Contributing Editor: Jonathan Campbell
When will we sing together again? And what should we sing? Music that affirms life and love. Music that brings people together with a positive message of overcoming adversity. The following three pieces are inspiring examples of how choral music can bring people together.
There are many prayerful, reflective settings of the hymn Ubi Caritas. What J. David Moore has given us with his rendition, “Ubi Caritas et Amor,” is something new: a joyful, celebratory piece. This fresh setting is filled with syncopations, colorful “jazzy” chords, and consonant harmony. Moore breaks up the choral textures with some call-and-response passages as well as choral duets. A recurring refrain increases the accessibility of the piece.
“Malala,” is a powerful yet approachable response to the work of Malala Yousafzai. A Pakistani activist for education, Malala became an unexpected inspiration for young women around the world when she survived an assassination attempt in 2012. Her words, set to music by Joan Szymko, are a visceral call to action. Mostly homophonic, a clear emphasis is placed on text intelligibility. Some wordless chorus—sung on the syllable “la”—provide contrasting passages of joyful dance. With a moderate tessitura and without many sustained high notes, “Malala” is accessible to youth and community choirs.
“Malala” by Joan Szymko, recorded live at the “Women in Song” Choral Festival Hosted by East Tennessee State University and Milligan College March 17, 2018.
“Pasar la Vida” is a tour de force choral work. Jorge Cózatl is very imaginative in his use of large choral forces. The choir often divides into smaller ensembles, creating an effect similar to cori spezzati. He develops this idea further by adding solo voices. The result is an unaccompanied choral concerto, similar to Gabrieli’s “In Ecclesiis” or similar polychoral work. Some spoken words and whispering add more dynamic interest. The composer creates a brilliant, climatic moment when all the forces are finally united for the conclusion. The message of the piece—that we are all “immigrants” in our own life—is communicated beautifully.
About the composers
J. David Moore is a composer, arranger, conductor, teacher, and Southerner who has lived in the Upper Midwest for most of his life. His music has been called “endlessly inventive,” “glorious…haunting…breathtaking,” and “joyous…wild and elemental.” He publishes through his company Fresh Ayre Music and is the founder and conductor of The First Readings Project, a chamber choir that acts as a resource for composers in the development and promotion of new work.
Joan Szymko is a composer and conductor living and working in Portland, Oregon where she is entering her 23rd season as the Artistic Director of Aurora Chorus. As a frequently commissioned composer with a catalog of over 100 published choral works, her music is performed by ensembles across North America and abroad. She has served on the choral music faculty at Portland State University (2013-15). As a visiting artist, she workshops her music with choirs in a variety of educational settings across the US and most recently, in the Netherlands.
VocalEssence Music Press is a dynamic music publishing company that offers a select group of emerging composers the opportunity to make their music available to choirs everywhere. And we offer choruses access to new music they can’t find anywhere else. Our mission is to help choruses, conductors, and composers connect in meaningful ways by publishing exciting new music for singers at all levels. VocalEssence Music Press is a subsidiary of VocalEssence, a leading arts organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A warm, earthy treatment of the beloved prayer for Maundy Thursday. A strong piece following the story of Malala Yousafzai, who survived three gunshot wounds to the head by the Taliban. Explores the themes of exile, travel, and home.
Our Contributing Editor
Jonathan Campbell received his B.A. from Luther College in 1998, a Master of Sacred Music degree from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota in 2002, and a Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting in 2015 at North Dakota State University. As a composer, Jon has received numerous awards and commissions, including a Faith Partner’s Residency through the American Composer’s Forum, as well as first place in the Morningstar College Choral Composition Festival. From 2004-2012, Jon conducted the Honors Choirs of Southeast Minnesota Chorale and in the spring of 2011, served as interim director of choral activities at Winona State University. At Augsburg University, Minneapolis, MN he recently served as faculty conductor of the Cedar Singers male chorus and the Masterworks Chorale. Jon is founder and was artistic director of the Minnesota Renaissance Choir, and is currently Director of Music and Fine Arts at Claremont United Church of Christ and Lecturer in Music at Pomona College, both in Claremont, CA.