Tapestry Singers really enjoyed reconnecting with each other and our audience at our December performances at St. Patrick’s Church in Newcastle. The December concert borrowed its title, Ring Those Christmas Bells, from the peppy tune recorded back in 1959 by Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians. Though it might seem a little “cheezy”, it features some difficult close harmonies and a dazzling piano 4-hand part. In contrast, Evening Prayer by Ola Gjeilo, is based on a text by St. Augustine. The composer has carefully set the text with a melody and accompaniment that paints a soundscape of emotion for the listener. This innovative work features improvised piano and tenor saxophone which will be played by Sean Fleming and Liz Matta. Though singing with a mask on is not optimal in a performance situation, our singers were happy to protect you and each other just to be able to get on stage again. We are very grateful to our concert sponsor, HM Payson.
June 2021 (virtual)
Tapestry Singers prepped music this semester with hopes of performing in June. Please click here to access our virtual concert page. The Maine Bicentennial Celebration concert honors as many cultures as possible and include pieces that are both straight-ahead choral and folk arrangements. Four of the pieces have lyrics of Maine poets (H.W. Longfellow, Edna St. Vincent Millay, E.A. Robinson, and Philip Booth) The folk songs give nods to lumberjacks, potato farmers, sea-farers, and the French. There is also a Water Song sung both in Algonquin and Penobscot.
December 2020 (postponed)
This program was to feature original works by 21st century composers Mac Wilberg, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Ola Gjeilo, William Beckstrand, and Michael McGlynn. Also on the program were arrangements of the holiday classics, “Ring Those Christmas Bells”, “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day” and “Jingle Bells”. “We look forward to joining with the magical sounds of the Penobscot Bay Ringers at some point to share this with you.” said Beth Preston. “Their director, Amy Rollins, and I have had a wonderful time putting together this program.” Penobscot Bay Ringers is a community handbell choir based in Camden. Founded in June 2008, Penobscot Bay Ringers shares engaging performances throughout Midcoast Maine. The group plays on five octaves of Malmark handbells and five octaves of Choirchimes®. They provide handbell training and education to any interested community members.
Spring 2020 (postponed)
The music selections are an attempt to honor as many cultures as possible and to include pieces that are both straight-ahead choral AND folk arrangements. There will be also be added instruments. Four of the pieces have lyrics of Maine poets (H.W. Longfellow, Edna St. Vincent Millay, E.A. Robinson, and Philip Booth) There will also be a stand-alone poem by Wilbert Snow. The folk songs give nods to lumberjacks, potato farmers, sea-farers, and the French. There is also a Water Song sung both in Algonquin and Penobscot. We will be reprising the two Scottish folk songs by Mack Wilberg and our last piece by Gordon Bok will be an audience sing-a-long.
Our full program is below, and to give you a flavor for the music, some songs (in red) have links to performances by others on YouTube:
Shaker Songs – Arranged by Kevin Siegfried (b. 1969)
Vum Vive Vum
From Three Scottish Folksongs – Arranged by Mack Wilberg (b. 1955)
O Whistle and I’ll Come to Ye
I’ll Ay Call In By Yon Town When the Taters Are All Dug
When the Taters Are All Dug – E. J. Sullivan/Jody Kruskal
Youpe! Youpe! Sur la Rivière! – French Canadian Folksong
Afternoon On a Hill (Edna St. Vincent Millay) – Eric Barnum (b. 1979)
Crossing (Philip Booth) – Sally Lamb McCune (b. 1966)
The Dark Hills (Edwin Arlington Robinson) – Jenni Brandon (b. 1977)
Windcalling – Gordon Bok (b. 1939)
Woven in Song ~ December 2019
Our Winter 2019 concerts, “Woven in Song: A December Tapestry” continued our adventure into programming current choral repertoire, mostly from living composers. Our December concerts celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, and general merry-making. Tapestry Singers opened this concert with a colorful six-minute medley of beloved Alfred Burt Carols arranged for choir and orchestra by Ed Lojeski. We have added one piece that is not in Lojeski’s arrangement, “Ah, Bleak and Chill”. Originally set as a cappella arrangements, these poignant songs of the season have become part of the standard choral canon. We closed out the concert with “Silent Night, Holy Night” in surround sound, followed by “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Grant Us Peace”).
We were joined by the fabulous Sean Fleming, Dino Liva and Carol Preston, violin, Kirsten Monke, viola, April Reed-Cox, cello, Kristin Fox, oboe, Marcus Hutchins, flute, Quinn Gormley, percussion, and Scott Johnson, trumpet.
Many thanks to our concert sponsor HM Payson, and all our advertisers and donors that enable Tapestry Singers to share our love of choral music with the community.
Tapestry Singers Celebrate Female Composers ~
Our June 2019 concerts featured music composed entirely by female composers, ranging from madrigals to spirituals to folk songs to ballads. Many thanks to our guest artists, Sean Fleming and Anne-Marie D’Amico. Any many thanks to all who joined us on a beautiful spring weekend! The clip (above) is Tapestry Singers’ performance of “Grace Before Sleep” composed by Susan LaBarr
Here are our Director’s Notes, from Beth Preston:
“Despite the symbolic role that Cecilia plays as patron saint of music, female composers are dramatically underrepresented on most choral programs and recordings.” John C. Hughes, December 3, 2014 Choral Director. I found an interesting statistical study that listed composers, titles, and conductors of All State Choirs in the Choral Journal. Hoping to glean titles for this program. I noticed a few things: 1. Outside of the fact that there are very few female composers on this list, there are barely a handful of titles for SATB. 2. Most of the compositions chosen for these festivals are for the SSAA choirs, which could give the impression that females only write for females. 3. The majority of conductors that programmed female composers were female conductors. So, I wondered if most American choral directors haven’t taken the time to discover the possibilities. And there are many!
Two sources netted many ideas: the Hildegard Publishing Company, specializing in music of women composers, past and present and Orange County Women’s Chorus’ Choral Music by Women Composers database. I found that there is a wealth of SATB choral music by composers from the mid- twentieth centery forward. So, we will give a nod to early music (a chant by Hildegard von Bingen, and an Italian madrigal by Vittoria Aleotti) but most of the music is recent.
It’s been a few-months’ journey of listening and culling to create a program of all female composers for Tapestry Singers that I hope will be appealing to the singers and their audiences.
Woven in Song ~ December 2018
Our 2018 Winter concerts were so much fun! Many thanks to our director, Beth Preston; our musicians (Sean Fleming, Suki Flanagan, Dave Martin, Marcus Hutchins and Nathanial Hackworth); our advertisers and donors. Our audiences were great also – thank you for your support!
The highlight of the concert was “Carols and Lullabies” (Christmas in the Southwest) by Conrad Susa, featuring marimba, harp, and guitar. Of course we included a few wassail songs, and some of our traditional standards we’ve all come to love. The concerts were presented at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Newcastle.
Tapestry Singers Answer the Bagpiper’s Call ~ Spring 2018
Tapestry Singers presented a program steeped in Scottish traditional music and poetry on Saturday, June 2, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 3, at 5:00 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church, 380 Academy Hill Road, Newcastle.
Concertgoers were greeted by the evocative strains of a Scottish bagpiper Jeremy Burkhard of the Maine Saint Andrew’s Pipes and Drums of Bangor. Songs of country life, seafaring and homesickness, love and heartbreak, and celebration and joy followed in the concert program’s combination of rustic folk tunes and sophisticated arrangements. Many of the tunes, such as “My Heart’s in the Highlands” and “The Skye Boat Song,” were instantly recognizable, while others may have been unfamiliar but were quickly added to the list of new favorites. Included in the program were three songs that were sung by the audience with the chorus.
Several of the pieces feature the poetry of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous poet; other songs have verses in Scottish Gaelic. In addition to the bagpipes, instrumental accompaniment will be provided by Dave Martin on guitar, Sean Fleming on keyboards, Tommy Davis on piano, and Marcus Hutchins on flute and penny whistle.
Director Beth Preston explains the inspiration for a completely Scottish concert: “There are a number of the singers who boast of their Scottish ancestry and have campaigned for some music of ‘the Gaels,’ so I thought, ‘why not a whole concert?’ Tapestry Singers has made a move to perform current choral music, so in organizing this concert, I was on a wonderful mission of discovery to find newer arrangements of familiar Scottish tunes by mostly living composers.”
Jesse Wakeman, tenor soloist, will be accompanied by the chorus in several songs. A Maine native, Wakeman has been a featured soloist with groups across northern New England, including the Portland Symphony Orchestra, OperaMaine, ChoralArt. Other solos will be performed by chorus members Claudine Audy, Franklin Holland, Elizabeth Davis, Lynn Drewette, Jaja Martin, Gordon Clark, and Don Osier.
Woven in Song ~ December 2017
The Tapestry Singers, directed by Beth Preston, presented its 2017 Winter Concert entitled, “Woven in Song” on Saturday December 16th at 7:30 and Sunday December 17th at 4PM.
Woven in Song 2017 was presented at the Second Congregational Church in Newcastle ME. It featured works by composer Stephen Paulus, whose music has been described as angular, lyrical, lean, gorgeous, and uniquely American. The concert opened with a processional from his Canticum Novum, accompanied by drum and tambourine entitled “Gideon”. The text draws from the book of Judges: “Gideon’s threshing floor is drenched with dew from heaven.” Excerpts from John Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” provided the text for the next selection entitled “Ring Out Ye Crystal Spheres”. This lovely and shimmering piece was accompanied by harp, oboe, and orchestra bells. The next piece was a wonderful a cappella setting of the “Huron Carol” entitled “In the Moon of Wintertime”. The joyous and buoyant final movement, “Be Merry” was accompanied by flute, oboe, and harp. Other pieces by Paulus included on the program were “The Holly and the Ivy” described by the composer as “crisp and precise in flavor as the harp and oboe spur the text forward.” and “Hallelu!” which opened with a lovely chant-like melody initially sung by women’s voices.The second half of the program featured two pieces for Hanukkah, traditional wassail songs, spirituals arranged by André Thomas and Willam Dawson, and traditional Christmas music, uniquely arranged by Barlow Bradford and Mark Hayes.
A portion of the funds raised from the concerts helps to fund an annual cash prize to a local student who demonstrates outstanding musical talent and potential.
Daybreak and Nightfall ~ Spring 2017
The Tapestry Singers, directed by Beth Preston, presented its Spring Concert at the Second Congregational Church in Newcastle entitled, “Daybreak and Nightfall”.
The concert featured the “Sunrise Mass” by Ola Gjeilo which was accompanied by the Da Ponte String Quartet. Influenced by movie score composers, Ola Gjeilo’s setting of the Mass paints a wonderful musical landscape. Each movement is titled programmatically to evoke imagery beyond the traditional setting of the Mass text (The Spheres, Sunrise, The City, Identity and the Ground). Patrick Preston, Lincoln Academy sophomore, created a film accompaniment for the first three movements of the mass.The second half of the program included works by Morten Lauridson, Eric Nelson, Gwyneth Walker and others not traditionally sung in a classical choral setting, such as Ralph Stanley, Billy Joel, and Lennon and McCartney.
“Tapestry Singers rehearsals are a wonderful mix of digging deeply into the music and having good fun together,” says Preston. “Some of the repertoire is very difficult, with harmonies and rhythms that are counter intuitive. The Tapestry Singers’ concert repertoire requires a commitment to practice outside the rehearsal and a high level of musicianship. My goal has been to introduce the singers and their audiences to choral music of living composers and other gems that have been staples since the mid-twentieth century. We hope to both warm and challenge the sensibilities of our audiences.”
A portion of the funds raised from the concerts helps to fund an annual cash prize to a local student who demonstrates outstanding musical talent and potential.
Woven in Song ~ A December Tapestry – December 2016
The Tapestry Singers, under the direction of Beth Preston and accompanied by Sean Fleming, performed this beautiful holiday concert that included classic and current selections of seasonal music. A small sample of the concert is in the audio file above.
The “Woven In Song” concert featured newly arranged carols with a Celtic twist featuring fiddler, Julia Plumb. Julia is a singer, fiddler, banjo player whose music is rooted in the music traditions of New England, Quebec, Ireland, Appalachia, Scotland, Brittany, and Scandinavia. She divides her time into many musical projects, including teaching, composition, instrument repair, and performance, mostly with Baron Collins-Hill in their duo Velocipede. Julia gives group and private lessons in Belfast and teaches at Maine Fiddle Camp in Montville and The Acadia School of Traditional Music & Arts in Bar Harbor.
Tapestry Singers concerts always include a range of musical selections that offer something for everybody, from classical to more modern choral music. The familiar arrangements of John Jacob Niles and Alfred Burt were contrasted with a wonderful newer work scored for choir and crystal goblets entitled, Stars, by Eriks Esenvalds. Its text is adapted from the poem “Stars” by Sara Teasdale which captures the awe of being alone at night on a dark hill observing heaven’s dome of stars, “white and topaz and misty red.”
Other instrumentalists on the program are Marcus Hutchins, woodwinds and Carol Preston, violin. “We hope the musical selections will flow seamlessly to create an atmosphere that fill our audiences with the same joy with which we prepared it. The concert repertoire is chosen to both warm and challenge our sensibilities. We are truly ‘Woven In Song’,” says director, Beth Preston.
The Road Home – June 2016 – Director’s Notes
Ola Gjeilo’s music has become choral “top forty” in the last few years. His work is cinematic, musical soundscapes with embedded text. The Lake Isle is a commissioned work. Gjeilo was interested in composing for choir and guitar, but wanted to add the piano and string quartet as a “bridge” between the guitar and the choir. Furusato is Bob Chilcott’s lovely
westernized setting of familiar Japanese children’s songs that evoke pictures of wonderful landscapes. We are grateful to Hana Hirano and Nancy Gault for helping us make our best attempt at singing them in Japanese. Ralph Vaughan William’s orchestral and choral landscapes are central to the classical repertoire. The Serenade to Music features a solo violin line similar to the wonderfully evocative symphonic poem, The Lark Ascending. The text is an adaptation of lines from Act V, Scene 1 from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, making comparisons of love and life to the music of the spheres.
The second half of the program includes songs with various bits of reminiscence and longing for home. Though Ysaye Barnwell actually wrote Wanting Memories while her parents were still alive, it encapsulates her experience of finding “bags of photos, letters and other memorabilia” as she prepared to sell her childhood home after they passed. The next two pieces come from bigger works, Frostiana, settings of Robert Frost’s poetry, and Songs of Sailors and the Sea, a compilation of five sea shanties arranged for chorus and piano. The influence of shape note singing can be found in both Heavenly Home and The Road Home. Composers Shawn Kirchner and Stephen Paulus took tunes and texts from the Southern Harmony hymnbook, compiled by William (Singin’ Billy) Walker in 1835, and updated them with more contemporary choral harmonies. African-American composers William Dawson and André Thomas have set some of the most wonderful arrangements of African-American spirituals. Dawson developed the renowned Tuskegee Institute Chorale that brought the “negro spiritual” to the forefront of American choral music. Professor of Music at Florida State University, André Thomas is well known for his work as a conductor and composer. He is the author of Way Over in Beulah Lan’: Understanding and Performing the Negro Spiritual.