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From Mozart to Stravinsky...


Our beloved 2011-2012 manager, Abigail Droge '12, writes about our performance of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms with the YSO:

From Classical to Neoclassical – as Rachel Glodo ’12 reminded us in her brilliant and witty pre-concert pep talk, within two weeks the Glee Club has embraced both Mozart and Stravinsky.  And what a wonderful journey it has been. 

Of all the pieces that I have sung with the Glee Club, the Symphony of Psalms is perhaps the one that transformed the most for me over the course of the year. When we first began rehearsals, it was difficult to find my notes amongst the dissonance.  But as we became more and more familiar with the piece, and especially when we were able to hear it with the orchestra, I came to appreciate its beauty and emotion on a different level.  The desperation of the opening movement, a setting of Psalm 38 (“Hear my prayer, O Lord … For I am a stranger with Thee”) only increases the monumental power of Psalm 40 in the second movement (“I waited patiently for the Lord: and He inclined unto me, and heard my calling”).  And when the listener (and singer) reach the sheer beauty and resolution of the final movement, the words of Psalm 150 sound the sweeter for having been earned: “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.  Alleluia.” 

Singing with the Yale Symphony Orchestra affords not only the privilege of getting to make music with even more of our peers, but also the special joy of being able to work with YSO director Toshi.  His enthusiasm and commitment to the piece imbued the notes I was singing with deeper meaning for me.  One of the things I most look forward to in performing with the YSO is the opportunity of witnessing the collaboration between Jeff and Toshi and having the privilege of combining the genius of two great musical minds in our final performance.  It was also wonderful to be able to hear the YSO from the audience as they performed “Landings” by Stephen Feigenbaum ’12 (last year’s Fenno Heath Award winner for the Glee Club), and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, which captivated the audience from the first note.  It is a testament to the YSO that they can perform both a brand new piece and a piece with such a storied past in the same concert with so much commitment and grace.  

So, we managed to get through the night riot-free, but this was certainly a concert that I will remember for years to come. 

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I first encountered this piece when I was 16, as part of a northern Virginia choral association concert. They mailed me the score (which I still have) and gave me a few weeks to learn it before having two rehearsals and then a concert. I still remember trying to learn the music note by note (since I couldn’t sight read back then) listen to a midi file of the soprano I part on repeat. So this is how I encountered Vaughan Williams--a piano midi file. My first impression, especially once I got to “Beat! Beat! Drums!” was….what the heck is this music. I didn’t really understand the poetry, or the war, or any of the context surrounding this piece. All I knew was there was something about a solemn church and a bridegroom and bugles, and something about snorting horses in Dan…the piece was a mys…