Dr. Lee Nelson, Conductor
ABOUT THE WARTBURG CHOIR
Founded in 1937, the internationally acclaimed Wartburg Choir performs sacred music from all historical periods and styles and often collaborates with contemporary composers, including Elaine Hagenberg, Stacey V. Gibbs, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Abbie Betinis, Jake Runestad, Ola Gjeilo, and Kyle Pederson. Choir members are chosen by audition and represent various academic disciplines on campus. Wartburg Choir is a story of dedicated service and learning, told by scores of choir members who have truly learned what it means to be a servant leader. Their experiences create a rich testimony of the choir’s ongoing purpose and passion over the past 85 years.
Following the foundation started by F. Melius Christiansen and Dr. Edwin Liemohn, the Wartburg Choir honors America’s Lutheran choral tradition. The Wartburg Choir celebrates the unaccompanied performance style, annual tours, and maintains the importance of tradition by intentionally performing historical and modern masterworks, all while paving the way for the future of choral music through the performance of new compositions and uplifting emerging composers. The choir performs concert tours throughout the United States annually and travels abroad every three years during the college’s one-month May Term. At Wartburg, we believe music can embrace, heal, and connect people, uniquely inspiring individuals and the world around them. Ensemble tours are an important aspect of a Wartburg education. For more than 85 years, the choir has toured domestically and internationally, touring through United States, the District of Columbia, European countries, Scandinavia, South Africa, and three Canadian provinces. The Wartburg Choir represents one of the five vibrant choral ensembles offered through the music department.
The Wartburg Choir has received many honors in its 85-year history. The choir most recently was selected to perform at the 2022 Midwestern American Choral Directors Association conference. The Wartburg Choir was named national winner of The American Prize in Choral Performance (college/university division) in 2017. The choir has received several invitations to perform at the National ACDA conference, most recently in 2017, and the regional ACDA conferences. In January 2014, the Wartburg Choir worked with composer Morten Lauridsen, who lauded their performance of his O Magnum Mysterium as being “in the top echelon of any performance of that piece by any choir that I have ever heard.” In 2011, the choir was invited to perform at the White House for the “Holiday Concert Series” and at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.MORE INFORMATION
DR. LEE NELSON, CONDUCTOR
Dr. Lee Nelson holds the Patricia R. Zahn Chair in choral conducting and serves as the Director of Choral Activities at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Nelson conducts the Wartburg Choir and Ritterchor (tenor/bass choir) and teaches choral literature, beginning conducting and advanced conducting courses at Wartburg College. He also serves as the artistic director of Christmas with Wartburg, which celebrated 75 years in 2021. Wartburg College recognized Nelson’s work as an educator by awarding him the John O. Chellevold Award for Excellence in Teaching and Service.
Under Dr. Nelson’s direction, the Wartburg Choir has performed at multiple conferences of the American Choral Director’s Association, most recently at the 2022 Midwestern Regional Conferences, the 2017 National Conference, and a performance at both the White House and the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The Wartburg Choir was honored as the national winners of The American Prize, College/University Choir Division in 2017. Nelson tours annually with the Wartburg Choir throughout the United States, as well as international tours every three years. On the most recent international tour, a television production of “The Wartburg Choir in Germany: Celebrating 500 years of Reformation” was taped and is being shown worldwide.
A highly sought-after conductor, clinician and adjudicator, Nelson has conducted at Carnegie Hall on multiple occasions and has directed all state and honor choirs throughout the United States and internationally. Earlier in his career, Nelson won the National ACDA Graduate Conducting Competition in Los Angeles and he received the Outstanding Young Choral Conductor of the Year, awarded by ACDA of Minnesota.
Dr. Lee Nelson is a distinguished conductor and educator of collaboration, leadership, and intentional empowerment of others. He seeks to embody the mission of Wartburg College and dedicates his teaching to service, leadership, faith, and learning. He is passionate about providing successful and meaningful musical experiences that enrich and empower students to lead lives of unselfish service to others, challenging them to be responsible and knowledgeable citizens of the world. A champion of contemporary music, Nelson regularly commissions and performs new works of choral literature. ECS Publishing distributes the Lee Nelson Choral Series both nationally and internationally.
Notes on the Program
It is with gratitude that we share our music and message with you today. Our performance focuses on our collective human journey seeking transcendence. Transcendence comes from the Latin prefix trans-, meaning "beyond," and the word scandare, meaning "to climb." When one achieves transcendence, they have surpassed ordinary limitations. Amidst the joys and the pain, the gratefulness and grief, divisiveness and despair we have experienced in our world, may each of us seek to transcend, transcend as individuals and as a society who sustains, uplifts, and empowers.
Our journey begins with Transcending Glory which features music that uplifts and exults the divine and the human experience. Filipino composer Ily Matthew Maniano’s electrifying setting of the Gloria text sets the tone for the opening set Transcending Glory. Vytautas Miškinis’ Regina Coeli continues this idea by fusing the compositional styles of European composers with traditional Lithuanian folk music and elements of American jazz. His expressive writing uses alternating rhythmic patterns to create both textual interchange and vitality in the music which beautifully captures the essence of the text “rejoice and be glad.” Robert Hobby’s lush setting of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s timeless text There Is Sweet Music Here brings to light the glory of “blissful skies” to those who are weary and are in need of music’s spiritual healing. Hobby serves as the director of music for Trinity English Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and his daughter, Lydia, is a current member of the Wartburg Choir. The set closes with Dr. Eurydice Osterman’s exciting Alleluia. She is an accomplished organist, author, teacher, and composer who has worked at various colleges and universities, perhaps most notably at Oakwood University where she conducted the famous choral ensemble The Aeolians from 1994 to 1996.
As our world continues to be wrought with crisis, war, and strife, we sing of Transcending Peace for all people, both near and far. Come to Me by Ily Matthew Maniano, is a song of comfort and hope as the world comes face to face with the reality of suffering and death. It is an anthem that seeks to provide “all who are weary and burdened” a place of respite from adversity and despair. This is followed by Pavel Chesnokov’s masterpiece Salvation is Created which was composed shortly before the Russian revolution (Bolshevik Revolution). It serves as a Communion hymn based on a Ukrainian (Kievan) synodal chant melody. This piece is one of the last sacred works Chesnokov wrote before he was forced to stop composing sacred music by the anti-religious Soviet government. A plea for transcendent peace and the sorrow of entire people can be heard in the final “alleluia” verse. Closing the set is a masterwork of the Anglican choral tradition I Was Glad by Sir C. Hubert H. Parry. The piece was composed in 1902 for the coronation of King Edward VII and subsequently revised for the coronations of George V in 1911 and Elizabeth II in 1953. The text calls for prayers of unity, peace, prosperity, and love. May this message transcend our hearts and the hearts of leaders throughout the world.
Illuminating Transcendence features music that explores how our worldly struggles can illuminate our thinking and influence our path forward. In stark contrast to the first two sets, Jacob Narverud and Ryan Main’s music is set in a more dissonant tonal world. Stone speaks to the immense pressure of affliction and how it can harden one’s thoughts and feelings into an “iron heart.” Robert Bode’s text for Stone is written in the form of a Haiku: a minimalist form of poetry based on a solid, concrete idea. This setting is an aggressive fusion of choral, electronica, and percussion forces which utilized the latest in digital instrumental sampling and non-traditional percussion effects. The result is a visceral aural experience.
Abbie Betinis’ transcendent Bar Xizam sets a ghazal (a lyric poem) by Khwajeh Shams al-Din Muhammad Hāfez-e Shīrāzī (ca. 1320-1390) who was born in Shiraz, Persia (Iran). The ghazal excerpted and set to music in Bar Xizam is the one written on Hâfez’s tombstone. The music has a very specific structure, moving systematically from confinement to freedom. Each singer begins on a hum, which depicts confinement: the desire to create something (in this case, sound) without the means to see it through (to open one’s mouth). Each of the four voice parts begins to explore a very small musical interval and to gradually expand it. At each soloist’s cry “Bar xizam!” another voice part is “freed” and joyfully begins to sing scales and glissandi, building into a transcending invocation to the Beloved. Betinis writes: “As I was wondering how best to set this magnificent text to music, I found myself stepping farther and farther back from the page. I began to search of a larger compositional gesture that could paint what I was starting to envision: whole crowds of people, through the centuries even, rising up – whether in the name of religion, social justice, personal healing – all, like Hâfez, longing for something better. So, I studied up on the Shepard scale, the auditory illusion of a never-ending rising scale (not unlike M.C. Escher’s famous staircase or the endlessly rising stripes on a barber pole), hoping that it gives the impression of these countless souls in their continuous ascent.”
Next, we sing three different Psalm settings to explore the idea of Transcending Praise. The English title of Psalms originated from the Septuagint’s Greek title Psalmoi, which translates as “songs of praise.” The Psalms radiate the greatness of God, affirm God’s faithfulness to us in times of trouble, and remind us of centrality of God’s Word.
As the Psalms present a clear picture of God’s love for humanity, the responses of praise and worship to God are never far from the psalmists’ pens. The set opens with M. Thomas Cousins’ joy-filled anthem Glorious Everlasting, which sets the praise-filled words of Psalm 57. This if followed by an excerpt of J. S. Bach’s exuberant motet Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden. The excerpt you will hear opens with a lively double fugue with two separate fugue subjects or themes that are later united. The first theme (“Lobet den Herrn”) begins with a chain of thirds, eventually rising an octave and a half, whereas the second theme (“und preiset ihn”) features two descending turns. These very different melodic ideas ensure that the fugue bursts with energy to express the enthusiastic praise of God in the Psalm. The set closes with F. Melius Christiansen’s poignant setting of Psalm 50. This anthem was written during a period of deep mourning following the death of his son, Carl, who was severely injured in an automobile accident on his 10th birthday. The child lived only one day afterwards. Dr. Christiansen’s unwavering faith is characterized in this Psalm setting and reflects his transcendent praise in the midst of great adversity.
This year the Wartburg Choir celebrates its 85th anniversary, and this set of music includes a vast array of pieces that exemplifies the Transcending Grace felt by the generations of singers who have created and experienced this remarkable choral tradition. The set includes music that has been sung many times by the choir alongside brand new works composed by members of this year’s ensemble. Yours Are the Hands by Amelia Ouverson ’23 sets the text of Wartburg Choir alum Andrew Newell ’21, who wrote the text on March 12, 2020, when the choir learned that their international tour was being cancelled. Days later, the academic year was cancelled without a final concert. The touching words recall the final day when the choir held a midday impromptu concert where they were able to hold hands and sing one final time together. Choir member Grace Becker ’22, wrote Known as a song of assurance and belonging that she has found during her time in the choir and at Wartburg College. These two works share a similar theme of experiencing the transcending grace of being found and being "home."
Kyle Pederson composed Choose Love for this year’s Wartburg Choir and for this tour. The work seeks to bridge the ancient and modern using a chant-vocal line with an atmospheric harmonic language where the ambient soundscape washes over the listener and invites them to reflect on the words “The stars incline us; they do not bind us.” Pederson states, “I was immediately captivated by this expression. It affirms that though we undoubtedly are influenced by various important factors (destiny, culture, upbringing, disposition, events) that nudge us in a particular way, we are still free to chart our own path, free to choose a new way of being in the world. Ultimately, we are free to choose love—to love others even when it’s hard to do so. This message seems especially relevant given the tremendous amount of hostility, anger, violence, and judgement that has erupted in our world. May we choose love instead.”
American blues icon Ruthie Foster released her arrangement of Death Came A-Knockin’ (a spiritual originally titled Travelin’ Shoes) on her 2002 recording Runaway Soul. Foster’s interpretation is driving and relentless, her music ringing with steely determination to be “ready to go” into the kingdom of God. The list of characters — mother, sister, brother, neighbor, preacher, and finally self — reminds us that life is fleeting, and we best spend our lives doing good so that we can shout “Hallelujah” when our time comes.
Indian-American composer Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music and brings communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. Her electrifying piece Tuttarana comprises onomatopoeic syllables, with no specific words, based in the Hindi language. You will hear the constant inflection point between what sounds like major and minor modalities to a Western ear. The title of this piece is a conglomeration of two words: the Italian word tutti, means “all,” and the term tarana designates a specific Hindustani (North Indian) musical form, whose closest Western counterpart is the “scat” in jazz. This joy-filled piece is a transcending celebration for all who are enduring, all who are grieving, and all who are overcoming.
Thomas A. Dorsey’s timeless gospel piece Precious Lord was written when Dorsey’s wife, Nettie Harper, died in childbirth in 1932, along with their infant son. Dorsey was inconsolable and wrote the song in his grief. It was first recorded by the Heavenly Gospel Singers in 1937 and was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite song. This arrangement by Arnold Sevier has traveled the world with countless choirs. The Wartburg Choir has sung this work many times throughout its 85-year history as a final blessing alongside other choir favorites O Day Full of Grace, Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal, and Give Me Jesus.
National Concerts presents
The Wartburg Choir
2022 National Tour
Celebrating 85 Years
The Path of Transcendence
- Transcending Glory
Gloria Ily Matthew Maniano (b. 1988)
Glory to God in the highest! Gloria!
- Luke 2:14
Regina Coeli Vytautas Miškinis (b. 1954)
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For he whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia,
has risen as he said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, Queen Virgin Mary, alleluia,
because the Lord has truly risen. Alleluia!
- 12th Century Marian Antiphon
There Is Sweet Music Robert A. Hobby (b. 1962)
Alleluia Eurydice V. Osterman (b. 1950)
- Transcending Peace
Come to Me Ily Matthew Maniano (b. 1988)
Salvation is Created (Op. 25, No. 5) Pavel Chesnokov (1877- 1944)
I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me C. Hubert H. Parry (1848-1918)
I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity in itself.
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem they shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls and plenteousness within thy palaces.
- Psalm 122:1-3, 6-7
III. Illuminating Transcendence
Stone Jacob Narverud (b. 1986) & Ryan Main (b. 1984)
Hard the ringing stone, heavy the flinting edges, as cold as regret.
Volcano daughter, forged of slow and fiery breath, cooled to hardest ice.
Pressed against the night, against the strongest darkness, your iron heart is mine.
- Robert Bode (b. 1957)
Bar Xizam (Upward I Rise) Abbie Betinis (b. 1980)
SUNG IN FARSI
Waiting, where is the harmony of your voice, so that, free from the desires of this life: I might rise?
I am a dove from paradise, but only out of this worldly cage: I shall rise.
If, in your devotion, you call upon me to serve you, then I promise, from the desires of life and this world: I will rise.
O Lord, from the cloud of your grace, let your rain fall over and over,
before it falls, from the midst of it all, like a handful of dust: Let me rise.
O rise up, with sweet gesture, and show me your stature: lofty, like the cypress,
With dancing feet: I rise. With clapping hands: I rise.
On the day I die, in the span of a single breath, grant me but a glimpse of you,
and then, like Hafez, free from the desires of life and this world: Upward, I rise!
– Excerpted from a ghazal by Shams Hâfez-e Shirazi
(Translated from Persian by Eric Banks and Abbie Betinis after renderings
by Michael Boylan and H. Wilberforce Clarke)
- Transcending Praise
Glorious Everlasting M. Thomas Cousins (1914-1972)
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.
- Psalm 57:5 and 9
Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden (BWV 230) Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Praise the Lord, all you nations, and sing praise unto him, all you people!
- Psalm 117:1
Psalm 50 (mvmts. 2 & 3) F. Melius Christiansen (1871-1955)
Offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay the vows unto the Lord.
And call upon me in the day of thy trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.
Who so offereth praise glorify God. Who called the earth from the rising of the sun.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise God all creatures here below!
Praise God above, ye heavenly host! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
- Psalm 50: 14-15 & The Doxology
- Transcending Grace
(To be chosen from the following)
Choose Love Kyle Pederson (b. 1971)
Astra inclinant, sed non obligant, (the stars incline us, they do not bind us)
Fate may conspire, the gods may desire, history repeats and repeats
and repeats its ideas and deeds. But you can refuse.
What will you choose? I choose love.
- Kyle Pederson
Go Where I Send Thee arr. André Thomas (b. 1952)
Death Came A-Knockin' ("Travelin' Shoes") Ruthie Foster (b. 1964); arr. Rardin
Tuttarana Reena Esmail (b. 1983)
O Day Full of Grace arr. F. Melius Christiansen (1871-1955)
Precious Lord Thomas A. Dorsey (1889-1993); arr. Arnold Sevier (b. 1949)
Yours Are the Hands Amelia Ouverson ‘23
Yours are the hands I long to hold, yours are the voices calling me home.
Yours is the song I long to hear, yours is the day that’s drawing near.
Through our trials, through our rest, I will not leave you comfortless.
This is the day that’s drawing near, this is the song I long to hear
These are the voices calling me home, yours are the hands I long to hold.
Forever and ever and ever.
- Andrew F. Newell ‘21
Known text & music by Grace Becker ‘22
Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal arr. Alice Parker (b. 1925)
Give Me Jesus arr. L.L. Fleming (1936-2003)
Saturday Evening, April 9, 2022 at 8:00PM
Isaac Stern Auditorium / Ronald O. Perelman Stage