November 5, 2023 | 4PM
Join VOX as we break the classical ceiling! Featuring classical works of female composers throughout the ages, this concert celebrates women who defied the conventions of their times and transformed music. Vivaldi’s masterpiece, Gloria in D, completes the concert, performed as originally written – for women’s voices!
Welcome to the 2023-24 (27th ) season of VOX Femina Los Angeles. As the founding artistic director, I take much pride in the accomplishments of this wonderful organization and look forward to great things this season. We create a safe place in which all singers, regardless of sexual identity, race, ethnicity, or age, tell the story of our experiences. Over the years, we have had many occasions to find our voice and sing out beautifully and strong. In our history, we have had the amazing opportunity of sharing the stage with celebrities ranging from folk legend Holly Near to Broadway star Joanna Gleason to performing under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. We have sung in thirty languages representing cultures from all around the world. We have enjoyed collaborations with many artists, including the popular dance theater company CONTRA-TIEMPO, Japanese percussionists the ON Taiko ensemble, 2020 MacArthur Fellow and playwright Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota Nation), and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. We have held social justice at the core of our mission since our inception and this season we continue to do just that with innovative concert programming that takes you on a musical journey through different time periods and countries, highlighting cultures and stories from around the world as we continue to explore music in a new light and create safe spaces for difficult conversations. Having introduced the new Justice Choir last season, our Music Education programs continue to grow and this year will include VOX's inaugural High School Choir Festival dedicated to SSAA choirs from the region. We are also excited for our new artistic partnership with the Ebell of Los Angeles, a fantastic organization dedicated to the empowerment of women, and the opportunity to perform our February concert, “Mosaics from the Middle East,” in their beautiful home. In June, VOX will fulfill a long-held dream of traveling to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall! VOX will perform a showcase set on the renowned stage and anchor a festival chorus of SSAA voices under my direction. It is an honor to join the ranks of the incredible musicians and ensembles that have performed at this historic venue, and one that VOX is unlikely to forget! None of this would be possible without you - our wonderful audience, who lift us up time and again with your generous applause, who stood by us through the pandemic and who acknowledge the power and importance of “giving women voice.” Thank you. We are grateful for you and hope that you enjoy this season of concerts as much as we enjoy singing for you.
Founding Artistic Director
Classical VOX: Breaking the Classical Ceiling Emily Sung Classical VOX: Breaking the Classical Ceiling is a celebration of pathbreaking music by, for, and about women in the classical sphere. Through their singing, poetry, visions, compositions, and choral arranging, women across time have exerted power and influence in the world around them. By highlighting this music, we give voice to these women and showcase their contributions to the vocal and choral arts. Above all, we seek to show that women create meaning simply through their existence. As Sappho foretold, we remember their words, thoughts, and dreams––and we hope that someone will remember us, too, in another time. Tonight’s program travels between medieval and modern-day chant, 17th- and 18th-century sacred music, choral arrangements of Romantic art song, and contemporary works exploring both historical legacy and thrilling new vistas of womanhood. Hildegard von Bingen and Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, two nuns living centuries apart, remind us of the rich musical activities in all-female institutions that were often invisible in the male-dominated spheres of public life and religious performance. Robert Gass and Jocelyn Hagen invoke the names of ancient poets and goddesses, illustrating the generative power of remembering the past. In a similar vein, Elaine Hagenberg’s setting of poetry by Harriet Prescott Spofford gives a second life to a Victorian-era woman who dared to dream beyond the boundaries of her world. Virginia Davidson and Mari Esabel Valverde’s choral arrangements of solo vocal works by Clara Schumann and Ernest Chausson provide a fresh take on Romantic-era repertoire. Finally, we present Vivaldi’s beloved Gloria, RV 589 as it was most likely originally performed: with an all-treble voice choir featuring stunning soprano and alto soloists. “Caritas abundat” is a psalm antiphon by Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th-century German Benedictine abbess, writer, and composer who was renowned during her lifetime for her visions, prophecies, and miracles. One of the earliest known women composers, Hildegard wrote original melodies setting both contemplative and dramatic poetry. “Caritas abundat” is a meditation on the omnipresence of love. Hildegard’s melody alternates between syllabic treatment of the Latin text and elaborate melismas, most notably on the first and last words: “caritas” (love) and “dedit” (she gave). “Ancient Mother” is the title song from an eponymous 1993 album by Robert Gass, an American musician, recording artist, and organizational leadership consultant who has released more than twenty albums of spiritual chant, rock, and New Age music. In “Ancient Mother,” Gass celebrates goddesses, priestesses, and singers from cultures across the world. Ambient nature sounds are interwoven with a flowing piano accompaniment that evokes running water. Throughout, the choir repeats a chantlike melody, invoking the names of Ishtar, Isis, Sophia, Gaia, Parvati, Morgana, and other goddesses. “Regna terrae, cantata Deo” is a motet by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, a 17th-century Italian nun, composer, and abbess. Editor Meredith Y. Bowen writes: “Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602 – ca.1678) was a choir nun and composer who resided in the Convent of Santa Radegonda in Milan, Italy. Like many young women from noble or merchant class families, she professed vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience at age 18 and lived her entire life behind the stone walls and iron grates of the convent. She composed and published four volumes of music for the famous choir nuns at Santa Radegonda. ‘Regna terrae, cantate Deo,’ a setting of Psalm 67:33-36, is a motet from Cozzolani’s 1642 volume of music. The performance would have taken place in the chapel with the nuns singing and playing behind a wall or iron grate to obscure their faces from the public. “Ave Maria” by B.E. Boykin is a setting of one of the most popular Marian prayers throughout history: Ave Maria or Hail Mary. The Latin text blesses the Virgin Mary, asking for her prayers both now and at the moment of death. In this setting, the composer curiously omits part of the opening text: gratia plena (full of grace). Throughout, the choir delivers the text homophonically with both intimacy and power. Though most of the work suggests the key of B minor, the work takes a surprise turn in the final amen, closing on a brilliant D major chord. In “Someone Will Remember Us,” American composer Jocelyn Hagen adapts poetry by the ancient Greek poet Sappho, one of the most revered figures of her time. Both celebrated and demonized for her use of emotional, erotic, and lesbian imagery, Sappho revolutionized poetry as one of the first poets to write highly personal, emotional verse using the first person. Hagen combines several of Sappho’s poems in this lush, harmonically daring setting for treble voices, piano, and strings. Throughout this work, and especially in the opening, Hagen pays homage to the chant melodies of earlier eras through her use of free, speechlike rhythms, powerful unison singing, and the alternation of duple and triple rhythms. “Someone Will Remember Us” is aptly named after one of Sappho’s most famous surviving fragments: “Someone will remember us, even in another time.” “Der Mond kommt still gegangen” is a choral adaptation of a German lyric art song, or lied, by Clara Schumann. Virginia Davidson’s SSA version showcases the beauty of treble harmony while centering the expressive melody of Schumann’s original composition, which is often performed today with solo voice and piano. The text, a poem by the 19th-century German poet and playwright Emanuel von Geibel, describes a lover’s solitude while gazing across a moonlit valley at a light in the beloved’s window. “Die Stille Lotosblume” is the sixth and final song in Clara Schumann’s Sechs Lieder. This work, also a setting of an Emanual von Geibel poem, describes another moonlit scene: a swan serenading a snow-white lotus blossom that has risen out of a dark blue lake. In Virginia Davidson’s arrangement for SSA choir, the first two lines are delivered by a soprano solo, in keeping with Clara Schumann’s original setting. The full choir comes in as the swan approaches the lotus, the object of his love. The song ends with a question: “Oh flower, lovely flower, can you understand his song?” Fittingly, the music also leaves us with a question: a delicate, unresolved dominant chord played by the piano. “Hébé” is Mari Esabel Valverde’s choral arrangement of an art song by the 19th-century French composer Ernest Chausson. The original song, which Chausson subtitled “a Greek song in the Phrygian mode,” sets a Louise Ackerman poem describing the arrival of a cup-bearer at a feast of the gods. This divine child serves a drink of unearthly youth, renewing the immortality of the gods. Valverde writes, “Chausson’s portrayal of such an untouchable divinity is characterized by a simple, flowing melody and modal harmony which recalls an ancient era. The arpeggi of the piano in the original song suggest the flourishes of the harp in this arrangement. In a classic style of implicit sensuality, all the voices come together as a nostalgic expression of lust for youth and vitality.” “By Night” is Elaine Hagenberg’s dramatic setting of an eponymous poem by Harriet Prescott Spofford. A prolific 19th-century writer from New England, Spofford challenged stereotypes through her poetry and Gothic fiction at a time when few women were able to make inroads in the male-dominated world of publishing. Hagenberg, a contemporary American composer and arranger, was commissioned to write “By Night” by the University of Kentucky Women’s Choir. Hagenberg writes, “Harriet Prescott Spofford’s poem ‘By Night’ depicts a young woman who discovers a bold new world of thrilling beauty when she ventures beyond her familiar walls. A galloping accompaniment underscores this wild discovery, and a soaring wind motif in the vocal line rushes forth as if to take the viewer's breath away. A contrasting middle section pauses briefly to meditate on the ‘beauty born in its Maker's thought’ before racing forward again, painting a cinematic scene of wonder and awe.” Gloria, RV 589 by Antonio Vivaldi One of Antonio Vivaldi’s most celebrated choral works today, Gloria was virtually unknown for centuries after the composer’s death. First composed between 1713-1717, Gloria was rediscovered in the 1920s in a monastery in Turin, Italy, in a trove of hundreds of manuscripts of Vivaldi’s other vocal and choral works. Decades later, Vivaldi’s original version of Gloria was finally published and premiered in 1957. It has remained one of his most popular choral compositions ever since. The most influential Italian composer of his generation, Vivaldi broke new ground in his contributions to Baroque composition and especially his virtuosic writing for the violin. Gloria, an exuberant setting of a single mass movement, showcases both his innovative approaches to string technique as well as some of his best choral writing. The work dates to Vivaldi’s years as a violin teacher and substitute choirmaster at the Ospedale della Pietà, a prestigious charitable institution for musically talented orphan girls in Venice. Several compositional features indicate that the work was intended for performance by the girls at the orphanage: the solos are scored for soprano and alto soloists, the bass part is set in an unusually high tessitura, and Vivaldi used octave doublings in the orchestral parts to reinforce the lower voices. This edition by Malcolm Bruno adapts Vivaldi’s original SATB score for SSAA choir using the techniques that Vivaldi himself likely would have used: transposition, revoicing, and reliance on orchestral doubling. Vivaldi set the text of the Gloria in eleven movements. The exhilarating opening tutti movement begins with one of the iconic motives of this work: rapid unison octave leaps. The second movement, “Et in terra pax,” is a more restrained, andante setting featuring imitative entries and suspensions in the vocal parts. “Laudamus te” is a joyful duet for two soprano soloists. “Gratias agimus tibi” opens with a slow, serious declamation, followed immediately by a stunning display of vocal fireworks in a tutti allegro full of vocal melismas. The fifth movement, “Domine Deus, Rex coelestis,” is a tranquil duet between the oboe and soprano soloist. “Domine Fili unigenite” is one of the most beloved and recognizable movements of the work. Scored for full choir and strings, this movement features jubilant, dancelike dotted rhythms throughout. The following movement, “Domine Deus, Agnus Dei,” is set in a more serious, contemplative mood, alternating between alto solos and tutti choral responses asking for mercy from the Lamb of God. “Qui tollis peccata mundi,” one of the shortest movements of the Gloria, is an almost entirely homophonic prayer of supplication. “Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris” features an alto solo in the relative key of B minor. The penultimate movement, “Quoniam tu solus sanctus,” reprises the opening movement in miniature: after a very abbreviated orchestral introduction, the choir delivers a succinct, homophonic statement of the text in the shortest movement of the entire Gloria. The final movement, “Cum Sancto Spiritu,” is a magnificent double fugue adapted from Gloria in D major by Giovanni Maria Ruggieri, another Venetian composer and one of Vivaldi’s contemporaries.
Click HERE for a printable pdf version of these notes!
Emily Sung is an Assistant Professor of Practice at the USC Thornton School of Music, where she teaches courses in choral literature, conducting, and choral development and co-directs SUARA Southeast Asian Choir with Yu Hang Tan.
Sung previously served as the Director of the Chamber Choir and Choral Society at the University of Pennsylvania, the Associate Director of Choral Activities at Princeton University, and the Assistant Chorus Master at Opera Philadelphia, where she helped prepare choruses for the company’s groundbreaking Festival O and numerous main stage productions. Sung also previously served as the Assistant to the Music Director of the Pennsylvania Ballet, the director of the Singing City Children’s Choir, the music director of Opera Philadelphia’s Teen Voices of the City Ensemble (T-VOCE), a singer and co-conductor of the Chestnut Street Singers, and a member of the Temple University conducting faculty.
Sung earned her DMA in choral music at the University of Southern California, her MM choral conducting at Westminster Choir College, and her bachelor’s in history at Princeton University, where her research focused on American legal history.
November 5, 2023 – 4 PM
First Congregational Church of Los Angeles
Lisa Edwards, collaborative pianist
Sidney Hopson, singing bowl
Loving tenderness abounds for All,
from the darkest to the most eminent one beyond the stars,
Exquisitely loving All,
she bequeaths the kiss of peace upon the ultimate King.
Hildegard von Bingen
Sidney Hopson, rain stick
Regna terra cantate Deo
Chiara Margarita Cozzolani
Casey Burgess, Brianna Estrada, soloists
Leah Metzler, cello
Small group: Desiree Balfour, Ann Bowden, Casey Burgess, Bethany Encina, Brianna Estrada, Mika Jain, Missy Nieto, Sonia Ohan,
Jessica Rau, Lori Marie Rios, Ashley Sheagley,
You kingdoms of the earth, sing to God, sing psalms to the Lord.
Sing psalms to God, who has ascended over the heavens in the east.
You kingdoms of the earth, sing to God, sing psalms to the Lord.
Sing to God, for He will give you His voice, the voice of strength.
Give glory to God, for his splendor is over Israel and his strength in the clouds.
Sing to God, sing psalms to the Lord.
The Lord is wonderful in His holy places, the God of Israel. He shall give power and fortitude to His people;
blessed be the Lord.
You kingdoms of the earth, sing to God, sing psalms to the Lord.
B E Boykin
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 sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Someone Will Remember Us
Text by Sappho
Michelle Shin, violin, Rita Andrade, viola, Leah Metzler, cello
From Sechs Leider
Der Mond kommt still gegangen
Text by Emmanuel Geibel
The moon rises quietly with its golden glow, and lovingly puts the weary earth to sleep.
The breezes carry to the sleepers a thousand thoughts of love arising from devoted hearts.
Down in the valley, lights sparkle in the windows of my love’s house,
but I stand alone in the dark and look out into the world.
Die Stille Lotosblume
Jessice Rau, soloist
The silent lotus flower rises out of the blue lake.
Her leaves glimmer and sparkle, her blossom is white as snow.
The moon pours all its golden rays from heaven down into her lap.
A white swan circles the flower on the lake, singing so sweetly, so softly.
He gazes upon her and pours himself into his soft, sweet song.
Oh flower, lovely flower, can you understand his song?
Ernest Chausson/arr. Mari Esabel Valverde
Text by Louise Ackerman
With eyes lowered, flushed and candid, toward their banquet when Hebe came forth,
The Gods, delighted, extended their empty cup, and with nectar the Child refilled it.
All of us, also, when youth passes, we extend our cup to her over and over again.
What is the wine that the Goddess pours there? We do not know; it intoxicates and enchants.
Having smiled, in her immortal grace, Hebe goes off in the distance; we call her again in vain.
Still, for a long time, on the eternal path, our eye in tears follows the divine cupbearer.
Text by Harriet Prescott Spofford
Michelle Shin, violin, Leah Metzler, cello, Sidney Hopson, percussion
I. Gloria in excelsis Deo
Glory to God in the highest
II. Et in terra pax hominibus
And on earth peace to all those of good will.
III. Laudamus te
We praise thee. We bless thee.
We worship thee. We glorify thee.
IV. Gratias agimus tibi
We give thanks to thee according to thy great glory.
V. Domine Deus, Rex coelestis
Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father almighty.
VI. Domine Fili unigenite
Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son.
VII. Domine Deus, Agnus Dei
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
VIII. Qui tollis peccata mundi
Thou who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou who takest away the sings of the world, receive our prayer.
VIIII. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris
Thou who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us.
X. Quoniam tu solus sanctus
For Thou alone art holy. Thou alone art the Lord. Thou alone art the most high, Jesus Christ.
XI. Cum Sancto Spiritu
With the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father, Amen.
Desiree Balfour, Cynthia Glass soloists
Bethany Encina, soloist
Brianna Estrada, soloist
Marcela Pan, soloist
Violin I: Michelle Shin, Adrienne Pope; Violin II: Sarena Hsu, Rhea Fowler;
Viola: Rita Andrade, Corinne Sobolewski; Cello: Leah Metzler, Judy Kang;
Bass: Stephanie Payne; Trumpet: Angela Romero; Oboe: Catherine del Russo; Keyboard: Lisa Edwards
For a printable pdf version of all texts and translations, click HERE.
Ancient mother, I hear you calling
Ancient mother, I hear your song
Ancient mother, I feel your laughter
Ancient mother, I taste your tears
Someone Will Remember Us
Jocelyn Hagen; Text by Sappho
Come to me now. Come to this holy temple Where the graceful grove of apple trees circles an altar smoking with frankincense. Here roses leave shadows on the ground and cold springs babble through apple branches Where shuddering leaves pour down profound sleep. The glow and beauty of the stars are nothing near the splendid moon When in her roundness she burns silver about the world. Now in my heart I see clearly a beautiful face shining, etched by love. I could not hope to touch the sky with my two arms. Love shook my heart like a wind on a mountain punishing oak trees. The moon appeared in her fullness and women took their place around the altar. And women sang a loud and heavenly song whose wonderful echo touched the sky. Everywhere in the streets were bowls and cups. Myrrh and cassia and incense rode on the wind. Women danced supplely with light feet crushing the soft ﬂowers of grass. I will love as long as there is breath in me. Someone, I tell you, will remember us. Someone will remember us.
Elaine Hagenburg; Text by Harriet Prescott Spofford
Deep in the tarn the mountain A mighty phantom gleamed, She leaned out into the midnight, And the summer wind went by, The scent of the rose on its silken wing And a song its sigh. And, in depths below, the waters Answered some mystic height, As a star stooped out of the depths above With its lance of light. And she thought, in the dark and the fragrance, How vast was the wonder wrought If the sweet world were but the beauty born In its Maker’s thought.
First Congregational Church of Los Angeles: Rev. Laura Vail Fregin, David Harris, Chester McCurry, Reneice Edwards
Live Stream & Audio: David Garcia Saldaña
Graphic Design: Kate Jordan
Proofreader: Laurie Fox
Music Librarian: Michele Mulidor
Intern: Melina Durre
Special Thanks to Dr. Lisa Sylvester, and Leah Metzler and the Orchid Quartet.
Thank you to all our volunteers this afternoon who are ushering, assisting with Box Office, and making this concert a stellar experience for our audience, and to all the friends and family members who volunteer their services to support VOX throughout the year.
The Colburn Foundation is pleased to support this traditional classical program.
"This concert is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Department of Arts and Culture, and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.