Robert La Rue

Robert La Rue

Hayes Biggs

Hayes Biggs

Paula Kimper

Paula Kimper

Concert #9

Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy


Music for Voices and Cello

Gilda Lyons, soprano | Elaine Valby, mezzo-soprano | Robert La Rue, cello

Ancient and Baroque Suite

O Virgo Splendens — anonymous (14th century)

There Is No Rose — anonymous (15th century)

Cello Suite No. 4, Prelude — J.S. Bach (1717-1723)

arr. La Rue; Lyons; Valby (2006/07) 

Phoenix Commissions

Care-charmer Sleep — Hayes Biggs (2007)*§

Skinny Marys talk about faith — Paula M. Kimper (2007)*§

Cáscaras — Gilda Lyons (2007)*

Suite of Hymns — arr. Gilda Lyons (2006)

Idumea — Praetorius/Watts (16th/18th century)

Wayfaring Stranger — traditional (19th century)

Angel Band — Bradbury/Haskell (19th century)

*World Premiere

§Phoenix Commission


Ancient and Baroque Suite

A collection of works from the 14th to 18th centuries: O Virgo Splendens is a 14th century sacred chant associated with a pilgrimage site in Montserrat, Catalonia, where a black wooden image of the Virgin Mary resides and is reported to have performed many miracles. There is no rose is an English melody drawn from a manuscript roll of carols, and first copied out in the early 15th century. The prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No. 4 is re-imagined here in an arrangement for two voices and cello made by the trio. — Gilda Lyons

Care-charmer Sleep

Care-charmer Sleep was composed from January through April of 2007, and is dedicated to the wonderful musicians of Seraphim, with special thanks to The Phoenix Commissions that helped make its creation possible. I have long been attracted to Samuel Daniel's darkly beautiful sonnet, and it seemed to be a vehicle eminently well-suited to showcasing the talents and passions of these three artists. My setting begins with an expansive cello solo, which for me conjures up something of the fitful, anxious and lonely character of a sleepless night — or of an intensely turbulent life. The six-note musical phrase to which the words "Son of the sable Night" are set becomes an important motivic element throughout the piece. After the delivery of the first two lines of the poem by the mezzo-soprano, the soprano joins and the music becomes increasingly agitated and tempestuous, its only respite provided by a silence immediately before the words "Cease, dreams, th'imagery of our day-desires." A modified return of the cello solo, this time in a lower register, signals the final couplet's sense of ultimate surrender.  — Hayes Biggs

Skinny Marys talk about faith

Who are the Marys? The first is a mosaic of the Virgin Mary, in the apse of the church of Santi Maria e Donato on the island of Murano, near Venice. It is Venetian-Byzantine workmanship from the early 13th century. Her hands are raised in blessing, palms facing us. The art makes a sound and the sound makes light. The second is Saint Mary Magdalene, carved in wood by Donatello around 1430 in Florence. She's a crone, her only covering is her own long hair wrapped about her. Her hands are raised in prayer, or in a sacred symbol for prayer which makes a sound and the sound makes light. And that light in turn goes on to make poetry and music. — Paula Kimper


A set of three movements without words for voices and cello, Cáscaras (husks) is a series of musical snapshots written after my return from a recent visit to Nicaragua. "Cicada" re-imagines the chatter of beetles roosting in the thick of trees near my parents' home in Rio Mar. "Tortuga's Lament" paints a plaintive portrait of the sea-turtles there. "Bone Needles" — which began as a work for two voices commissioned by Amy Pivar Dances in spring 2006 — explores the ways that three lines might mend together; markings within the score ("summoning", "weaving" and "casting off") guide an exchange that I imagined after watching a group of women repairing nets on the beaches of Casares with long needles made from fish bones. — Gilda Lyons

Suite of Hymns

In summer 2006, upon my arrival at The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, I allowed myself the great indulgence of spending my first week in residence working through a stack of hymns with which I had for months been trying to spend time. Some new to me, some old favorites, I sang through, read, copied and explored dozens of pieces, landing on a handful that have remained close since; this set of three, arranged here for Seraphim, are among those that have remained closest. These arrangements are dedicated to the memory of Jeff Milano-Johnson, and to those whose lives he changed forever: family, friend, and wayfaring stranger. — Gilda Lyons