Beautiful New Music for the Season

Featuring the world premiere of new works by British composers Ben Parry and South Bend Composer John William Griffith II.

With the support of the Saint Joseph Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

7:30 p.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s College, South Bend, IN


Ben Parry

Ben Parry, Composer

John William Griffith II

John Griffith, composer

This annual holiday concert always draws a large crowd of Northwest Indiana residents. For this year’s concert we have commissioned a new work from British composer Ben Parry for choir and organ. The concert will also include other works by Parry and other British and American composers. Organists David Eicher and Kevin Vaughn will be featured. The concert will close, as usual, with our traditional, candlelit Silent Night.


Prelude: Gaston Litaize: Variations sur un Noel angevin
Kevin Vaughn, Dean, St. Joseph Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists
Gerald Finzi: Magnificat
Ben Parry: Christ’s Nativity
Ben Parry: I sing of a maiden (World Premiere)
John Griffith: O Magnum Mysterium (World Premiere)
John Tavener: Birthday Sleep
David Bednall: Noe,noe
Malcolm Archer: Rejoice and be merry
Paul Bryan: Mary’s Child
David Blackwell: Angelus ad virginem
Robert H. Young: Lullay My Liking
Jonathan Willcocks: The holly and the ivy
Kevin Memley: There Is no Rose of Such Virtue
Allen Koepke, arr.: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
Terry Schlenker, arr.: O Come Emmanuel
Paul Carey, arr.: Hush! My Dear, Lie Still and Slumber
Malcolm Sargent, arr.: Silent Night

Ben Parry has a busy career as a conductor, composer, arranger, singer and producer in both classical and light music fields. He has made over 80 CD recordings and his compositions and arrangements are published by Peters Edition and Faber Music, including the popular Faber Carol Book and Music for Special Occasions. He collaborates regularly with the writer Garth Bardsley: their choral piece Flame was performed by a choir of 300 singers at the Royal Albert Hall in the 2012 BBC Proms and their carol Three Angels by King’s College Choir on BBC TV’s Carols from King’s. Major commissions include the Cathedral Choral Society of Washington DC, Norwich, Ely and Sheffield Cathedrals, BBC Singers and the Aldeburgh Fesitval. Ben’s music also featured in the 1st episode of the hit US TV series, Glee.

Ben is Director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, and works extensively with young musicians as a director of the Eton Choral Courses and as former Director of Music at St Paul’s School and the Junior Royal Academy of Music in London. As co-Director of the professional choir London Voices, he has worked closely with Sir Paul McCartney on his classical choral work, Ecce Cor Meum, as well as conducting on the soundtracks of major films such as The Hobbit, Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. London Voices performed the premiere of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad in Birmingham Festival and Berio’s Sinfonia with the National Youth Orchestra in 2009 and at the BBC Proms in 2014. He is also Assistant Director of Music and a Bye-Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, where he runs the mixed choir, King’s Voices.

Ben studied at Cambridge University, where he was a member of King’s College Choir. Later he was musical director and singer with The Swingle Singers, with whom he toured the world and performed with some of the greatest musicians, including Pierre Boulez, Stephane Grapelli and Dizzy Gillespie. He composed and arranged over fifty pieces for the group and co-produced their albums for Virgin Classics and EMI.

For eight years he lived in Scotland, where he co-founded the distinguished vocal ensemble Dunedin Consort, and was also Director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus and Director of Choral Music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. As an orchestral conductor he was worked with the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Symphony Orchestra of Seville, The Scottish Ensemble and the Vancouver Youth Symphony. He conducted five productions from 1999 as Music Director of Haddo House Opera. He has sung with the Gabrieli Consort, Taverner Consort and Tenebrae, as well as on many film and TV soundtracks.

He appeared on the West End stage in the UK premiere of Cy Colman’s musical City of Angels in 1994.

Learn more, visit the artists’ website.

I was delighted to be asked to write a new Christmas carol for Nancy and the South Bend Singers. I have a great affection for medieval English verse, and have made a number of my own settings of well-known seasonal texts in my composing career – Adam lay ybounden, There is no Rose, Out of your sleep to name but three! I was already very familiar with the settings of I sing of a maiden by Benjamin Britten, Patrick Hadley and Arnold Bax, so it was with great pleasure that I took this as my text to set for Nancy. It’s always an exciting revelation setting to work with a text, exploring the way voices might enhance the nuances and shape of the words. The very fact that the poem suggests song in its opening line led me to include a “riff” on the words “sing of a maiden” (which appears at the start and finish and at salient points throughout), to suggest that the choir entreats us to all to burst into song at the mention of Mary. There is also some lovely imagery in this text, not least the description of Mary as “makéless” (matchless) and the delicacy in which Christ’s birth is described – the allusion of gentle April dew.

I hope very much that the South Bend Singers enjoy singing my version (and that the organist has as much fun with the keyboard part!) and I look forward to hearing how it all goes on 18th December!

John William Griffith II is a young composer and pianist from South Bend, Indiana. He currently attends the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington where he studies music composition with professors Don Freund and Sven-David Sandström. He is a member of the NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble directed by Dr. Dominick DiOrio.

John began composition studies with Dr. Jorge Muñiz in 2014 at the Raclin School of the Arts at Indiana University South Bend. In the summer of 2015, he attended Interlochen Arts Camp where he studied composition with Dr. Carrie Magin. John’s works have been performed by various ensembles including the South Bend Youth Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble CONCEPT/21 at IUSB, the Catalan Association of Composers in Oviedo, Spain, the South Bend Chamber Singers, and the World Youth Symphony Orchestra at Interlochen Arts Camp.

During his time with the South Bend Youth Symphony Orchestra as a member of the horn section, John studied conducting with music director Dr. Robert Boardman, and was given the opportunity to conduct his first orchestral work in its world premiere with the SBYSO. Additionally, the performance was an official event for the sesquicentennial anniversary of the city of South Bend.

John’s piano teachers have included Dr. John Blacklow, Dr. Michael Coonrod, Dr. Robert Satterlee, Dr. Anthony Beer, and Ms. Kathleen Keasey. In May of 2014, he performed the first movement of the Schumann Piano Concerto as the winner of the SBYSO’s annual concerto competition. In the summer of 2014 he attended the Boston University Tanglewood Institute for piano. He has performed in masterclasses with renowned pianists including Alexander Toradze, John Perry and Leon Bates.

John is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

Learn more, visit the artists’ website.

O Magnum Mysterium is a Latin text from the Matins of Christmas that tells of the mystery of the birth of Christ, one of the greatest celebrations in Christian tradition. According to Christian theology, the Virgin Mary miraculously conceives the Son of God, fulfilling God’s promise to send a savior to the earth to bring us into eternal life. Thus the text venerates both the sacred mystery of the birth of Christ and the humble courage of the Blessed Virgin Mary to say “yes” to God. While my Catholic upbringing exposed me to the meaning of this great mystery, I approached this text not necessarily just from a Catholic perspective, but from a more global perspective, a perspective that can be shared and appreciated by all people regardless of creed, race, background, etc. Essentially, O Magnum Mysterium rejoices in the coming of peace to our troubled world, a universal hope that inspires humanity to come together in solidarity in response to the challenges that we face.

The Parisian terrorist attacks on November 13, 2015 affected me in a powerful way. While I do not know anyone directly impacted by these events, I suddenly felt a strong internal sense of sympathy for all those affected by violence not just in Paris, but throughout the world. My initial response was to write a piece of music in honor of those affected by acts of terrorism, a piece more concerned with mourning. But the first text I thought of was O Magnum Mysterium, and with more reflection on the text, I came to realize that this text is not about mourning, but about hope. Instead of finding a text more suited to the idea of mourning, I changed direction and decided to focus on hope. I believe that the piece needs to be centered around a message of hoping for a better future rather than mourning a tragic past.

This work was written in part to create an environment for meditative reflection. It opens with the first line of text, “O magnum mysterium,” in a section marked “Ethereal, with openness.” I was inspired by the text- painting techniques of High Renaissance composer Tomás Luis de Victoria, as he incorporated abundant usage of text-painting in his own setting of O Magnum Mysterium. For instance, at measure 16 of my work, the choir drops to a lower register, with added emphasis on “magnum.” The word “mysterium” is then sung twice, the second time with an unexpected harmonic shift from E-flat tonality to C-flat major/A-flat minor, so as to make the music sound mysterious on the word that means “mystery.” Another instance of text painting is in the lines “jacentem in praesepio,” which translates to “lying in a manger.” I allow this section to come to a calm resting point, fading into silence, reflecting the image of the baby Jesus sleeping peacefully in a manger. With the words “Dominum Christum,” I open the music into a wide and expansive atmosphere, as these words (which mean “Christ the Lord”) are at the center of the entire text. I was also inspired by modern choral composers Eric Whitacre, Paul Mealor, and Morten Lauridsen to use strong dissonances and cluster chords, techniques these composers have all featured in their works. The piece ends quietly, just as it started, so as to ease the listener out of contemplation and back into reality.

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