Sonomento: Pax et Lux (Peace and Light)
MacPhail’s SONOMENTO, conducted by Craig Fields, presents a choral/orchestral concert
“PAX et LUX” – Peace and Light – featuring two inspiring works:
Ralph Vaughan Williams
DONA NOBIS PACEM (Grant Us Peace) 1936
LUX: THE DAWN FROM ON HIGH, 2018
(encore performance from January, 2021)
Saturday, January 28 at 7:30pm at Normandale Lutheran Church
Sonomento, is an award-winning choral ensemble that provides an intensive, quality choral experience for those seeking the challenge and fulfillment of singing classical choral music. Performing major works following the ‘Westminster Choir Method’ of choral singing, Sonomento encourages singers to produce a full-voiced tone and to continually develop their individual singing voice. In 2015, Sonomento was awarded two silver medals at the International Brahms Choral Festival in Wernigerode, Germany. Members possess a dedication to high performance standards, friendship and camaraderie with each other.
CHRIS FAST, baritone
HEATHER FORD and NAOMI KARSTAD, sopranos
REBECCA LUTTIO and MIRANDA KETTLEWELL, mezzos
MICHAEL BALZOTTI and NATHAN ROMPORTL, tenors
The SONOMENTO ORCHESTRA conducted by Craig Fields
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Dona Nobis Pacem (1936)
Ralph Vaughan Williams was intimately familiar with the horrors of war. When World War I broke out, the 42-year-old British composer immediately volunteered for service as an ambulance driver on the front lines, where he witnessed unspeakable carnage. He later served as an artillery officer, and the thundering of the big guns would ultimately destroy his hearing. Vaughan Williams’ wartime experiences affected him profoundly, shaping his entire view of human nature. After the war, he grappled with these experiences through his music, seeking to come to terms with all that he had seen and to rediscover his place in civil society.
During the 1930s, however, his path toward healing was interrupted as the tides of war threatened to overtake the world again. Vaughan Williams watched the rise of fascism with growing alarm and was particularly horrified by Italy’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia. In 1936, the Huddersfield Choral Society commissioned Vaughan Williams to write a large-scale work in honor of its centennial year. The composer threw himself into the composition of “Dona Nobis Pacem”—Latin for “grant us peace,” a phrase used in the traditional Christian Mass—using the opportunity to create a work that would encapsulate his feelings on war, serve as a warning against violence, and implore us to call upon the better angels of our nature.
The first performance was given in Huddersfield on October 2, 1936, with the Huddersfield Choral Society and the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Albert Coates. It was an immediate success. A month later Vaughan Williams conducted a performance broadcast on the BBC, and the work was performed frequently across Britain over the next 10 years. The work clearly captured the anxious mood in Britain in the years leading up to the war and, it served as a rallying cry for the anti-war movement. On the eve of the Blitz, the BBC tried unsuccessfully to broadcast the work throughout Germany as a piece of musical propaganda. During the war itself, dozens of British ensembles performed it across the country to help maintain wartime morale and assure the population that Britain would survive Nazi hegemony.
Dan Forrest, Lux: The Dawn From on High (2018)
44-year-old Dan Forrest has already established a reputation as a leading composer of American choral music, quickly becoming one of the most popular and sought-after composers of large-scale sacred choral works with major instrumental forces. Such is the case with this sublime musical essay on the beauty and inevitability of dawn’s transformational light. With texts drawn from ancient chant, biblical scripture and modern secular love poetry, the music is inspiring and emotionally uplifting. Utilizing medieval plainsong and post-modern, minimalist sources, he writes that his original inspiration for the work was the light experienced while visiting the Gothic cathedral at Reims, France and the ancient Poulnabronne Dolmen monument in Burren, Ireland. Expansive, atmospheric and accessible, his music stirs the heart and touches the spirit like the light of an ethereal dawn illuminating the long, cold darkness of a winter night … something we in Minnesota can easily relate to.
His music is reminiscent of several musical styles, including late 20th century masters like Leonard Bernstein, John Rutter and John Williams; the post-modern minimalists Phillip Glass and John Adams; and the atmospheric, new-age harmonic landscapes of Arvo Pärt, Eric Whitacre, and Morton Lauridsen. Yet, Forrest demonstrates a unique musical voice of his own that is immediately recognizable and welcome, as well as a refined sensibility as an orchestral arranger.
Forrest composed LUX: The Dawn from On High in late 2018, after which it was performed a few times before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down nearly all choral singing worldwide. Tonight, we proudly present its second performance in Minnesota after premiering it here in January of 2021 with a small chamber orchestra to an enthusiastic response. Its atmospheric beauty, serenity and uplifting message touched all of us so deeply at that time with a sense of renewal and hope, which was so very welcome after two years of pandemic darkness. We hope that you will be uplifted by this encore performance, presented this time with full orchestra.
Craig Fields is currently conductor and artist-in-residence at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis where he leads MacPhail’s premier adult choir, Sonomento. He began his fifteen year professional singing career as an operatic baritone, performing leading roles in opera houses around the world, including the Los Angeles Opera, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Hawaii, Portland, Seattle, Zürich, Geneva, Mannheim, Freiburg, Kassel, Düsseldorf and Berlin, to name a few. He has performed as a soloist under conductors Nello Santi, Helmut Rilling, Rudolf Baumgartner, Ivan Fisher, Lawrence Smith, Ferdinand Leitner, Gerd Albrecht and performed leading opera roles alongside José Carreras, Margaret Price, Agnes Baltsa, Cesare Siepi, Simon Estes, Francisco Araiza, and Hildegard Behrens.
In 1990, he changed career directions and began stage directing for opera and musical theatre. This led to producing and directing over sixty professional productions all over the US. For over 24 combined years he served as General/Artistic Director for Opera Roanoke, Opera on the James, both in Virginia, and later for the Duluth Festival Opera, which he founded in 2005.
He was also head of an opera and vocal/choral studies at Virginia Tech’s School of the Arts in Blacksburg, Virginia. He was the founder of the Blacksburg Master Chorale and music director for the Roanoke Valley Choral Society. His choirs have concertized in England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. He has commissioned and recorded many new works, including a 1995 commercial recording of “Requiem: For those we Love” by Jon Polifrone; on the BMC label, and available on Amazon.com.