Pomona College Glee Club Glee Club Tour
May 1-2, 2021
POMONA COLLEGE GLEE CLUB
2021 SPRING TOUR
Donna M. Di Grazia, conductor
with Twyla Meyer, piano
Florence Price (1887–1953): The Moon Bridge (1930?)
Felix Mendelssohn (1809–47): “Lift thine eyes” from Elijah, op. 70 (1846)
Amy Beach (1867–1944): Come unto these yellow sands, op. 39, no. 2 (1897)
Gustav Holst (1874–1934): Ave Maria, op. 9b (1900)
Josef Rheinberger (1839–1901): Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, op. 35 (1865)
The Pandemic, Technology, and the Glee Club
This program represents the first time the Glee Club has been together since 12 March 2020, when that semester’s 29-member ensemble had its final rehearsal before being sent home due to COVID-19. The pandemic interrupted all learning across the campus as we knew it, but music-making was perhaps the most negatively impacted of all. Trying to sing or play an instrument with others over the internet does not work with online software like Zoom because there is no way to truly synchronize continuous sound: there is a variable amount of sound delay between each individual that makes singing or playing together impossible. Although some technology exists that facilitates performing together, most software of this sort is unable to truly sync the sound sources, especially for pieces that require precision in terms of verticality, and for phrase entrances and endings.
Luckily for us, we found one platform, SoundJack, that allows for synchronous music-making by cutting the delay to 30 or 40 milliseconds or less (which is short enough to be manageable) when the performers are located at a distance of not greater than 500 miles. The farther away the members of the group are from each other, the greater the latency. After many hours of researching and testing both the platform and the equipment needed with my colleague Barry Werger, our music technologist, we settled on something that we thought might work. Might. We really didn’t know.
With the support of Joe Brennan, Director of IT Support Services, who loaned us computers that could be dedicated just to SoundJack, and of several donors whose gifts enabled us to purchase the other things we needed, Barry packed up a box of equipment that we sent to each of the six intrepid Glee Clubbers who would be within geographical range for the semester: a laptop, microphone, mic stand, audio interface, Thunderbolt dock, headphones, and all manner of cables.
Whereas other online rehearsal protocols require all singers to mute themselves so no one (including the conductor) can hear any sound being made by anyone else (because the delay differs with every person), SoundJack has allowed the singers, Twyla, and me to make music together twice a week, and to hear each other doing so. Rehearsals start with each ensemble member making the necessary adjustments for that day’s latency. At the beginning of the semester, this step, coupled with learning how to work the equipment, often took 45 minutes of a 90-minute rehearsal! But soon we learned how to address problems more quickly. (Our fastest setup time as of this writing was just seven minutes, but 10 to 12 minutes is the norm.) In the process, we have become fluent users of our technology and of the specialized terminology that goes with it: I’m guessing that none of us will soon forget the importance of the 0dB mic setting, of the buffer jitter (and how to adjust it), or of that ever-critical 48V button on our little red Scarlett 2i2 interfaces!
SoundJack made it possible for us to sing together, but it has its limits. Although the overall sound delay is manageable, dynamic changes and timbral shadings are not easily perceived by the singers. More significantly, even minimal latency values make tempo changes, ritardandos, and the musical nuances that turn notes into artistic gestures very difficult (and at times impossible) to negotiate. As grateful as we have been to have this technology, it cannot replace singing together in person, something we didn’t think we would have a chance to do this year. But in late February, President Starr announced that groups of 10 or less could gather outdoors for academic reasons. That was our cue to think boldly: perhaps we could gather in Claremont and sing together for the first time in fourteen months.We owe profound thanks to so many who have made this Glee Club semester and this in-person gathering in Claremont (what I’ve playfully called our “tour”) possible. We are immensely grateful to Barry Werger, our expert (and Grammy®-Award winning!) technologist; the Music Department for supporting Barry’s central role in working with the choral program all year; Dean Robert Gaines and (especially) Associate Dean David Tanenbaum for granting various permissions that made our on-campus gathering possible; and Elizabeth Champion and Sherrill Herring for their critical logistical help.
Most of all, though, I want to thank our six students—Anna, Annika, Daniela, Hayley, Rosy, and Steph—and our magnificent accompanist, Twyla, for taking what was a complete leap of faith back in December and January when they agreed to do this, and then sticking with it when travel plans at the beginning of the semester changed unexpectedly, when the box arrived with all of that “stuff,” when the equipment did not perform as anticipated, when the internet signal got bubbly or worse. They stuck to it in ways that demonstrated their commitment to their art and to each other. They truly represent the best of Pomona.
Our Musical Program
For the first time in nearly 40 years (1982), when Pomona still had two gender-specific Glee Clubs, this semester’s ensemble consists of only sopranos and altos. The repertoire for this combination of voices is extraordinarily rich, but this is the first time I have had an opportunity to conduct an all-SSA group for more than just a single piece.
For our abbreviated program, shortened because virtual learning is much slower than in-person rehearsing is, we had to take the limitations of SoundJack into account. Specifically, I purposefully did not choose pieces that move too fast, which would have made those ever-present sound delay issues more frustrating. We started the semester with two test pieces, both nineteenth-century settings of American hymn tunes, that we could use to just get going: William Batchelder Bradbury’s Angel Band (c.1862), and the fuging tune The Blooming Vale (c.1801) by the unknown [J.P.?] Storm. After the first few rehearsals, we set out to do more challenging music, settling immediately on Florence Price’s fanciful The Moon Bridge, and “Lift thine eyes,” the angelic unaccompanied trio from Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah (SSA; 1846). The remaining three pieces were favorites of the group: Amy Beach’s Come unto these yellow sands, Gustav Holst’s eight-part Ave Maria, and finally a little-performed gem, Josef Rheinberger’s Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen.
Florence Price, The Moon Bridge (1930; SSA)
A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Florence Price’s body of compositions spanned many of the genres of classical music typically composed in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries: symphonic, solo vocal music, choral music, piano and organ, and a little chamber music. In doing so, she stands as the first Black woman (and one of the few women period!) whose orchestral works achieved acclaim alongside that offered to the most prominent male composers of classical music at the time. Especially significant was her Symphony in E Minor, which received its premiere by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of its then-principal conductor, Frederick Stock, as part of a program for the 1933 World’s Fair held there that year. This premiere marked the first performance of an orchestral work by a Black woman to be given by a major American orchestra.
A review of the work’s premiere in the Chicago Tribune noted that Price was “repeatedly called on stage to acknowledge the enthusiastic applause her music received,” while the Chicago Daily News said “[it] is worthy of a place in the regular symphonic repertory.”
Not surprisingly, Price had to negotiate a society that was, as it is now, replete with racial inequity and injustice. Her symphony did not enter the mainstream repertoire. In fact, it was lost to performance completely until recently, even though a scholarly edition of the score and parts have been available and easily secured since 2008.
In the years preceding the completion of the Symphony in E Minor, Price was composing a variety of works including art songs, arrangements of spirituals, and choral music, none of which are well-known, in part because scores are still difficult to track down.
The Moon Bridge exists in two versions, one for solo soprano and piano, and the other for choral sopranos and altos with piano. (There are discrepancies in the literature as to whether the choral version appeared in 1930 or 1950.) According to her principal biographer, Rae Linda Brown, Price conducted the choral version with the Chicago Treble Clef Club, a “branch of a national body, established by a ‘select group of Black women’ in Washington, D.C., in 1897 for the purpose of studying and performing music.” The text is from the poetic works of the little-known Chicago area author Mary Rolofson Gamble, part of the Gamble family whose music company (then the Gamble Hinged Music Co.) is widely known in the choral world, at the time for inventing a cloth hinge to preserve sheet music bindings, and today for its choral storage boxes.
The moon like a big, round ball of flame
Rose out of the silver bay,
And built a bridge of golden beams,
Where the fairies came to play.
I saw them dancing in jewel’d robes
On the wavelet’s rhythmic flow,
And I’d long to stand on the magic bridge,
In the moonlight’s mystic glow.
But over the sky a veil of mist,
Thin, soft as a web of lace
Was drawn, then parted, then came again,
With easy, coquettish grace;
And the moon put on a sombre mask,
And frowned on the rippling wave,
And the beautiful bridge went under the sea,
Nor a beam could the fairies save!
I wonder’d if this would end their play,
And if, as the bridge went down,
They would lose their jewels so frail and fair,
And their queen her diamond crown!
But they glided away in merry mood,
To their homes in the rosetree’s bow’rs,
And there they danced on the dewy grass,
Till the “wee sma” morning hours.
– Mary Rolofson Gamble (c. 1930)
Felix Mendelssohn, “Lift thine eyes” from Elijah (1846; SSA)
Long revered as Felix Mendelssohn’s signature choral work, Elijah was first conceived in 1836, but after an initial surge of ideas, the composer laid the work aside for nearly a decade. In 1845, he received a commission for an oratorio for the Birmingham (England) Musical Festival being held the following year, and it was on that occasion that Elijah received its premiere.
References to the prophet Elijah appear in texts associated with various faith traditions, including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Although some of the details are different in each tradition, the fundamental story is the same: Elijah is sent by God/Allah to confront Ahab and Jezebel, who, along with their people, worship false gods including Ba’al, the Canaanite and Phoenician god of rain, rather than Allah or Yahweh, the God of Israel. The unaccompanied trio, “Lift thine eyes,” comes from Part 2 of the oratorio, where an angelic choir appears to the prophet as he is in the depths of despair, having escaped into the wilderness, his life having been threatened by Queen Jezebel.
Lift thine eyes, O lift thine eyes to the mountains, whence cometh help? Thy help cometh from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He hath said, thy foot shall not be moved; thy keeper will never slumber.
– Psalm 121:1–3
Amy Beach, Come unto these yellow sands, op. 39, no. 2 (1897; SSAA)
With Amy Beach—long referred to only as Mrs. H.H.A. Beach until the 1990s—we feature another woman whose music represents a first in American music. Born in New Hampshire in 1867, Beach is known for being the first American woman to gain widespread acclaim as a composer. Like Florence Price, Beach was trained as a pianist, but her biographers frequently mention that her first musical experiences were singing with her mother—at ages 1 and 2! She turned her attention to composition “following her husband’s wishes.” Although she had some formal training as a composer, she was largely self-taught. In keeping with the prevailing Germanic view that prioritized symphonic music over other genres, Beach’s orchestral output was what gained her the greatest praise. But again like Price, her output includes a considerable amount of vocal music, including choral works on sacred and secular texts. Among these latter works are her Three Shakespeare Choruses, op. 39, from which the Glee Club is singing the middle work: Come unto these yellow sands. The text is the first stanza from a song sung by Ariel in Act I of The Tempest, though the last line here substitutes Shakespeare’s original “Hark, hark!” with “Tra-la-la.”
Come unto these yellow sands,
And then, and then take hands,
Curtsied when you have and kissed
The wild waves whist.
Foot it featly here and there;
And sweet sprites the burthen bear:
– William Shakespeare (c.1601-2) from The Tempest, Act I, sc. 2
Gustav Holst, Ave Maria (1900; SSAA|SSAA)
Although best known for his symphonic work The Planets (1916), Gustav Holst is one of the most prolific twentieth-century British composers of music for soprano and alto voices, no doubt the result of his position as music director at several girls’ schools, first at James Allen’s Girls’ School in South London, and then at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in West London, where he would work for nearly thirty years, from 1905 until his death in 1924. Among his most interesting and original choral pieces are his own English translations of selected Sanskrit texts from the Rig Veda, one of the canonical texts of Hinduism.Soon after leaving the Royal College of Music, where he had been studying with Charles Stanford (a leading composer of choral music in his own right), and eight years before embarking on the first of what would be four sets of Rig Veda settings, Holst composed his lush, eight-part Ave Maria. An early work, historians note that it was his first effort to gain public notice. He dedicated it to his mother, who died when he was a child.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis. 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. Amen.
– Luke 1:28, 42; additional text by Girolamo Savonarola (1495)
Josef Rheinberger, Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (1865; SSAA)
We conclude our program with Josef Rheinberger’s lovely four-voice motet, Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen. An organist of considerable talent while still a child in his native Vaduz (Liechtenstein), Rheinberger’s most lasting mark was as a teacher of composition at the Munich Conservatory in the 1860s and 1870s, where he exerted considerable influence on numerous composers, including the early Americans George Chadwick (with whom Florence Price studied composition) and Horatio Parker. He is best known for his large corpus of sacred and secular choral music, but scholars also single out twenty organ sonatas as “outstanding and highly individual.”
Rheinberger originally composed Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen as an unaccompanied work for SATB choir. In December 1865, however, he revised the piece, rescoring it for divided soprano and alto voices and harp, a frequent pairing for pieces written for women’s choirs in the nineteenth century; at this stage he also added the opening prelude, interlude, and postlude, in addition to altering a few smaller details. Lacking a harp this semester, we perform the work with piano.
Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, O Herr!
Es sehnt sich meine Seele nach dem Vorhof des Herrn.
Mein Herz frohlockt in dem lebendigen Gotte.
Denn der Sperling findet sein Haus,
und die Taube obdach im Sturm,
Ich finde deine Altäre,
O du mein König, Herr und Gott!
Selig sind die in deinem Hause wohnen,
In alle Ewigkeit loben sie dich!
Barmherzigkeit und Wahrheit liebt Gott,
Und denen, die da wandeln in Unschuld,
Gibt Gnade er, gibt er Gnade und Herrlichkeit!
O wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, O Herr!
How lovely are thy dwelling places, O Lord!
My soul longs for the courts of the Lord.
My heart rejoices in the living God.
As the sparrow finds its house,
And the pigeon finds shelter in the storm,
I find your altars,
O you my king, Lord and God!
Blessed are they who live in your house,
For all eternity they praise you!
God loves compassion and truth,
And to those that walk in innocence
He gives mercy, he gives mercy and glory.
How lovely are thy dwelling places, O Lord!
–paraphrase of Psalm 84
2021 POMONA COLLEGE GLEE CLUB
Donna M. Di Grazia, conductor
Twyla Meyer, accompanist
Annika Hoseth – Sophomore: Music; Tacoma, Washington
Rosy Falzon – Sophomore: Music; Huntington Beach, California
Hayley Manges – Junior: Media Studies; Riverside, California
Stephanie Northrop – First-year: undeclared; Kingston, Massachusetts
Daniela Pierro – Sophomore: Biology; New York, New York
Anna Sipowicz – Junior: Music and Psychological Science; Portland, Oregon
*Assisted by Twyla Meyer as alto 2a in Holst’s Ave Maria, and by Donna M. Di Grazia as alto 2b in Holst’s Ave Maria, and as alto 2 in Beach’s Come unto these yellow sands and Rheinberger’s Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen.
Permission to reprint Price’s The Moon Bridge granted by Alfred Music Publishers.
~ ABOUT THE PERFORMERS ~
Donna M. Di Grazia holds the David J. Baldwin Professorship in Music, and has been a member of the Pomona College faculty since 1998; she is currently serving as Music Department chair. She received her B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of California, Davis, where she studied choral conducting with Albert McNeil and musicology with D. Kern Holoman; she received her Ph.D. in musicology from Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied with Hugh Macdonald, Michael Beckerman, and Craig Monson.
In addition to conducting, Di Grazia is an active musicologist with principal research areas in the music and culture of the nineteenth century, and sacred music from early seventeenth-century England. Her work has been published by various academic presses including Oxford University Press, Ashgate, and the University of California Press, and it has been supported by grants from numerous sources including the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her most recent work includes a chapter on Franz Liszt as a conductor for a book titled Liszt in Context (ed. Joanne Cormac, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2022). Di Grazia has also long been active as a choral musician, singing in various ensembles including the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and Chamber Chorus, which was nominated for a Grammy® during her time as a singer there. She is also a founding member of the new choral ensemble PRISM, serving as its Associate Artistic Director. A two-time recipient of Pomona’s Wig Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching, she teaches classroom-based courses for majors and non-majors in addition to conducting the Pomona College Choir and Glee Club.
Twyla Meyer holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Piano Performance from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Music degree in Keyboard Collaborative Arts with honors from the University of Southern California. She served as an accompanist/vocal coach at Cal State Los Angeles for 30 years and held similar positions at Pasadena City College and Occidental College along with coaching opera at the University of Redlands for six years. Ms. Meyer has been with the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus for 24 years as its principal pianist; she also plays for a number of choirs at All Saints Church in Pasadena and with an adult ensemble, Artes Vocales. In addition, she works with the choirs at Pomona College and is guest artist at both Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach, playing for vocalists. She has held positions at the Idyllwild School of Music, the Colburn School of Music, the Claremont Clarinet Festival, and worked for both the Los Angeles Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, along with continuous private vocal coaching.
The Choral Program at Pomona College
Choral music has played an especially important role in the cultural life of Pomona College since its founding in 1887, beginning with the Choral Union and the Men’s Glee Club in the late 1800s, and the Women’s Glee Club in 1902. Today Pomona’s rich choral tradition continues, carried forward by two mixed-voice ensembles: the Pomona College Choir and the Pomona College Glee Club. Through the years, and under the spirited direction of its five principal conductors—Fred Bacon (1903–17), Ralph Lyman (1917–48), William F. Russell (1951–82), Jon Bailey (1982–98), and Donna M. Di Grazia (since 1998)—hundreds of students from Pomona College and the other Claremont Colleges have chosen the Choir and Glee Club as part of their curricular liberal arts experience, and as an avenue through which they can express themselves intellectually and artistically.
The College Choir has a membership of approximately 70-80 auditioned singers per semester, with students, faculty, and staff representatives from Pomona College and other members of the Claremont Consortium, and from the surrounding community. Its repertoire includes Western classical art music from all historical periods, with a focus on large choral masterworks.
The smaller of the two groups, the Glee Club, is Pomona’s advanced choral ensemble; among its most distinguished alumni are fourteen-time Grammy® winner Robert Shaw ’38, the most influential choral conductor in the twentieth century, and Howard Swan ’28, revered in the field as the dean of choral music education in the United States. Each spring semester, up to 32 of the Claremont Colleges’ most gifted singers, with majors drawn from across the natural and physical sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts, come together to explore a challenging classical repertoire from the sixteenth century to the present, focusing especially on works for unaccompanied voices.
The ensemble has performed a wide variety of extended works, including Bach’s Christ lag ist Todesbanden, Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia, and Brahms’s Liebeslieder Walzer, as well as shorter works by many other composers from across the centuries and today. It was also pleased to offer the premieres of Tom Flaherty’s A Timbered Choir (2001) and Shakespeare Sonnets (2004), and to be included in the exhibition “Noyses, sounds, and sweet aires”: Music in Early Modern England at the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, D.C.) in 2006.
The Glee Club rehearses from January through April in preparation for a series of on- and off-campus concerts, and for its annual tour immediately following Commencement. Recent international destinations have included Florence, Venice, Rome, London, Kraków, Wrocław, Leipzig, Dresden, and Prague; frequent domestic travel has included New York, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C. The group has sung by invitation at St. Peter’s Basilica (Rome), St. Mark’s Basilica (Venice), Grace Cathedral (San Francisco), the Thomaskirche (Leipzig), the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (St. Louis), and the National Cathedral (Washington, D.C.).
For more information about Pomona’s choral program, please visit choral.pomona.edu.
We are indebted to the parents, alumni, and friends of The Pomona College Choral Program whose generous contributions to the William F. Russell Memorial Glee Club Fund and the David Elgin Memorial Fund directly support our tour.
We are also deeply grateful to those who have generously supported the Music Department, and specifically the Glee Club and its off-campus performances through the Mary L. Butler (P ’67) Music Fund, and the H. Endicott ’26 and Alice Schulz Hanson Music Department Fund.
Lastly, but of critical importance in this pandemic year, we offer special thanks to those donors whose generosity made it possible for us to purchase equipment and rent instruments for the hundreds of students who were taking private lessons and enrolled in ensembles and classroom courses during COVID-19.
~ ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ~
This year’s tour would not have been possible without the support of the following individuals and communities. To each we extend our most heartfelt thanks:
In Claremont, California
G. Gabrielle Starr, President of Pomona College
Robert R. Gaines, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College
Joe Brennan, Director of IT Support Services
Department of Music Faculty and Staff:
Elizabeth Champion, Tour and Concert Production Manager
Cathy Endress, Administrative Coordinator
Sherrill Herring, General Manager of Music Facilities
David Vanderlip, Piano Technician
Barry Werger, Music Technologist
The Music Department Studio Voice Faculty: Melissa Givens, Tamara Bevard, Gregory Geiger, Scott Graff, Ursula Kleinecke, and Scott Lehmkuhl
~ 2021 TOUR ITINERARY ~
Saturday 1, May – Sunday, 2 May
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (variously)
Pomona College Campus
• In front of Little Bridges
• Steps of Frary Dining Hall
• 1st Street Parking Garage