The Valley Symphony Orchestra Presents: The European and American Classics

Choir only pic
Valley Symphony Chorale

[April 7, 2015], McAllen —Following the success of the first independent concert by the Valley Symphony Chorale last year at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, the Valley Symphony Orchestra is pleased to offer once again, an all-choral concert. The event will take place at First Presbyterian Church of McAllen located at 104 S. 12th Street on Tuesday, April 21st at 7:30 p.m. Fitting with the performance venue, as well as the long tradition of sacred repertoire that has enriched choral singing for centuries, the Valley Symphony Chorale will perform a variety of sacred music from Europe and the United States. Accordingly, the concert is entitled “European and American Classics,” conducted by Valley Symphony Chorale Director, Dr. David Means.


The famous “Sing a Mighty Song” by Daniel Gawthrop will serve as this concert’s overture. Gawthrop was born in Indiana in 1949 and is still living. Some of his pieces have become standard repertoire in church, high school, and college choirs in the United States. He was the Composer-in-Residence to the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (of Fairfax Virginia), and won a composition grant from the prestigious Barlow Endowment for Musical Composition from Brigham Young University, his Alma Mater. The piece contains contrasting moods and compositional techniques that recall both contemporary U.S. compositions and European traditions (as may be seen in the fugato section of the piece), making it a fit opening for this evening.


The first half of the concert consists of European choral classics. It will open with the beautiful Renaissance motet Sicut Cervus by Palestrina based on Psalm 41: “As the stag yearns for springs of water: so my soul yearns for you, God.” Following this a cappella rendition, pianist Daniel Steenken will join the chorale for their interpretation of two movements from Joseph Hayden’s Lord Nelson Mass, one of the choral masterpieces from the classical era. After Haydn we’ll hear a movement from the last piece Mozart wrote for the Salzburg Cathedral before he moved to Vienna to try his luck as a freelance composer: the “Laudate pueri” fromVesperae solennes de conessore. This movement is an impressive marriage of the contrapuntal writing of the high Baroque style with the symmetry and formalism of the Classical style. Three settings of Ave Maria will follow, one from the Renaissance by Tomás Luis De Victoria, a contemporary setting by Spanish composer Javier Busto, and a Romantic setting by Anton Bruckner. The antiphonal piece for two choirs “O Filii et Filiae” by Volckmar Leisring (1588-1632) will then precede the beloved anthem “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” by contemporary British composer John Rutter.


While composers from the Western tradition have worked in the new World for centuries, only relatively recently have they attempted to cultivate distinctive musical idioms, particularly in the choral literature. This trend is reflected in the fact that many of the American classics in the second half of the program are living composers. Randall Thompson has had a distinguished musical and academic career, having taught at prestigious institutions such as the Curtis Institute, the University of Virginia, and Harvard University. The Valley Symphony Chorale will interpret his setting of “The Last Words of David.” Grammy-award-winner Rene Clausen currently works as conductor and professor of music at Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota. His compositions and arrangements are well known and often performed by high school and university ensembles all over the country. “Set Me as a Seal” is based on a poem that can be simultaneously interpreted as secular and romantic on the one and, and as a religious and devotional on the other. It is based on a text from the Songs of Solomon: “Set me as a seal, upon your arm, for love is strong as death. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners” by Williametta Spencer will follow. The piece dramatically tells the New Testament story of the resurrection vividly depicted in a poem by John Donne. The concert will close with arrangements of a folk song and two spirituals. “Shenandoah,” arranged by James Erb, has become a representative piece of U.S. choral music all over the world. Moving from a homorhythmic texture to imitative polyphony, the music depicts the tranquil flow of the Shenandoah River. The introspective spiritual composed by Thomas Dorsey and arranged by Arnold Sevier “Precious Lord” will move the audience. Finally, the energetic arrangement of Elijah Rock by Moses Hogan will close the concert.


Don’t miss this event full of wonderful a cappella and accompanied choral music from both sides of the Atlantic, conducted by Dr. David Means and accompanied by Daniel Steenken. Tickets for adults and seniors is only a $10 donation with open seating only. For tickets, visit us at the VSO Box Office, located in the Chase (Neuhaus) Tower at 200 South 10th St., Suite 104 in McAllen — open weekdays from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Or call the VSO Box Office at(956) 661-1615 or online at