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Randall Thompson non-Frostiana?

Hi there: Anybody have experience with doing Thompson's music that isn't Frostiana or the Alleluia? Based purely on written descriptions (I haven't heard or seen scores for any of these yet) I'm especially thinking about the following for next season:
  • Americana
  • A Concord Cantata
  • Odes Of Horace
  • Two Herbert Settings
  • The Testament of Freedom
  • The Peaceable Kingdom
but am also thinking about these:
  • Five Love Songs (incl baritone soloist)
  • Ode To The Virginian Voyage
  • A Feast Of Praise
  • Tarantella
  • Fare Well
  • The Lord Is My Shepherd
The usual things: how hard are they, how many singers would you need, how much flexibility is there in how they are accompanied, audience reaction, etc.
Any thoughts are welcome. Thanks! Bill
Replies (13): Threaded | Chronological
on April 3, 2014 1:35pm
I've sung (not conducted) two performances of The Peaceable Kingdom.  It is an unaccompanied oratorio for double chorus and just wonderful.  I can't remember the number of double choruses to single choruses  but I think they are about even in number.....and you have to have an equal number of singers in each chorus, can't fudge it.  The double choruses  are worth it, thrill-wise. Both times, it was a wonderful experience for me as a singer....but it's not easy!
on April 3, 2014 2:37pm
I have had good luck with "The Best of Rooms."   I like to pair it together with Rutter's "What Sweeter Musik"  seque straight into the Thompson Best of Rooms.  Both are settings of Robert Herrick, and sort of quote each other.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 4, 2014 5:13am
I sang Testament of Freedom in a civic chorale quite a few years ago (so memory is spotty).  Very moving multi-movement piece, very dramatic opening and closing.  I'd love to do it again somewhere, sometime.  We did it SATB (about 30 adults, good amateurs) with piano, but from recordings the brass in the orchestral version would be a great enhancement.  I remember that the meter changed to flow with the prose (Thomas Jefferson) texts, but we survived it.
on April 4, 2014 5:55am
I have sung and conducted Peaceable Kingdom..challenging, but highly rewarding. Consider also Thompson's anthem "The Last Words of David". It begins with flourishing  D Major scales from full organ under the text "He that ruleth over men must be just; ruling in the fear of God". It then settles into a gorgeously placid section on the text "Alleluia".  Exquisite, moving music.  I did use this once with piano accompaniment, a good pianist could pull off the accompaniment at the piano.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on April 4, 2014 6:54am
The Tarantella - is an exciting piece for Men with great accompaniment. My high school men sang it at our first ACDA appearance in 1992. They "nailed" it!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 4, 2014 12:33pm
I would add to this list "The Last words of David." There are versions for SATB and TTBB, but the TTBB version is superior. 
Tarantella is the best piece he ever wrote, and it's also men's voices.
on April 4, 2014 12:44pm
The Testament of Freedom is right at the same difficulty level as Frostiana. It mostly stays SATB with a few splits into four-part men. I've sung it once and heard it once and enjoyed it both times.
Peacable Kingdom is one of my favorites works but the whole SSAATTBB a cappella thing is challenging. Requires quite a bit of dynamic control too, you have to be able to sing as soft as you do loud.
on April 4, 2014 6:08pm
There are also orchestral and band versions available on rental from ECS.
Robert A.M. Ross
Chair, Music Department
Community College of Philadelphia
robertamross(a) <Robert Ross 11>
on April 4, 2014 6:06pm
My former choir, Voces Novae et Antiquae, recorded a Thompson CD back in the early '90s that included Frostiana plus (might not be in this exact order):
A Feast of Praise (SATB div., brass ensemble & harp—tricky harmonically & rhythmically, but worth the effort)
Glory to God in the Highest
Felices ter (Odes of Horace—sounds like Lassus & even fooled a musicologist on 1st hearing!)
Bitter-Sweet (as twisted as RT ever gets)
The Mirror of St. Anne (double SATB—literally a 4-part setting of the 4 phrases of the hymn-tune St. Anne answered each time by a complete inversion of the music just heard!)
Antiphon (Let All the World in Every Corner Sing—difficult!)
The Lord is My Shepherd (with piano—gorgeous pastorale)
Alleluia (of course!)
Pueri Hebraeorum (double SATB with colla parte organ; sounds like Gabrieli!)
This was all done with 30-40 amateur vv. with, perhaps, 8 pros in the mix.
The CD is available from me for $15 if you or anyone else is interested! Please reply privately.
Hope this helps,
Robert A.M. Ross
Chair, Music Department
Community College of Philadelphia
robertamross(a) <Robert Ross 11>
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 5, 2014 6:49am
Mr. Ross, I've had your recording for years (through the old Borders in Bryn Mawr?).  Thank you so much for it.  Through it my children and I came to know and love Randall Thompson's choral works.  My son, when he was small, thought that the "hallelujah chorus" was Thompson's.  My children are now in their 20's and are talented choral singers (if I say so myself).  I've used "The Lord Is My Shepherd" as a piano piece for the dedication of our church's new piano.  Someday I would love to be a part of "Pueri Hebraeorum" for Palm Sunday.  Thank you for the informative comments above on the pieces. 
Pearl Flamberg
Blue Bell, PA
Applauded by an audience of 4
on April 6, 2014 7:08am
Mr. Spencer, Certainly I am the grouch in this discussion, because I do not find Thompson's Frostiana worth a second glance, nor, I must confess, most any of his music. Some years ago I began to rewrite Frostiana with the intent of making the vocal lines more genuinely reflective of the phrases of the text (it's still there, hiding somewhere in my Sibelius files). After a while I lost interest, since, while like every other cultivated American I MUST love Robert Frost, in fact I simply don't. There are much greater 20th Century poets and composers whose works are truly worth knowing. 
Regards, James Johnson
Williams BA '64, Yale DMA '78, organist in Adolphus Busch Hall at Harvard 1971-1991,
ASCAP, AGO, Mensa, Who's Who in America,
Please have a look at the text sources of some of my choral works on my ChoralNet page, and thanks. 
on April 6, 2014 6:20pm
I love The Last Words of David.  Testament of Freedom is thrilling.  Peaceable Kingdom is wonderful, but challenging.  Alleluia is a gem, also challenging.  Tarantella has a difficult accompaniment but the vocal parts are quite singable.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 7, 2014 9:48am
I don't know if anyone already mentioned it, but I adore "The Last Invocation". Great poetry by Whitman, in a wonderful post-Romantic setting.
Here are two recordings of THompson's choral works:
And I echo the praise of "Best of Rooms" and "Last Words of David" (if you've got the pianist, that one is a POWERHOUSE).
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