SIMPLE GIFTS: SONGS OF THE SHAKERS
Simple Gifts: Songs of the Shakers
Featuring new works by American composers Paul Crabtree and Daniel Elder
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s College
For the final concert of our 30th anniversary season, we return to music of a simpler time and style. We will perform some original Shaker tunes, but the bulk of the program will feature new arrangements of these tunes by American composers, including the world premiere of a new work composed for the SBCS by Daniel Elder. Another featured piece is an extended work by American composer Paul Crabtree, The Valley of Delight, which sets writings of Ann Lee (1736-1784), the founder of the Shakers. This 3-movement work celebrates her ecstatic vision and move to America (#1 Journey), her worship style and work ethic (#2 Workdance), and her decline and death (#3 Death and Resurrection). While Crabtree’s music is original, references to Shaker music appear throughout the work.
As dance played an important role in Shaker worship services, we plan to incorporate dancers into the concert for several of the works.
Paul Crabtree is a musical innovator whose music straddles the salons of Europe and the saloons of the American West. His music is the product of two cultures, combining the seriousness of the European tradition with the restlessness of the American spirit to produce perceptive works that are relevant to the twenty-first century experience.
Born in England in 1960, he graduated from the Music Faculty at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he studied with the renowned contrapuntalist Kenneth Leighton. He was also the keyboard player of a catastrophically unsuccessful garage band called Goats’ Opera. Winning a scholarship for post-graduate study in composition he chose the Musikhochschule in Cologne, Germany, where he stayed for two years.
Moving to California on a religious quest in his early 20s and becoming an American citizen, he escaped the constrictions of the English class system and integrated into his rigorously disciplined music a passion for Progressive Rock and pop culture. A strong believer that mythology underpins contemporary experience, he is able to intermingle ideas as diverse as Latin poetry and 1960s girl groups, yet his music maintains a seriousness of purpose that intensifies both ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural references.
The critical reception to this startling marriage of separate worlds has been perceptive. “The Anglo-American composer Paul Crabtree possesses the rare and admirable ability of being able to use the most unlikely artifacts of popular culture and fashion them into highly sophisticated art without mocking the sources or having them sound incongruous.” (Palm Beach ArtsPaper 2009)
The same critic catches that musical innovation is based on past models: “He has shown that it is possible to re-imagine the cantata in a moving, fresh way, and his example should give other composers a good model for pursuing a similar trajectory.” Dubbed “…a composer of impressive power who responds well to his sources and who can write utterly compelling music that relates beautifully to our time” by the Palm Beach Post, and “…one of our most inventive and wickedly witty composers” by the Chicago Classical Review, his work has been the recipient of an AMC Composer’s Assistance Program Award (2007), four ASCAPLUS awards (2004, 2007, 2008, 2011) and a Subito award from the American Composers Forum (2005). Mr. Crabtree’s tenure as Composer-in-Residence for the San Francisco Choral Artists in 2004 resulted in Three Sacred Songs about Religion, Sex and Politics, which the Miami Herald called “an impressive work conveying a spiritual sensibility in a fresh, intelligent and strongly individual voice….Crabtree’s music is artfully constructed, challenging for singers and often strikingly beautiful.”
His first solo CD The Metamorphoses of Paul Crabtree was released in February 2009 on the Arsis label, featuring the two ballet-cantatas An American Persephone and Dive! a Water Music.
As a prolific writer of vocal and instrumental music, Daniel Elder (b. 1986) ties these genres together to create forms and aesthetics that are at once lyrical and textural, drawing its roots, particularly from the impressionist movement. Critics have hailed his works as “deeply affecting” and “without peer,” with emotional evocations ranging from lush lyricism to jagged polyphony. Daniel’s compositions have won recognition from The American Prize, The Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, Cantus, and many others, including a recording by the Grammy-award-winning Eric Whitacre Singers made at Abbey Road Studios as part of their 80th Anniversary Anthem Competition. The first commercial album of Daniel’s choral works, “The Heart’s Reflection: Music of Daniel Elder,” was released in October 2013 by Westminster Choir College (Princeton, NJ) and Naxos of America, and debuted at #53 on the overall classical Billboard chart. Daniel currently resides in Nashville, TN as a full-time freelance composer. He is published internationally by Carus Verlag, Edition Peters, GIA Publications, Hal Leonard, Imagine Music, Walton Music, and Wingert-Jones Publications, while also self-publishing his newest releases through J.W. Pepper.
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