Program Notes

Program Notes

Some of the program notes that appeared in our programs had to be shortened to fit in the space available. The long version of the program notes are given here. If you would like to use the program notes, we would request that you acknowledge the author, the Naperville Chorus and let us know. We like to know that these materials are of use!

A short excerpt is shown below for each set of notes. Click on the title to read the full notes for a given program.

1999 Fall – Carols

Carols Carols– the word originally identified a group dance, done in a circle– arose after about 1500, partly as a popular reaction against the somber, ecclesiastically prescribed plainsongs, chants and other formal religious music. They were religious in nature but still upbeat. However, many carols exist which do not focus on Christmas; there were, and […]

2004 Spring – Opera Choruses

Opera Choruses As the theme of this concert—Love, Honor & Betrayal—suggests, these eleven opera choruses come mostly from 19th-century tragic dramas. Of the eight composers responsible for these works, only one– Mozart— died before 1800, and though three lived past 1900, only one of these operas premiered in the 20th century. These choruses are selected […]

2006 Fall – Hodie – Williams

Hodie (This Day) by Ralph Vaughan Williams Ralph (pronounced “Rafe”) Vaughan Williams’ fans often assert that he was England’s greatest 20th-century composer. There is certainly room for other views, but he was without doubt an extraordinary composer. He essayed almost every musical form, and in ample quantity, save, perhaps, for chamber works; his expression in […]

2005 Spring – Cindy

Cindy by Mack Wilberg This familiar folk song, sometimes referred to as a “frolic” tune (which may imply that it was used in a game, reel, or square dance), is of unknown origin. John Lomax, one of the earliest musicologists to devote his energies to American folk tunes, was of the belief that it originated […]

2005 Spring – The Gondoliers

The Gondoliers by William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan Much has been written about the 20-year collaboration of Sir William Schwenk Gilbert and Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan. There is general consensus that it involved the collision of two strong egos, and that there was much friction-each man thinking he deserved better-but they both denied it publicly. […]

2005 Spring – Liebesliederwaltzer

Liebesliederwaltzer by Johannes Brahms At 35, Johannes Brahms had not achieved any real success. He had given up his career as a concert pianist some 15 years earlier, hoping to achieve success as a composer and conductor. All he now had to show were couple of serenades, a piano concerto, and some chamber music-and conducting […]

2005 Fall – Amahl and the Night Visitors

Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian-Carlo Menotti Gian-Carlo Menotti was born in Italy in 1911, the sixth of ten children. He showed early musical talent and began studying at the Milan Conservatory when only 13. In 1928, when he was 17, he came to the US to study at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute, recommended by […]

2005 Fall – Gloria in Excelsis – Bach

Gloria in Excelsis by Johann Sebastian Bach As the Chorus begins its 30th year of performance, it fittingly turns to Johann Sebastian Bach, who, with a few contemporaries- Handel, Buxtehude, Vivaldi, and Telemann among them- transformed the entire framework of serious music. Curiously, the Chorus’ homage to Bach has been rather scattered; of five, possibly […]

2005 Fall – Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Ornaments by Randol Alan Bass This pastiche of familiar carols was originally commissioned for the Grand Rapids (MI) Symphonic Choir, led at that time (1988) by Anton Armstrong (who now directs the choral program at St. Olaf College in Northfield MN, where he earned his baccalaureate degree). In six sections, Christmas Ornaments presents “Lullaby […]

2006 Spring – A German Requiem – Brahms

A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms The Scene Europe was very much a work in progress during the nineteenth century: France had put away the escapades of Bonaparte, but in mid-century was embracing Napoleon III; in Prussia, a new leader, von Bismarck, was rising; the Sardinian monarchy was expanding into other parts of Italy, as […]

2007 Spring – Festival Te Deum – Sullivan

The Festival Te Deum by Sir Arthur Sullivan Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was a trial to his parents: An unmotivated student as a child, he nonetheless matriculated at Oxford, and later transferred to Cambridge. He did not, however, graduate, and his […]

2007 Spring – H.M.S. Pinafore

H.M.S. Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan There is a canard that the English do not “get” jokes. In my family (I am at least one-eighth English, a plurality over any other ethnicity), someone who misses the point of a joke is accused of showing his/her “English”. The English, in fact, do have a substantial sense […]

2008 Spring – Requiem – Fauré

Requiem by Gabriel Fauré About The Composer Gabriel-Urbain Fauré (1845-1924) figured prominently in the upheaval that took place in French music from the late 1800’s into the twentieth century. Educated as an organist, his teachers included Niedermeyer and Saint-Saens, and he served several churches including the Madeleine Church in Paris, where he was assistant organist […]

A Feast of Carols

A Feast of Carols Randol Alan Bass is a Texan by birth and present attachment, although he earned an M.M. from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory, and completed part of his doctorate at Ohio State. He has founded and conducted several wind and choral groups at various times in his career, and his compositions and […]

Une Cantate De Noel

Une Cantate De Noel Arthur Honegger, a Swiss citizen despite his French birth, was the second eldest of Les Six, the “young Turks” of the musical scene in post-World War I Paris. Like the other five— Poulenc and Milhaud are today the best-known— he paid homage to the avant-garde dramatist Jean Cocteau, and in fact […]

Coronation Anthems

Coronation Anthems The year was 1727, it was early June, and George Frideric Handel had a problem. A newly naturalized British citizen, the 42-year-old native of Halle (near Leipzig in Upper Saxony) was the impresario and orchestra conductor of the Royal Academy of Music in London—not, as might be inferred, an educational institution, but rather […]

2002 – Psalm 46 a declamatory motet

Psalm 46 a declamatory motet Commander Dan Shanower was born and raised in Naperville. He was killed in the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. A picture of the entire Shanower family and links to information on Commander Shanower can be found here. The setting of Psalm 46 that is receiving its first […]

2002 Fall – Christmas Cantata

Christmas Cantata At 79, Daniel Rogers Pinkham is one of the most versatile of American composers, yet perhaps less well known among the public than many of the next generation. Perhaps that is because he has spent almost his whole life in Massachusetts; born there, he taught at Boston Conservatory, Simmons College in Boston, Harvard, […]

2003 Spring – Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise)

Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) – Felix Mendelssohn, Opus 52 Thirty-one-year old Felix Mendelssohn had plenty of activity already on his plate in 1840, when Leipzig began planning its celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the invention of printing by Johannes Gutenberg. Never mind that the date and place of that invention were, and are still, […]

2003 Spring – Te Deum – Dvorak

Te Deum – Antonin Dvorak, Opus 103 “There is a tide in the affairs of men…,” says Brutus, and we recognize, without invoking superstition, that same convergence. Certainly the mid-nineteenth century was such a time for symphonic music; consider, for instance, two men born into provinces of the Hapsburg empire– Antonin Dvorak in 1841 in […]

2003 Fall – Robert Hanson

Robert Hanson Maestro Robert Hanson, named 2001 Conductor of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras, has been Music Director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra since 1985. Maestro Hanson came to the ESO in 1974 as assistant to Grammy winner Margaret Hillis and became Co-Music Director with Hillis in 1983. The 2003-2004 season marks […]

2003 Fall – Magnificat – Rutter

Magnificat by John Rutter The Latin word “Magnificat” begins the Virgin Mary’s joyful outburst following the Annunciation–the Angel’s word that she was to bear the Messiah, as recorded in Luke 1: 46-55. This poem, or song, of Mary has been a central part of the observance of the Advent season in Christian churches since early […]

2003 Fall – Gloria – Hanson

Gloria by Robert Hanson The genesis for the “Gloria project” goes back to 1977 when Jeordano Martínez and Robert Hanson shared an office. Both were conductors at Elgin Community College and developed a strong friendship and mutual admiration which continues today. In the spring of 2002, the Naperville Chorus performed Hanson’s 1985 composition, The Psalms […]

2004 Fall – Messiah – Handel

Messiah by Georg Friderich Handel Everybody knows all about Messiah. Or at least everybody thinks they do: How Georg Friderich Handel, 56, born in Halle, Germany, and then a resident of London, England, dashed off the 53 pieces that make up Messiah– Spicker, editor of the popular 1912 Schirmer’s edition, says it was done between […]

2005 Spring – The Student Prince – Romberg

The Student Prince by Sigmund Romberg Most authorities agree that `operetta’ existed as a transitional phase for about 100 years, roughly from 1840 to 1940. It was fledged from grand opera, and was ultimately transformed into musical theater, a less structured medium. The Viennese dramas of Lehar and Johann Strauss Jr. were the acme of […]

2005 Spring – The Tender Land – Copland

Songs from The tender Land by Aaron Copland Aaron Copland would probably be a shoo-in as America’s greatest 20th-century classical composer. Born in Brooklyn in late 1900 to Russian-Lithuanian immigrants, he learned piano from an older sister, and learned hard work in his parents’ department store, downstairs from their apartment. He was composing before he […]

2006 Fall – Many Moods of Christmas – Suite 1

The Many Moods of Christmas, Suite 1 by Robert Shaw and Richard Russell Bennett Beginning in the 1960’s, the late Robert Shaw and the noted arranger Robert Russell Bennett collaborated on a series of Christmas medleys, all of them pastiches of carols and seasonal tunes. This is the first in that series, and is new […]

2008 Spring – Mass of the Children – Rutter

Mass of the Children by John Rutter About the Composer John M. Rutter is a well-respected English conductor, editor, arranger, publisher, and, most especially, composer. His compositions are primarily choral; he is well known for his many Christmas carols, one of which, the immensely popular “Shepherd’s Pipe Carol”, was written in 1963, when he was […]

Psalms of David

Psalms of David Psalms of David by Robert Hanson (1986, rev. 1998) Psalms of David was commissioned by the Elgin Choral Union and the First Congregational Church of Elgin in 1985 to commemorate the 150th anniversaries of the church and the City of Elgin. The work was first performed in April of 1986 by the […]

2003 Fall – A Christmas Garland – Susa

A Christmas Garland by Conrad Susa Conrad S. Susa’s eclectic musical career belies his Carnegie-Mellon and Juilliard training, where, he says, his notable teachers included P. D. Q. Bach (!).. The Pennsylvania-born Susa, 68, was a musical director on Broadway in the 1960’s, wrote playscripts for the Eugene O’Neill Center in Connecticut, was staff pianist […]

Carmina Burana

Carmina Burana Carl Orff was born into a military family in Munich in 1895. While he followed his paternal heritage by serving in the Kaiser’s forces during World War I, his real love was music– piano, organ, and cello, and some composing, even as a youth. A Bavarian to the core, he spent most of […]

Carols and Lullabies – Susa

Carols and Lullabies by Conrad Susa Conrad Susa was resident composer for the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and served as dramaturge for the O’Neill Center in Connecticut. He has also written numerous scores for documentary films and PBS television productions; choral and instrumental works; and operas (Transformations, Black River, The Love of Don […]

Carol Cantata III – Bennett

Carol Cantata III by Robert Russell Bennett Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981) is probably best known as orchestrator and arranger for Broadway musicals—as many as 300 of them!– including “Showboat”, “South Pacific”, “My Fair Lady”, and “The Sound of Music”. A characteristically outspoken man –”Nobody asked for my opinion, and maybe nobody wants it… They’re going […]

Carol Fantasy – John D. Miller

Carol Fantasy by John D. Miller John D. Miller was a young choral director at Countryside Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska at the time this Fantasy was conceived. His success at composing and arranging led him to begin doctoral studies at Eastman School of Music, but he died before that dream could be realized. His […]

The Creation

The Creation In August, 1795, London impresario Johann Peter Salomon presented his departing visitor, Josef Haydn– Kapellmeister to the Esterházy family of Eisenstadt, Austria and Esterháza, Hungary — with a potential oratorio libretto describing ” …the Creation of the Earth and Human Kind”. According to Salomon, the libretto had been prepared by one Lidley (of […]

King David – Honegger

King David A Symphonic Psalm in three parts based on a drama by Rene Morax ABOUT THE COMPOSER: Arthur Honegger was born in Le Havre, France in 1892 and died in 1955 at a time when he was one of the most famous composers in Europe. The son of Protestant Swiss merchants from Zurich, Honegger […]


Day-Spring A Christmas Cantata based on Early American Hymns Alice Parker is probably best known to followers of choral music as the person who arranged music for many of the works performed by the Robert Shaw chorus. Many of those arrangements are now standard arrangements for choruses all over the world. She is a composer […]

Elijah – Mendelssohn

Elijah 1. The Composer and His Work Felix Mendelssohn was born Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn and given the additional surname of Bartholdy when his family converted from Judaism to Christianity– a move motivated by his parents’ desire to spare the children from the rife anti- Semitism of 19th-century Berlin, rather than by some discovery of […]

Fauré Requiem and Cantique de Jean Racine

Fauré Requiem and Cantique de Jean Racine. ABOUT THE COMPOSER Gabriel-Urbain Fauré (1845-1924) figured prominently in the upheaval which took place in French music from the late 1800’s into this century. Educated as an organist, his teachers included Niedermeyer and Saint-Saens, and he served several churches including the Madeleine Church in Paris, where he was […]

Hodie Christus Natus Est – Gabrieli

Hodie Christus Natus Est Giovanni Gabrieli (ca.1555-1612) was born in Venice and instructed in music by his uncle, Andrea Gabrieli, an organist at St. Mark’s Cathedral. Giovanni eventually became an organist at St. Mark’s. As a composer, he was considered the greatest of the Venetian Masters. The use of cori spezzati(divided choirs) was frequent at […]

Israel in Egypt – Handel

Israel in Egypt Handel. George Frideric Handel was born in 1685, at Halle, in the central part of what recently was East Germany. He was almost exactly contemporaneous with Johann Sebastian Bach, born at Eisenach, Thuringia, about 120 miles southwest. Both men were deposited into a fragmented, economically depressed and depopulated region: With the collapse […]

Lord Nelson Mass – Haydn

Lord Nelson Mass Franz Josef Haydn’s enormously productive, 54-year composing career was also enormously diversified. “Papa Haydn”, as his friend and protege Mozart called him, `fathered’ the symphony and the string quartet, though he originated neither, in the sense of expanding these relatively new forms to full flower. Notwithstanding his contributions to those genres, he […]

Messa di Gloria

Messa di Gloria Renowned as the composer of such operas as La Boheme, Tosca and Madame Butterfly,Giacomo Puccini began his musical career in the composition of church music. Messa di Gloria was written by Puccini at the age of 18 as his graduation thesis from the Institute Musicale of Lucca, Italy. It was also his […]

Messiah – Handel

Messiah The Messiah is probably the best known and most enjoyed choral work today, and for good reason. It is a very singable piece. Its wide variety of choruses and solos provide an ever-changing treat for the ear. But the popularity of the Messiah is not new. The love of the Messiah by a German […]

Misa Criolla – Ramirez

Misa Criolla Written by contemporary (1921- )Argentinian composer,Ariel Ramírez, the Misa Criolla is unique in that it combines the rhythms and traditions of Hispanic America with the traditional religious mass. Composed in 1963, this popular choral work incorporates a variety of Argentinian folk styles ranging from the lively dance,”carnavalito”, for the Gloria to the obsessing […]

Gloria – Poulenc

Gloria “In Poulenc”, said Claude Rostand, “there is something of the monk and something of the rascal.” That was an unsurprising conclusion, given that its subject was one of the “young Turks” of music in post-World War I France. The French critic Collet in 1920 laid the derisive appellation “Les Six” upon “Les Nouveaux Jeunes”– […]

Requiem by John Rutter

Requiem by John Rutter John Rutter was born in London in 1945, and was educated at Clare College, Cambridge. He began composing seriously in 1969, and has composed a large number of works, mostly choral, but including two children’s operas, orchestral works, works based on the heritage of the Beatles, and many works for chorus […]

Gloria – Rutter

Gloria by John Rutter At 55, the English composer John Rutter has become a veritable icon of contemporary choral music. His association with Clare College, Cambridge, first as a student, then as Director of Music, and later, as the organizer of the much-recorded Cambridge Singers, has led to international recognition; the Naperville Chorus used selections […]

St. Nicholas – Britten

St. Nicholas (Edward) Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)is a quintessentially English twentieth-century composer, with works which are among the standards for virtually all types of serious performance– instrumental solos and chamber music, overtures, symphonies, songs, cantatas, and operas. Among his better known works are A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra; the operas Peter Grimes and Billy […]

Saint Paul – Mendelssohn

Saint Paul “My oratorio gives me increasing pleasure…”, the 25-year-old Felix Mendelssohn wrote his younger sister, Rebecka, in late November of 1834. His “pleasure” was in the nature of catharsis; he had just resigned as the musical director of a new theatre in Dusseldorf, following a quarrel with the theatrical director of this attraction– almost […]

Tres Cantus Laudendi

Tres Cantus Laudendi (Three Songs of Praise) Laudate Pueri and Jubilate were commissioned and premiered by the Utah Symphony Chorus in Symphony Hall, Salt Lake City, May 1989. The work has since been widely acclaimed for its richness of tonality and intricate weaving of its major motifs. Laudate Domine was composed in early 1990 and […]

Totus Tuus – Henryk Gorecki

Totus Tuus (Entirely Thine Am I) Totus Tuus is a hymn to the Virgin Mary that was composed in 1987 for the third visit of Pope John Paul II to his homeland. The choral text is taken from a poem written by Maria Boguslawska. The music is based on chants of the Polish Catholic Church […]

Ode to the Virginian Voyage

Ode to the Virginian Voyage Showman Billy Rose claimed to have written the first singing commercial in the late 1920’s: A tender ditty titled Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?. He lacked a commission from Wrigley, but his claim is also rubbish because music has been used as propaganda for hundreds, […]

Gloria – Vivaldi

Gloria Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), the son of one of the leading violinists of St. Mark’s Chapel, was educated both for music and for the priesthood. He began his priestly duties in 1703, but because of ill health, was excused from active service a year later. From that time he devoted himself wholly to music, continually […]

Zadok the Priest – Handel

Zadok the Priest Much of Handel’s reputation today rests on only a small body of his work, principally Messiah written in 1741, even though the total amount of music he composed was enormous. This preference for Messiah has meant that much of Handel’s work is not heard regularly. Zadok the Priest has had a little […]

2007 Fall – Judas Maccabaeus – Handel

Judas Maccabaeus by Georg Frideric Handel The Story The libretto for Judas Maccabeus was written by the Rev.Thomas Morrell, rector of Buckland in Hertfordshire, who was an acquaintance of Queen Caroline. Morrell, who later wrote other libretti for Handel, was easygoing compared to the vain Jennens (the librettist for Messiah and several other Handel works), […]

Ceremony of Carols

Ceremony of Carols Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is one of Britain’s leading Composers of this century. His operas are considered among the finest of English operas since those of Henry Purcell in the 17th century, admired for their skillful setting of English words and their orchestral interludes, as well as for their drama and colorful characterization. […]

Gilbert and Sullivan

Gilbert and Sullivan notes William S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan: Of their partnership is often said that the important part was neither Gilbert nor Sullivan but the ampersand. They first collaborated on a small opera entitledThespis or The Gods Grown Old, which opened in 1871. The opera was not a notable success and the score […]

Navidad Nuestra – Ramirez

Navidad Nuestra Navidad Nuestra is a folk drama of the nativity of Jesus Christ in the rhythms and traditions of Hispanic America. Ramírez, a native of Argentina, also used this style in his popular Missa Criollawhich was performed by The Naperville Chorus in December of 1994. In this composition Ramírez gave to each episode of […]

The Testament of Freedom – Thompson

The Testament of Freedom Randall Thompson (1899-1984) ranks as one of America’s greatest 20th-century choral composers, along with his one-time student Leonard Bernstein. His 1940 anthem, Alleluia—one of several Thompson works Naperville Chorus has previously presented, (which also include Frostiana, Ode to the Virginian Voyage and A Peaceable Kingdom)was the best-selling choral work in this […]

A Gershwin Portrait

A Gershwin Portrait A Washington DC conference in March 13-16, 2009 marked the re-opening of the Gershwin Room at the Library of Congress: The Library has become the repository of a marvelous trove of Gershwiniana, much of it donated by the Gershwin family themselves. One of the people honored at the conference was Anne Wiggins […]

Classic Cole Porter

Classic Cole Porter Cole Albert Porter was the sole offspring of Kate Cole, daughter of a successful businessman, and her husband, pharmacist Sam Porter, residents of Peru, Indiana. Young Cole was composing by the time he was ten (in 1901), and his mother and grandfather supported his musical education (including altering records to make it […]

St Celcilia Mass – Gounod

St Celcilia Mass Charles-Francois Gounod was born in Paris in 1818 to a talented, but financially unsuccessful, painter and his pianist wife. Charles’ father died before he was five years old, and his mother maintained her husband’s painting classes as well as her own piano teaching.  Charles showed early talent in both areas, but gave […]

Dona Nobis Pacem – Williams

Dona Nobis Pacem Ralph (pronounced in the British fashion, “Rayf”) Vaughan Williams was acclaimed as Britain’s premier composer of the first half of the twentieth century.  The third child of the Anglican vicar at the village of Down Ampney, (about 32 km SE of Gloucester), he was not yet three in 1875 when his father […]

Magnificat – Bach

Magnificat J. S. Bach is now recognized as one of the most important pillars of today’s classical music, but that recognition was not accorded until much after his time.  (Felix Mendelssohn was instrumental in a ‘rediscovery’ of Bach in the late 1820’s.)  Bach was nonetheless well-known in his own day, primarily as an organist and […]

Messiah – Handel

Messiah First, the essentials: Georg Friederich Handel was born in Halle-on-Saal, Saxony, in 1685, distinguished himself as an organist and composer at an early age; a sojourn in Italy taught him to write Italian operas; he returned to Hanover in 1710 to be Kapellmeister to Georg Ludwig, the Elector of Hanover (later King George I […]

2012 Spring – Opera Choruses

Opera Choruses While operas typically are the province of a few soloists, many have lovely choral parts as well. This is the third such program Dr. Martinez has assembled since he assumed Directorship of the Chorus in 1989. Some of the numbers are repeats from our earlier concerts, but many are new. The notes below […]