Simon Carrington conducts music by Ferko, Gregorio, & Larsen
August 20, 2017
The Norfolk Chamber Music Festival (Norfolk, CT) is one of North America’s oldest active summer music festivals. On August 19, the Norfolk festival featured a Choral Festival, directed by Simon Carrington. This remarkable program complete with a first-rate choir and chamber orchestra has always been a highlight of the Norfolk summer. The concert featured three E. C. Schirmer composers: Frank Ferko, Joseph Gregorio, and Libby Larsen.
Frank Ferko‘s “Spring” from The Seasons, based on a poem by Robert Frost, is a large work for SATB chorus and string quartet. The composer writes, “Although certain types of weather, such as wind or rain, may occur in any of the seasons, the descriptions of weather in these four poems present specific weather conditions which commonly occur in each of the four seasons: a still, hot, sultry day interrupted by the movement of a light breeze from the hills (summer); the cooling morning mists and light frost which signal the coming of winter (autumn); the bitter iciness of fierce winds and frozen air-in this poem, further compared with man’s ingratitude (winter); the warm rains and southerly winds that melt the ice and bring about new life (spring).
Throughout this piece various musical devices are employed to underscore or even ‘interpret’ the words. These devices include text painting, contrapuntal structures (double canon and fugue), and dramatically shifting harmonic colors as each season unfolds. The contrasting performing forces of mixed choir and string quartet are particularly well-suited for presenting, very colorfully, the various musical depictions of the weather conditions and characteristics of each of the seasons.”
Libby Larsen‘s “Comin’ to Town” from The Settling Years is one of three pieces from a collection based on poetry of American pioneers. It is scored for SATB chorus, wind quintet, and piano. Larsen states, “The texts are full of a kind of raw energy, swashbuckling attitude, and profundity of heart and commitment characteristic of those settlers west of the Hudson. I had also looked at the more erudite essays of Coleridge-Taylor, Thoreau, and Emerson but chose the rougher stanzas because the primitive voices, the pioneers, were profound, simply in the way they expressed the nature of their experiences. The first piece, ‘Comin’ to Town,’ is about cowboys after a month on the range—bawdy, rowdy, and raucous…The Settling Years was commissioned and premiered by The Singing Sergeants and the United States Air Force Band for the 150th anniversary of the Music Educators National Convention.”