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Repertoire for a Prairie style/Frank Lloyd Wright inspired concert

Hello Fellow ChoralNetters!
 
My community chamber choir has the possibility of doing our spring 2015 concert at a faux Frank Lloyd Wright style venue.  This is a private home that is let out for concerts and fund raisers by the owners who have built a new, beautifully and carefully researched Frank Lloyd Wright, Prairie Style home.  Since they began allowing the community to rent their *great room* several years ago, there have been chamber music concerts and fund raisers, a murder mystery fund raising event for the local symphony ("Death of a Diva"---everyone loves to kill off the soprano!) as well as various cocktail parties for the community. There have been no strictly vocal performances since they DO NOT have a piano.  The string groups, if they perform a piano quartet or a piano trio, have brought in keyboards. The acoustics are lovely for chamber music which is the reason we are considering this venue.
 
We have about an 80% chance (depending on a few things) of doing our regular spring concert at this place and I would like to do a concert reflecting the time of the Prairie School (about 1890-ish to 1910-ish) with the restrictions of my group (we really are a true chamber choir with 9 to 15 singers so SATB or possibly SSATB) and unaccompanied if possible, however we do have a keyboard we could use.
 
We were originally to do an "Americana" concert and several pieces already chosen could work--several Aaron Copland "Old American Songs" and Charles Ives--but we will have to use the keyboard.  There is a Holst folk song arrangement, approximately of the time  that we've done, "I Love My Love," I think  would work as there is no divisi and is unaccompanied.  We started brain storming this week at rehearsal and have at least until October or so to get everything in place. Any Carl Sandberg settings or Eugene Field? Any Frank Lloyd Wright something? New works would be fine but they would have to fit perfectly.
 
We are in the suburbs of Chicago and take our Prairie Style seriously around here.  I think it would be wonderful to do a concert with the time and...for lack of a better term.....aura of FLW and his world.
 
Thank you,
 
Marie
 
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on May 9, 2014 5:12pm
What a wonderful idea!  Have you looked at Bach’s Motets?  FLW sometimes equated architecture with music; I can’t think of a better example of “structured music.”  You mention Holst’s folksong arrangements; have you thought about Vaughan Williams’ “freely arranged” folksong works?  His “Five English Folk Songs” really sound great with a small group – reflecting both the basic style in the hands of a wonderful composer.  Did you consider Copland’s a cappella works?  Of course, “In the Beginning” is a bear of a piece but the “Four Motets” are worth looking at.  For that matter, what about Barber?  His “Reincarnations” can be tough but very strong and his “To Be Sung On The Water” always reminds me of that turn-of-the-century beauty and formality.  What of madrigals?  The California Arts & Crafts movement took a cue from the post-Victorian British and loved performing old madrigals at their small dinner parties…
 
As I said, it’s a wonderful idea and there are so many different ways you could do it!  Please let us know how it turns out!
 
on May 9, 2014 8:46pm
We've sung three of the "Four Motets" by Copland and we did talk about them....so at least we're on the right track with that!  I had thought about Barber's "Sure on This Shining Night" and will have to look at “To Be Sung On The Water” and see if it would work for us, personnel-wise.  Had forgotten about the California Arts & Crafts and madrigals....we've sung a ton of English part-songs which would fit, I think.  Will take a look at RVW folk songs...the Holst set reminded me (before this opportunity ever came up) of Arts & Crafts/Prairie School for some reason.
 
This is something I've wanted to do......pair art---whether visual fine art or architecture---with works for small choral ensemble in the same space.  I could see doing a purely sacred concert inspired by stained glass windows in a venue etc. etc. etc........the possibilities are endless!
 
Thank you for your suggestions, Michael!
 
 
on May 9, 2014 9:27pm
I love Nick Page's "And the Trees stood like Beautiful Buildings" based on writing by Frank Lloyd Wright, and employing elements of buildings: wood, stone, steel (cello) glass (tuned crystal glasses).
It is not terribly difficult, and very effective and fun. SSATB with piano. If you have a board, spouses, or kids, they can play the tuned glasses. Boosey and Hawkes, c. 10'.
 
aloha, 
Tim Carney
on May 10, 2014 8:14am
Marie:  Boy, what a perfect setting for Randall Thompson's "Americana", settings from the American Mercury magazine of the early twentieth century. Absolutely ideal for a skilled, chamber choir. Gary Fisher
Burlington Civic Chorale
Burlington Ontario, Canada 
on May 11, 2014 8:04am
Frostiana by Randall Thompson came to my mind; any or all of the selections.
on May 11, 2014 8:45am
Dear Marie,
It's not a well-known piece, but Boosey & Hawkes publishes my piece AND THE TREES STOOD LIKE BEAUTIFUL BUILDINGS.   The text is from Frank Lloyd Wright's autobiography, ("This very grass and the flowers too are in truth the very word of God.").   It is for SATB/Piano SATB with crystal glasses, steel cello or bowed gong, sticks & stones.   Wright would often write, "Of the thing. not on the thing."   This refers to his organic style.   He thought of himself as a composer who used motifs in the same way a composer uses motifs.   The piece was written for Wright's church in Oak Park, IL, his UNITY TEMPLE.  I directed the choir there in the early 80's.  The building is made of concrete, wood, metal and glass, so I used these materials in the piece.   The crystal glases are tuned to a D major 7th chord and are quite striking.  The music is minimalistic in style and is nine minutes long.   I will mount a recording of it on my website in the "choral music" section.
 
The poet Carl Sandburg was a frequent visitor to Wright's home in Wisconsin.   Sandburg would always bring his guitar and they would sing folk songs, songs that ended up in Sandburgs SONGBAG songbook which is still in print.   You could find arrangements of some of those songs (Shennedoah would be an obvious one).   Boosey & Hawkes also publishes my three settings of Sandburg poems.   They are SA piano although they can all be sung SATB.
 
I'm a bit of a Frank Lloyd Wright nut having visited over two hundred of his buildings.
Thanks,
Nick Page
www.nickmusic.com
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 11, 2014 12:25pm
Hi Marie,
 
Daron Hagen has Taliesin choruses from his opera "The Shinging Brow" which seem to me to be a perfect fit for your inquiry.
 
Publisher's catalog listing: ECS Publishing Catalog No. 5057 Shining Brow: Taliesen (Choruses), HAGEN, Daron, (SATB & orchestra), [Secular], (Orchestral parts on rental)
 

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on May 12, 2014 11:51am
First of all, you **have** to include Paul Simon's "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" perhaps as a light closer or encore. There's a published vocal jazz arrangement by Darmon Meader, and it will work with piano alone.
 
I really think of Frank Lloyd Wright as a modernist, and I find it hard to reconcile this with Americana. He went to Berlin in 1909, and his work emerged much more expressionist and Bauhaus. Sonically, I think it would be more rewarding to go more expressionist, 20's modern, and art deco: Leo Sowerby, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, Ernst Toch, Robert Kurka, Joh Alden Carpenter, maybe Charles Griffes, Frederick Converse, Paul Creston, etc.
on May 12, 2014 12:20pm
Good point, Thomas.   Virgil T, though an effective choral writer, was hardly in the same league as FL Wright.   So some of the more adventurous of the composers of the day might be far better choices.
on May 12, 2014 1:13pm
Kirke Mechem's "American Madrigals" has a wonderful selection entitled "Kansas Boys" that just cooks - all about the Prarie life.
on May 13, 2014 7:11am
Wow, what a project!   I have nothing to offer re:  music...these replies seem to have covered it well.   I just love Arts and Crafts and Prairie.  We built our new house using many of the Bungalow characteristics....maybe we should offer a small recital in our great room.....    Looking foward to hearing more about this concert.
on May 13, 2014 8:04am
Lots of great selections mentioned here. "Shining Brow" seems a natural. Also, you might consider:
the four wonderful Prairie Scenes by North Dakota composer/educator Edwin Fissinger
Jackson Berkey's Native American Ambiances, which include "Prairie Fire"
"Prairie" by the great composer/conductor Lukas Foss (now out of print--published by G. Schirmer), though I'm not sure if it's a cappella
"Night on the Prairies" by Minnesota composer Daniel Pederson
Maybe some Welsh tunes?

You might also contact Effi Casey (ecasey(a)taliesin.edu), who is the choir director at Taliesin.
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