O vos omnes Tomás Luis de Victoria
Ave Verum Corpus William Byrd
If Ye Love Me Thomas Tallis
Wondrous Love arr. Alice Parker/Robert Shaw
My Shepherd Will Supply My Need arr. Virgil Thompson
Pilgrims’ Hymn Stephen Paulus
Shenandoah arr. James Erb
Hymn to St. Cecilia Benjamin Britten
O Taste and See Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ubi Caritas Maurice Duruflé
God be in my head John Rutter
Rise Up My Love, My Fair One Healey Willan
Love’s Antiphon

Lloyd Pfautsch

Set Me As A Seal René Clausen
Alleluia Randall Thompson
Alleluia Ralph Manuel
The Lord Bless you and Keep You Peter Lutkin
Irish Blessing Dede Duson
Day by Day from the 1982 Hymnal (Episcopal)

Accapella Masterpieces

Program Notes

This concert was built on a simple idea. I decided to canvas my mentors, the folks who have influenced me in my musical life, and ask each of them for a couple of favorite a cappella choral pieces. I expected to be able to come up with a new and exciting program of wonderful pieces. Instead, as the suggestions came in, I realized that much of the music my mentors love and respect, Octarium has already sung. When I program for Octarium I look for new things, certainly, but equally as often, I program music I love, most of which I learned under one of my many teachers and mentors. And I program my favorite music for purely selfish reasons: I want to hear how this amazing ensemble will bring new life to music that means something to me and touches my soul. I actually have a term for what they do; I call it “Octari-izing.” When these fine singers and good friends have learned the notes, and rhythms, and dynamics, and, and, and, eventually, they let go of the musical detritus and just sing. They tune in to each other and begin to read minds. And when you HEAR that happening, for the first time and all the times after that first time, it is one of the most transcendent experiences on this planet.

So what this has ended up being, in many ways, is a concert of OUR favorite pieces; music that Octarium has grown to love through singing and discovering (or rediscovering) it together. There are new pieces suggested by many of our mentors, but the bulk of the program will be, for us, like visiting old friends.

I asked the singers to weigh in with their stories and loves and opinions. Some of them did, but some of them could not quite verbalize their feelings and ideas about their favorite music. But you’ll know how they feel about a piece when you hear them sing it. I promise.

But because some of them did contribute vignettes, these will be about the strangest program notes you’ve ever read. There is not much intellectual edification within these notes. What you’ll get instead is real feelings about why the music touches us and speaks to us. You’ll also get a lot of funny stories. It is much like we’ve invited you to a post-rehearsal nosh session, during which we all sit around with good food and good drink and chat about what we love and why we love it. There is lots of laughter, sometimes tears, and many, many jokes.

So indulge us as we share with you the music we love. And be sure to enjoy the concert with the knowledge that we might very well be enjoying ourselves much more than you are.

O vos omnes Tomás
Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

I learned this piece with Ronald Shirey, who was my choir director at Texas
Christian University. There are so many “Shirey-isms” attached
to music I learned with him and this piece is no different. In speaking
of the terraced entrances of the voice parts at the beginning of the piece,
he said something like, “It is like a large set of tires on an eighteen-wheeler
going at a snail’s pace. They slowly turn, gently carrying the weight
of the world smoothly on top of them. Although if you were caught underneath
the tires as they rolled over you, the sound THAT would make would be quite
similar to what I just heard from you people.”

What Ron Shirey has to say about this piece:

This is one of the great Renaissance motets and
well deserves its reputation as a masterpiece. I recorded this in France
in 1989 with Robert Shaw, and I well recall his emotion at the beauty of
it once during a rehearsal. It was a memorable occasion as he was NOT prone
to showing such emotionality, about anything, publicly. The recording has
recently been released by Telarc, because of Shaw’s death, but it does not
begin to touch the music we made on that rehearsal occasion, which brought
tears to Shaw’s eyes.

What Ben has to say about this piece:

This is my favorite Victoria motet. The dissonances
and subsequent resolutions, which occur throughout the piece, only build
the tension, focused specifically on the text, “Is there any sorrow like
My sorrow?” The text painting, though perhaps obvious, is no less profound
and impacting.

What Leah has to say about this piece:

The first time I sang this was with Octarium at
the Gold Dome Cathedral in downtown Kansas City last year. This beautiful
song is one of many that we wait to rehearse until the night before, due
to the fact that everyone knows it from singing it in years past. Of course,
with this piece, “everyone” did not include me. I kept thinking
“Synergy, Leah, synergy. Just listen and you’ll be fine.”
Well… let’s just say I know it now.

What Ashley has to say about this piece:

I first sang O vos omnes when I was a
senior in high school in New Mexico All State Concert Choir (with Ronald
Shirey, actually). It was my first experience with Renaissance music, and
I instantly fell in love with it. At the time I lacked the appropriate vocabulary
to describe what it was that made me like it. I just thought it was cool.
Since then I have spent many years in school gathering that necessary vocabulary,
and now I can explain, in scholarly fashion, why I like the piece. But I
shall not bore you with a dissertation. I have come back to this piece several
times since, and it was in singing it with Octarium that both the innocent
love of the music, born years ago, and the musicological appreciation, garnered
more recently, came together. That being said, I shall explain in extremely
subjective terms what
O vos omnes is like for me (and this is especially
for Renee); Imagine a really good margarita that is only made even more
exquisite by adding 150-year-old Gran Marnier. The margarita was great and
all, but age and knowledge is what really makes you say “Zowie!!”


O vos omnes qui transitis per viam:
All you that pass by the way,
attendite et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus.
look and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.
Attendite, universi populi, et videte dolorem meum.
Look, all you people, and see my sorrow.
Si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.
Is there any sorrow like my sorrow?



Ave Verum Corpus William
Byrd (c. 1539 – 1623)

This piece was suggested to us by composer Steven Stucky. He said, when
asked for a couple of his favorite acappella choral works, “What comes
to my mind immediately will not exactly be news to anyone in the choral
business: Byrd, Victoria, Dowland, Purcell and Britten. The Byrd Ave
verum corpus
has resonated through more or less all my life (a fact
that will be obvious to anybody who has heard Chanticleer sing my piece

Ave, verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine:
Hail the true body, born of the Virgin Mary:
vere passum, immolatum in cruce pro homine:
You who truly suffered and were sacrificed on the cross for the sake
of man

cuius latus perforatum unda fluxit et sanguine:
From whose pierced flank flowed water and blood:
esto nobis praegustatum, in mortis examine.
Be a foretaste for us in the trial of death.




If Ye Love Me Thomas
Tallis (1505-1585)

I first did this piece with Mark Dunn, who was the Choirmaster
at the Episcopal church in Fort Worth where I sang during most of my college
years. We were a small group, one to a part, and it was with Mark that I
discovered how great small ensemble singing could be. I sight-read this
particular piece during communion at one of my first services at St. John’s.
It was one of the most profound experiences of my life, as I had never paid
so much attention to the other parts as I did during those moments, inspired
by my wish to make music with the much more prepared and experienced voices
that surrounded me.

What Michael has to say about this piece:

My fondest memory of this piece was formed in 1994
while on tour in the U.K. I have known
If ye love me for many years
and have performed it with many fine choirs, but it was only when I heard
it at an evensong at Christ’s Church, King’s College Cambridge
that I understood how truly beautiful it could be. The ritual of evensong
does something for British choirs that can be elusive for their American
counterparts. The closeness that arises from singing daily with the same
people causes a unity that transcends mere commonality of tone, concord
of vowels and the like. What I heard that evening was almost familial; a
one-ness. It was a sound that I have rarely heard since. That is, until
recently. My familial relationship with Octarium harkens back to that evening
eleven years ago. This is what makes our music work. This is what makes
us crave the work we do together. This is, in my opinion, what people hear
in our sound that makes us different.This piece reminds me of why we do
what we do, and why we just can’t get enough.

What Renee has to say about this piece:

I’m a sucker for Thomas Tallis, and this piece
is a favorite of mine. It’s so simple, which mirrors the simplicity
of the text’s message.
If Ye Love Me is widely performed and
a popular piece for recording, but it seems that lately I’ve heard
all male choruses singing it. Though the male countertenor voice is amazing,
I appreciate the richness that the female voice can lend Tallis’ work.

If ye love me,
keep my commandments,
and I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another comforter,
that he may bide with you forever,
e’en the spirit of truth.


Wondrous Love arr. Alice
Parker (b. 1925) /Robert Shaw (1916-1999)

This is another piece I learned with Shirey at TCU. Although
I’ve sung it numerous times since, Shirey’s reading is the one
that informs the way Octarium performs it.

What Shirey has to say about this piece:

The “wondrousness” of this piece is so
obvious that nothing I could say could add to its natural beauty, really.

What Ashley has to say about this piece:

If you want to make me happy, sing an Appalachian
tune. When a piece like this one is sung well, the simplicity and visceral
nature of modality can really connect with one’s innermost being. My
favorite phrase is “When from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.”
No matter what trials one faces, one can sing on. That isn’t a bad
way to live.

What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul,
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul.
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, oh my soul.
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,

and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free I’ll sing and joyful be,
and thro’ eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on.
And thro’ eternity I’ll sing on.

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
arr. Virgil Thomson (1896-1989)

This is one of those pieces that we discovered together,
rather accidentally. I had never sung it, or even heard it, when I programmed
it during my first year at Saint Andrew’s. It was Good Shepherd Sunday,
an occasion that happens once a year in the Episcopal church when all the
readings outline God as the Shepherd. I was desperate for “shepherd”
music and began to scan the titles in the music library. In box number 16,
I saw this title, pulled it out, quickly glanced at the words, scanned it
to make sure it didn’t divide too much, and pronounced it programmed
without even playing through it. All I can say is I’m glad this piece
was in box 16 and not in box 842, or I might never have found it.

What Renee has to say about this piece:

My Shepherd has become an Octarium anthem of sorts.
We first performed it long ago at St. Andrew’s before we had become
Octarium but we were so moved by it, its magic for us has endured. The piece
has become especially personal for me as it was the very first piece I sang
after I came back from having thyroid surgery. Krista wouldn’t let
me sing soprano in case my throat exploded, so I sang alto. This became
the tradition for this piece, but sadly, tonight I’ll be singing the
soprano line. The melody is simple and unassuming. The text is awesome …
note especially the last two lines.

What Leah has to say about this piece:

My Shepherd brings me peace because of its simplicity.
It also brings me laughter because of its “musical chairs” background.
Not only does Renee know the alto part but I know the tenor part. One Sunday
morning, Michael was unexpectedly absent and Andrew was out of town. Andrew had
gotten a substitute to cover for him, but the poor sub was sick too. So,
I got to be a tenor for a brief, but bright and shining moment. I don’t
think that Andrew’s substitute enjoyed it nearly as much as I did.

What Ashley has to say about this piece:

I realized that Octarium could be something truly
unique and special when we first sang
My Shepherd Will Supply My Need.
As a group, without discussing it first, we just “let go,” and boy
did it soar. And did our emotions buzz. We sang from the transept at St.
Andrew’s, with sunshine pouring through the stained glass behind us,
and the synergy that defines Octarium was born. We literally couldn’t have
been more in synch and connected if we had been holding hands. The music
just floated off the page, and it was a moment of realization for me that
I do what I do for moments like that.


My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
in pastures fresh he makes me feed,
beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
when I forsake his ways,
and leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
in paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death
his presence is my stay;
one word of his supporting grace
drives all my fears away.
His hand, in sight of all my foes,
doth still my table spread;
my cup with blessings overflows,
his oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
attend me all my days;
O may thy house be my abode,
and all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
while others go and come;
no more a stranger, nor a guest,
but like a child at home.

Text: Isaac Watts




Pilgrim’s Hymn Stephen Paulus
(b. 1949)

This piece was suggested by Z. Randall Stroope, composer and choral director.
I worked with Stroope while I was living in Omaha, Nebraska, singing as
a section leader in the Nebraska Choral Arts Society Masterworks chorus.
Stroope gave me the opportunity to do some of my most fulfilling singing.
Ever. We were preparing the Mozart Grand Mass in C, to be performed
with the Omaha Chamber Orchestra. I auditioned for the mezzo-soprano solos,
never dreaming that I’d ever get them. But he gave them to me. No idea
why, to this day. The soprano for those performances was soprano Maria Kanyova,
a bonafide opera star these days (of course, she was Mary Jane Kania then)
and the music we all made together, orchestra, choir and soloists, is one
of my fondest memories.

What Stroope has to say about this piece:

This work is from an opera titled The Three
Hermits and is powerful in its subtlety. Paulus uses straightforward
harmonic progressions and melodic writing in such a deft way as to point
the listener not to the notes and rhythms but to the intent and message
of the piece. This is one of the most stunningly effective (and affective)
pieces that I know.

What Ashley has to say about this piece:

I’ve never sung this setting before preparations
for this concert, but it is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It seems
as though it was written for us; it is a piece that screams “Octari-ize
me!” Bar lines go away, the beat is intuitively felt, not measured,
and glorious choral unity is achieved.

Even before we call on Your name
To ask You, O God,
When we seek for the words to glorify You,
You hear our prayer;
Unceasing love, O unceasing love,
Surpassing all we know.

Glory to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.

Even with darkness sealing us in,
We breathe Your name,
And through all the days that follow so fast,
We trust in You;
Endless Your grace, O endless Your grace,
Beyond all mortal dream.

Both now and for ever,
And unto ages and ages,

Text: Michael Dennis Browne



Shenandoah arr.
James Erb (b. 1927)

I’ve sung this piece with about every conductor
with whom I’ve sung. I’ve sung pretty much every voice part, too.
I’ve heard recordings and sat through concerts where this piece is
sung. It seemed that, everywhere I went, this piece was there. I loved it,
but I was so done with it. It had, in my opinion, become
so terribly overdone and over-rated that I baldly refused to program it.
Refused. Until one day when, as we were contemplating becoming Octarium,
we were chatting about pieces we could record for inclusion on a sampler
CD. Being a group that was born out of a church job, we had only sacred
repertoire, and I thought we needed a couple of secular tunes to balance
the sampler demo. We were looking for things to record that we could lay
down quickly and without much preparation, and everyone except the Winters
knew this arrangement of Shenandoah. So we recorded it. And now the
singers pretty much only want to sing this piece. They suggest it for all
occasions, with altered text if need be: as an encore to our Holiday concert
(“Oh Christmas tree, you are so pretty, with your lights and hanging
tchotchke.”); as an encore to our Saints and Angels concert (“Oh
saints and angels are so lovely, and we just sang some songs about them.”);
even at weddings (“Oh these two folk are getting married, and we like
to sing at weddings.”).

What Renee has to say about this piece:

This is Wayne Stanley’s favorite song …
EVER. If he is here tonight, this piece is why. I can’t say I blame
him. The first chord after the two opening unison lines … THE BEST.
It makes me melt every time and reaffirms my love for this group. We want
to sing
Shenandoah for every encore every concert. It drives Krista
insane. And we like to drive Krista insane.

What Ashley has to say about this piece:

Every time we sing this, I get jealous of the audience.
I wish that, just once, I could somehow step out of the ensemble and hear
us sing live, although that might be dangerous, as the first time I heard
our recording of this, I couldn’t help but weep. It completely freaked
Renee and I out, because even we couldn’t tell our voices apart in
the round section. A super cool moment. We all love
and are always looking for ways to sing it. Always.

What Andrew has to say about this piece:

I cannot sing this without becoming emotional;
especially if my parents are in the room. I do not know exactly what it
is about that piece, but it gets to me every time. I know that I am not
the only Octari-ite who is overcome by this piece (Renee…)

What Ben has to say about this piece:

This setting, as I found out seconds after introducing
it as the encore after one of our first concerts, is in fact NOT by Robert
Shaw. Nor was it arranged for the Robert Shaw chorale. It has no connection
whatsoever to that famous ensemble. When I introduced it as the “Robert
Shaw Arrangement” I received naught but confused stares from my beloved
colleagues on the stage. I have since learned that the arrangement is by
James Erb. And I like it a lot.


O Shenandoah, I long to see you
And hear your rolling river
O Shenandoah, I long to see you
‘Way, we’re bound away
Across the wide Missouri

I long to see your smiling valley
And hear your rolling river
I long to see your smiling valley
‘Way, we’re bound away
Across the wide Missouri

‘Tis seven long years since last I see thee
And hear your rolling river
‘Tis seven long years since last I see thee
‘Way, we’re bound away
Across the wide Missouri


Hymn to St. Cecilia
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

I discovered this piece during my freshman year at TCU.
A big-wig, fancy-pants British organist was coming to TCU, and the Concert
Chorale was preparing this piece to perform on a program with him, along
with Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb. We learned both pieces lickety-split,
starting preparation in mid-September and performing them in early October.
We did not do Hymn to Saint Cecilia much justice, and I remember
the look of only slightly masked disdain on the face of the fancy-pants
visiting organist. But, despite our less-than-up-to-snuff performance, I
fell in love with the piece. When I was preparing Octarium’s first
season, I centered our first concert around it. I do remember, rather vividly,
the deer-in-the-headlights look when I gave it to them. “You think
WE can do THIS?” “Yep,” I replied. And I was right. Sooooo

What Andrew has to say about this piece:

I adore the music of Benjamin Britten and this
sure doesn’t disappoint (except for that one tri-tone in the third movement
that is
really hard to hear.) The music is beautiful, the text
is meaningful, especially to musicians, which I happen to be, and performing
it successfully gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

What Ben has to say about this piece:

Never has this group taken on so bold a challenge
as it did when we decided to perform this piece. A monument of the choral
Hymn to St. Cecilia would in succession challenge,
frustrate, overwhelm, reward and, finally, bless each singer. This is a
work that you truly must live with for an extended period of time in order
to grasp, both musically and emotionally. We were lucky to have started
working on it early enough to have time to understand it. Our memorable
performances of this work at ACDA in Los Angeles last February were among
the most rewarding musical experiences I’ve ever had.

What Ashley has to say about this piece:

Friday, February 4, 2005. We walk into a huge,
and I mean HUGE, cathedral, and I, of all people, become intimidated. And
I am not one to be intimidated. I thought there was no way that the eight
of us could possibly fill this space with enough sound to make it worth
singing here. We sang our warm up and realized that we could probably get
through it, but just barely. We ate some lunch and then sat around in an
empty, cold room and discovered our propensity, or lack thereof, to remain
completely quiet for 60 consecutive seconds (it’s
really hard).
We then walked across the courtyard and walked back into the cathedral and
there we faced close to a 1,000 (that’s ONE THOUSAND) people. Intimidation
reared its ugly head again, but then, suddenly, we were singing. Fear, excitement,
anticipation, adrenaline and a whole lot of “yikes” turned it into the most
amazing musical moments I’ve ever had in my life! After we were done we
literally ran off the stage and back out into the courtyard where we fell
into a circle and all of us burst into tears. It was just us, our voices
and, most of all, our love for each other. St Cecilia was truly with us
that afternoon.

What Renee has to say about this piece:

Beginning the moment it finally sunk in that we
were flying out to L.A. to sing for the ACDA National Convention, I assumed
that I would be super nervous to perform when we got there. As it turned
out, I was feeling completely prepared and more excited than anything else
before our first performance. Then we went to the Cathedral of our Lady
of the Angels. We rehearsed. It wasn’t a perfect space for us by any
means because it was absolutely HUGE. But we could hear pretty well with
the shell behind us, so it was okay. Then we had lunch and played the “not-so-quiet
game” Ashley mentioned. During the game, one of the ACDA worker-bee
student people walked in and asked us, in all seriousness, “So how
do y’all ‘prepare’ for a concert of this magnitude?”
which tickled us so thoroughly that it made our game much, much harder.
When we walked into the Cathedral, I was still feeling pretty relaxed. Then
I saw the crowd. All I remember was just staring into space and thinking,
“Whoa.” Leah and Mike even turned to look at me and asked me if
I was okay and fixed my hair a little. “Am I okay?” I thought
to myself. We walked onto the stage and sang a concert that I will NEVER
forget. I didn’t feel my legs once through the whole thing. It felt
like the 8 of us against the whole world. And we won. It rocked.

What Leah has to say about this piece:

Los Angeles, 1,000 choral nerds, a giant cathedral,
and Octarium = the most thrilling musical moment of my life thus far.


In a garden shady this holy lady
With reverent cadence and subtle psalm,
Like a black swan as death came on
Poured forth her song in perfect calm:
And by ocean’s margin this innocent virgin
Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer,
And notes tremendous from her great engine
Thundered out on the Roman air.
Blonde Aphrodite rose up excited,
Moved to delight by the melody,
White as an orchid she rode quite naked
In an oyster shell on top of the sea;
At sounds so entrancing the angels dancing
Came out of their trance into time again,
And around the wicked in Hell’s abysses
The huge flame flickered and eased their pain.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

I cannot grow;
I have no shadow
To run away from,
I only play.
I cannot err;
There is no creature
Whom I belong to,
Whom I could wrong.
I am defeat
When it knows it
Can now do nothing
By suffering.
All you lived through,
Dancing because you
No longer need it
For any deed.
I shall never be Different. Love me.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall,
O calm of spaces unafraid of weight,
Where Sorrow is herself, forgetting all
The gaucheness of her adolescent state,
Where Hope within the altogether strange
From every outworn image is released,
And Dread born whole and normal like a beast
Into a world of truths that never change:
Restore our fallen day; O re-arrange.
O dear white children casual as birds,
Playing among the ruined languages,
So small beside their large confusing words,
So gay against the greater silences
Of dreadful things you did: O hang the head,
Impetuous child with the tremendous brain,
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain,
Lost innocence who wished your lover dead,
Weep for the lives your wishes never led.
O cry created as the bow of sin
Is drawn across our trembling violin.
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain.
O law drummed out by hearts against the still
Long winter of our intellectual will.
That what has been may never be again.
O flute that throbs with the thanksgiving breath
Of convalescents on the shores of death.
O bless the freedom that you never chose.
O trumpets that unguarded children blow
About the fortress of their inner foe.
O wear your tribulation like a rose.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

Text: W.H. Auden





O Taste and See Ralph
Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

I sang the soprano solo in this piece when I was in
high school and had just gotten my first section leader church job, at Good
Shepherd Episcopal in Corpus Christi, Texas, under the direction of James
Buonemani. I was so very nervous the Sunday I sang it that I inadvertently
sang the lyrics that we always sang in jest, “O Tasty Sea…”
but I caught myself before the next line, which would have been unfortunately
noticeable, “…how salty the brine is…” This piece is,
hands down, one of my favorite choral works; Vaughan Williams needs only
two pages to make a lasting musical and textual point. Profound because
of its brevity, not despite it.

What Renee has to say about this piece:

When I first started working for Krista at St.
Andrew’s, this was one of the first solos I sang there, and MAN, did
I hate solo singing. Actually, I still hate solo singing, but I’ve
gotten past the “I think I’m going to pass out I hate this so
much” point. So when I look at this little opening solo and think about
how freaked out I was to sing it in front of “all those people,”
I have to giggle a little. Experience has extinguished a lot of that fear.


O taste and see how gracious the Lord is,
Blest is the man that trusteth in him.

Text: Psalm 34: 8



Ubi Caritas Maurice
Duruflé (1902-1986)

This is another piece I learned under Buonemani during
my tender teen years. Here I was, a section leader in a choir filled with
the best music educators in town, taking home a paycheck for one of the
best, most educational and valuable experiences I could have possibly had
as a budding musician. I sang soprano back then, but Buonemani had me sing
with the altos at the beginning, and I remember the first time my voice
joined with the gorgeous timbre of that alto section. Singing those opening
phrases helped me understand how to sing “organically,” and I
cannot hear this piece sung any other way.

What Buonemani has to say about this piece:

The mysteries of Gregorian chant — music designed
to commune with God on the deepest metaphysical levels — has been an
endless source of inspiration for composers down through the ages, and perhaps
none more so than in the life and work of Maurice Duruflé. His daily
“comings and goings” at his Parisian church were caught up in
the ebb and flow of these melodic strains. His setting of “Where charity
and love prevails” translates the ethereal beauty of the original melody
and words into his devout Parisian experience at the church of St-Étienne
du Mont. What results is a work that speaks afresh to our modern ears the
ultimate and eternal truths inherent in the original. It is, in my mind,
one of the most perfect expressions of chant retold in 20th century language.

What Leah has to say about this piece:

This song has the most beautiful alto melody ever
written. You will notice that it is so beautiful the sopranos can’t
help but sing it too.


Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.



God be in my head
John Rutter (b. 1945)

I actually learned this piece during my short stint
as a section leader at Saint Andrew’s. It is a poignant prayer, set
quite movingly by Rutter, that resonates deeply with me, especially as I
machete my way through the jungle of my busy life.

What Renee has to say about this piece:

I love John Rutter. Everything he writes. Love
him. Period.


God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.

Text: Sarum Primer


Rise Up My Love, My Fair One
Healey Willan (1880-1968)

I learned this piece with Mark Dunn at St. John’s
in Fort Worth and fell instantly in love with it. I practically planned
my wedding music around this small masterpiece (thankfully, although the
words define the renewing power of love, even old love rekindling, the text
is from the Song of Solomon, a biblical book, so the piece was approved
for inclusion at a church ceremony … phew … Thank you Shir HaShirim).
When this group was in its infancy, as the St. Andrew’s Consort, I
started to dream at night of how their voices would bring this piece to
life. So I programmed it for the first Easter Sunday I was there. We’ve
sung it on Easter ever since. I get chills, literally, every time they sing
to the chords on the words “… birds is come.” Perfection.

What Andrew has to say about this piece:

Rise up My Love is a favorite of mine because, in my opinion, the
tenor line is quite stunning. I, being a Tenor, love to sing tenor lines.
Especially tenor lines that are quite stunning, as this one is.

Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo! The winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear upon the earth.
The time of the singing of birds is come.

Text: Song of Solomon




Love’s Antiphon
Lloyd Pfautsch (1921-2003)

This piece was suggested by Rosemary Heffley, a music
education guru in the state of Texas. She taught my Field Experience in
Music class for a couple of months while our regular professor was ill,
and, in that month, I learned how important teachers and mentors are and
how often people take for granted that these people really know how much
they change lives. Mentors don’t always know that they’ve made
a real difference, and, even if they do, it is easy to forget those accomplishments
in the heat of battle, so to speak. Since that class I’ve always made
it a point to tell people when they’ve inspired me. And I can thank
Rosemary Heffley for that awareness. (I should probably tell her that, shouldn’t I?)

What Rosemary Heffley has to say about this piece:

This is a unique combination of two love poems,
the Burns “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose,” sung by the men,
and “My True Love Hath a Heart,” sung by the women. The writing
is rhythmically infused and sonorous. One of my favorite, relatively unknown


My luve is like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June;
My luve is like a melodie
That’s sweetly played in tune
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again my luve,
Though it were ten thousand mile.

My true love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for another giv’n.
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss,
There never was a better bargain driv’n.
His heart in me keeps him and me in one,
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for now it is his own,
I cherish his because in me it bides:

Text: Robert Burns and Sir Philip Sydney



Set Me As A Seal René
Clausen (b. 1953)

What Ben has to say about this piece:

I have sung this anthem so many times that, too
often, the profound meaning of the text goes unnoticed. Inevitably, however,
just as the piece is coming to its end, I realize what I’ve been singing.
The last line is particularly noteworthy. “For love is strong as death”
seems both sad and extreme at the same time. But, on closer inspection,
we see that the picture that text paints is not one of sadness, but rather
possesses a sense of the eternal, which makes the resolution to the piece
a great deal more satisfying.

What Andrew has to say about this piece:

Set Me as A Seal has held a fond place in my heart
since high school. I sang it under a man who is a legend in high school
choral conducting, Clark Comley. We called him Sparky…I don’t really know
why…but we did.

What Renee has to say about this piece:

It took me about 200 performances to sing the second-soprano
part accurately in this song. Fingers crossed that I can get it right tonight.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death.

Text: Song of Solomon



Randall Thompson (1899-1984)

This piece is overdone. Period. But, wow. How can you
not program this piece for this group? If you have an answer, be sure to
let me know after the concert.

What Leah has to say about this piece:

This is another song I had never sung before and
rehearsed only once before Octarium sang it for a performance. I thought
that it was so wonderful that first night and imagined how much more wonderful
it would be when I learned all the right notes. Now I find this song wonderfully
frustrating. It is a difficult piece of music not because of the notes (anymore)
but because you lose yourself within it whether you are the one singing
or the one listening. It carries you away to another world and brings you
back delicately. On a more factual note: the word “Alleluia” is
sung 70 times through the duration of the song. Don’t ask me when I
counted, because the rector at Saint Andrew’s might take offense at
my answer.

Alleluia  Ralph
Manuel (b. 1951)

I learned this setting of Alleluia with Mark Dunn, who
cites it as one of his favorites, saying, “There is nothing fancy about
this piece, but I always listen to it when I need to take a step back and
breathe.” I hadn’t visited it in years, but I’m grateful
to Mark for reminding me that this wonderful piece is a part of the choral

What Ben has to say about this piece:

I performed this with the Concert Choir at Wheaton
College, my alma mater. We performed it several times, including at our
Home Concert (the last of the year), in which we circled the audience in
the very large Edman Chapel, lit candles and sang this anthem. It was quite
moving, not only for the audience that night, but for the singers as well.

What Renee has to say about this piece:

I had never sung this prior to rehearsals for this
concert, but it has quickly found its way into my heart. I find it delightfully
cheesy and very satisfying to sing. Listen for the head banging section
… what? Head banging to choral music? That’s right … head
banging. If you don’t hear it, just watch me, because I probably won’t
be able to keep myself from doing it.

The Lord Bless you and Keep You
Peter Lutkin (1858-1931)

In the state of Texas this is an anthem, of sorts, for choral educators.
You can walk into any meeting, any conference, any type of gathering whatsoever
of choral music educators and, if you sing the first line of this piece,
suddenly you are surrounded, in harmony, with other voices joining you.
All of the voices in the room singing together. No music. No conductor.
Just voices as one expressing love for music. And, really, that is what
Octarium is all about.

The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.


Irish Blessing Dede Duson (b. 1938)

When I was in high school, this was the closer to every
choral concert I ever sang. It is simple yet, to me, a powerful reminder
of the reason I chose to be a singer and a music educator.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.


Day by Day
from the 1982 Hymnal (Episcopal)

Mark Dunn hates this little ditty. Hates it. While I
was part of the ensemble at St. John’s I would ask to sing it all the
time (much like Octarium begs for Shenandoah). He never would let
us sing it. Ample opportunity, of course, since it is such a utilitarian
text, but, heavens, he was stubborn. Flash forward a couple of years to
my wedding: the ceremony was at St. John’s, and I had planned the music
to a tee; every moment. Well, every moment except one. In the Episcopalian
marriage liturgy, the wedding party must move from the crossing up to the
altar. It is a short jaunt that is often done in silence, which, in a music-heavy
ceremony (it was more like a concert, with incidental wedding vows) I thought
would be a welcome respite. But as Kendrick and I started to climb the steps
up to the chancel, Mark started playing Day by Day on the organ.
And I wept. It meant the world to me. Flash forward another couple of years
(if twelve years is a couple): it was a Sunday in February, 2004. Kendrick
and I were newly home from the hospital with our four-day old son. The eight,
or, as I call them, the “kids,” came over after church to meet
the first Octari-baby. They came upstairs, because I was strictly bed-ridden,
and gathered around my bed to gaze at Cameron. I don’t remember whose
idea it was but someone said “Let’s sing to him!” They started
Day by Day, but they couldn’t get through it (or, rather, Ashley
and Renee, the weepy sopranos, couldn’t get through it.) But it was
still a moment to remember: surrounded by eight people I love dearly, listening
to them sing (or try to sing through tears) to my new son a hymn that has
had such deep meaning in my life. A little moment, which could have been
easily dismissed and forgotten, but on which I look back with such intense
fondness. And gratefulness. And love. I’m not sure I ever thanked them
for that. Well, I guess now I have.

Day by day, dear Lord of thee three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

Text: Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)