two other choirs that I am involved with (a feat in itself), and we've committed ourselves to recording our first CD since I became artistic director. I'm sure there will be more posts on this in the coming year.

Over the past few weeks I have been considering different works, and sets of pieces for possible programs, but have had a difficult time coming up with firm ideas. I have many ideas for feature concerts in the coming years - for example, three years ago we did a concert of Michael Haydn and Mozart during their anniversary years, and the next year we did Rachmaninoff All Night Vigil, and this past year we did a Baroque concert of Handel's Dixit Dominus and a Bach Cantata. I find those concerts quite easy to program, understandably, as usually one work dominates the program, and a few smaller works, if needed, would complete the program. I have a list of pieces that I want to conduct in my life, it is by no means exhaustive, and keeps growing. So this yearly concert program should be easy to manage. Plus composers birth and death anniversaries keep popping up from time to time (note to self - next year is a Debussy year - might have to alter our November program a bit), so I'm good for the next foreseeable future.

The concerts that I find difficult, and I'm sure I'm not alone, are the concerts with a "potpourri" of works. Usually, this coincides with Christmas programs, something that I've been lucky to avoid for the last couple of years. Lately we've done a mid-November program around Remembrance Day, which has been very rewarding, and although challenging to find a full program, they have been quite successful, dealing with the theme of Remembrance, War and Peace. The end of the year concerts I've been able to concentrate on secular works, and poetic themes.

So, a sneak preview for those who read my blog - as my choir will not find out about this program until tonight at the AGM.

November concert "The Spirit Sings" - works by Finzi, Mendlessohn and Violet Archer (Canadian Composer, from Edmonton). The featured work will be Mendelssohn's famous English anthem for treble soloist, choir and organ "Hear my Prayer". We are being joined by the Edmonton Youth Choir, which I hope to draw from their young soprano section for a soloist. Otherwise I will be inviting a young up and coming student to join us for this. The rest of the program will deal will "spirited" music, perhaps even a spiritual. As mentioned above, I should look into Debussy's "Trois Chansons" as well. Violet Archer, known in Edmonton mainly for her piano music, has written some interesting, and challenging, music for choir. Her setting of Psalm 98 is one of her more tonal works, and I believe most accessible for audiences. I haven't sung it since the late '80's, so I'm looking forward to revisiting it.

Our CD project in March will include a Canadian work that we found much success with two years ago, Eleanor Daley's "Requiem". A collection of texts from the Anglican BCP, as well as secular poetry on remembrance - and one other Canadian work, which I'll keep a secret for now. A good Canadian CD I think - attractive from a grant perspective!

The May concert will headline German Romantic composers Rheinberger and Brahms with the former's Cantus Missae (Mass in E-Flat major for double choir) and the later's Zigeunerlieder op. 103. A sort of "Sacred and Profane" idea, hmmm... maybe the Benjamin Britten work of that name would make a nice third piece on that program - if it weren't so ridiculously difficult - another year maybe.

Good luck with all your future programs!

Just as a note - we are off to California in about a week, and then I'm off on a golf trip until the mid to end of July. As a result this blog is likely to go into an extended hiatus for the next month, my family is welcome to check our family blog for updates on our trip, and photos!

Wishing you all a restful summer!

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