Now in our 49th season, New Amsterdam Singers has sung a lot of music! Some works are so special that we are eager to return to them after five or ten years. But we are committed to searching out new composers, and in the month of June I spend time researching, sifting, and studying new music. I am often asked how I find this music, and our upcoming program has some answers.
One path that leads directly or indirectly to new ideas is touring. NAS has taken a tour every other summer for many years. This coming July we are going to Iceland and Copenhagen. I hoped to find some Icelandic music to bring along, and discovered to my surprise that Iceland has a huge choral tradition, with very fine choirs in Reykyavik and many respected composers as well. So I chose a work, Ragnarsson’s Ave Maria, for tour which we will also sing on this program.
The other example is tour related in a more circuitous way. A tour agency with whom we had worked asked us to sing a joint concert with a group coming to New York from Avignon, France. So we sang together last April. This choir called themselves “Choeur Homilius,” having taken the name of a German composer, Gottfried August Homilius, because they especially admired his music. I had never heard of this man, and ordered a recording of his works (there are many!) and discovered a wealth of inventive, singable music from the period between Bach and Mozart. Thus we sing two of his motets on this program.
One more unfamiliar name is that of Albert Becker. Our Assistant Conductor, David Recca, was the source for his lovely piece.
There is an abundance of lush, romantic music in our March “Northern Lights” program. There are names you know (Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff) and those you probably do not (Karai, Tucapsky, Orban). All have written 4-8 part music that make a chorus sound splendid.
Let me mention three unusual works. Distler’s Der Tambour, for men’s voices, uses a poignant text by Mörike about a young drummer boy in a nineteenth Century German regiment stationed in France. He dreams of his mother, his sweetheart, and good sausage. Another is Ola Gjelo’s Northern Lights, which he wrote in Oslo (although he lives in NYC). He compares the “terrible beauty” of the Song of Solomon poetry to the aurora borealis. The Hungarian composer Orban wrote Mundi Renovatio on a 12th-century text dealing with the renewal of spring. His jazzy, syncopated rhythms put him squarely in our century, and are fun to sing and hear.
Come hear the concerts!