Session 1: "Lift Every Voice and Sing" arr. Roland Carter

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a song of hope and freedom. It was first written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and was recited in a segregated school of 500 children.  In 1905, Johnson’s brother, J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) set the poem to music. Since then, it has been performed widespread as a message of hope for the African American community and was named the “Negro National Anthem” by the NAACP in 1919. Included in nearly 40 hymnals, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is an essential piece for innumerable choirs and distinguished soloists across America.

The arrangement presented by PCS was written by Roland Carter, Copyright © 1978 by Edward R. Marks Music Corp. and is distributed by Hal Leonard Publications and used by permission.

Piedmont Chamber Singers stands with our brothers and sisters in the pursuit of social justice and equality.

Session 2: Cantique de Jean Racine - Gabriel Fauré

Perhaps because he was already renowned as an outstanding organist and teacher, Fauré only slowly gained recognition as a composer. Although he wrote several works involving a full orchestra, his particular talent lay within the more intimate musical forms – songs, piano music and chamber music. His somewhat austere style and highly individual, impressionistic harmonic language contrasts markedly with the music of the Austro-German tradition which dominated European music from the time of Beethoven until well into the twentieth century.

The subtlety of Fauré’s music, and his concentration on the small-scale, led many to criticise him for lacking depth, a judgement based on the mistaken premise that the bigger and bolder a composer’s music the more worthwhile it must be. Fauré deliberately avoided the grander kind of orchestral music that could easily have brought him fame and fortune. He preferred instead to embrace an elegant and subtle musical language that has won him increasing numbers of admirers.

The Cantique is a setting of words by the 17th century dramatist and poet Jean Racine. It was Fauré’s first significant composition, written in 1865 whilst he was in his final year at the École Niedermeyer, the ‘École de musique religieuse et classique’. He submitted the piece for the composition prize, and won, though it was only published eleven years later, with a full orchestral version following in 1906. Fauré went on to write a good deal of religious music – most notably the Requiem, written in 1888 – but of the shorter sacred pieces it is the Cantique that has particularly captured the affections of choirs and audiences.

Program notes by John Bawden

Session 3: "Meet Me Here" Craig Hella Johnson

“Meet Me Here” is excerpted from the concert length work Concerning Matthew Shepard, which pays tribute to the young gay man who was beaten, tortured, and left to die outside Laramie, Wyoming, on October 12, 1998. The composer writes, “In the context of the larger work, it is at a pivotal movement which takes a first step from a difficult story and asks the question “where do I go from here?” At its core, ‘Meet Me Here,’ is a folk style hymn which invites the participants to be open to meeting at a place which may seem difficult or painful…to finding the healing together, excluding no one.” This is poignantly phrased in the repeated line “Where the old fence ends and the horizon begins.”
Craig Hella Johnson (1962- ) a native of Minnesota, Johnson studied at St. Olaf College, the Juilliard School, and the University of Illinois, and earned his doctorate at Yale University. Before becoming the first Artist-in-Residence at Texas State University School of Music in the fall of 2012, he was Director of Choral Activities at the University of Texas at Austin from 1990-2001. He remains an active educator, teaching workshops and clinics statewide, nationally, and internationally. Johnson is also music director of Austin-based choral ensemble Conspirare, the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble and conductor emeritus of the Victoria Bach Festival (where he was the conductor and Artistic director from 1992-2015). He has served as guest conductor with Austin Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Oregon Bach Festival, Harvard University and many others in Texas, the U.S. and abroad. He was Artistic Director of San Francisco-based Chanticleer (1998-1999), and has studied with Helmut Rilling at the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart, Germany.

Program Notes by David Blum, Researcher, The Moravian Music Foundation”Meet Me Here” Craig Hella Johnson

Session 4: "The Blue Ridge" - Elaine Hagenberg

Elaine Hagenberg captures the hushed majesty of an evening in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with crystal clear melodies and fervent harmonies illuminating the poem of Harriet Monroe. The ascent and descent of the opening lines trace the mountains’ silhouette against the sky, followed by the treble and bass voices that draw us by turn to view each detail of the scene and listen for the wisdom of the mountains.

Elaine Hagenberg’s music “soars with eloquence and ingenuity” (ACDA Choral Journal). Her compositions are performed worldwide and frequently featured at national and regional American Choral Directors Association Conferences, All-State festivals, Carnegie Hall, and other distinguished international concert halls from Australia to South America and throughout Europe.

Session 5: "My Country 'Tis of Thee" - Dan Forrest

What is it about music that draws us into it? That gives us satisfaction as we listen? Music has a way of brilliantly using tension and release through tones and texts that allow us to express ourselves in a way that is unique to the spoken word. In addition to this, music is also unique in its power to bring people together for a common cause and to create something magnificent. Something that has been so sorely missed in the days of a pandemic.

Music as we hear it and perceive it now, however, has been a growing and evolving process through time. There is an obvious and stark difference from music of the renaissance to the music we hear on the modern day radio. Ironically, the same concept of tension and release that draws us to the music we listen to also helped create music as it exists today. Developments and changes with music were often met with controversy. Beethoven’s ninth symphony was poorly received in its beginning and he was criticized for using a chorus in a genre meant for instrumental music. Verdi’s Messa da Requiem received a poor review from someone who called Verdi a “corrupter of Italian artistic taste” (the critic later changed his mind).

I think you may be able to see the metaphor being drawn here: controversy breeds progress. It is uncomfortable, it may seem defeating, but as history suggests, it leads to progress. The greatest strides in our nation from its development were wrapped in controversy: The Revolution, The Civil War, the World Wars, Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, BLM, etc. Today’s world is also wrapped in controversy.

Today holds one of the most important (and perhaps tense) elections of our lifetime. As we move forward, as the tensions in the tunes of society release, may we find comfort in the lesson history has taught us: tension releases, controversy breeds progress. Our video release today is a musical celebration of our country…the music that swells the breeze and rings from all the trees…while recognizing the path we have taken to form the more perfect union and ultimately, liberty.

Holiday Sessions

Holiday Session 1: "Christmas Is Coming" - Mack Wilberg

Reflecting the joy and anticipation of the season, this exciting piece exclaims “Christmas is coming!”

Please enjoy this holiday greeting from Piedmont Chamber Singers – wishing you and yours a joyous and blessed holiday season!

Also, on this Giving Tuesday, please consider supporting us! You may use the link below:

Holiday Session 2: "Glow" - Eric Whitacre

“Glow,” by Eric Whitacre (b. 1950), was composed for the World of Color Honor Choir as part of the World of Color – Winter Dreams show that premiered at Disneyland California in 2013. The piece was performed by a virtual choir (…before that was the “new” norm…)

The text, a poem by Edward Esch, reflects the peaceful radiance of a snowy sunrise.

Holiday Session 3: "There Shall a Star" - Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) was working on the composition of an oratorio but died suddenly at the age of 38 before it could be completed. Posthumously published as Opus 97 and titled Christus, the completed portions were first performed in 1852. “There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob,” originally titled “Es wird ein Stern aus Jacob aufgehen,” comes from the section related to Christ’s birth, and incorporates the tune “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star” by Philipp Nicolai.

Note: This video was recorded after the tightening of mask restrictions in NC. Though not very becoming, the singers are wearing masks during this performance in an effort to comply with government orders and continue to safely bring music to you. So…please don’t mind the singing cyborgs. 🙂

Piedmont Chamber Singers relies on your generosity to continue bringing music to you during Season 43! Please consider your kind donation today!

Holiday Session 4: "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Please enjoy our final session of 2020 – “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” arranged by Dan Forrest. We are very grateful to you for your support throughout this unusual season, and we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

A special thank you goes out to our singers, instrumentalists, and to Dennis Raley for editing our videos this fall.

We’ll see you in 2021!

Spring Sessions

Spring Session 1: "How Can I Keep from Singing?"

How Can I Keep From Singing?” is an American folksong originally composed as a Christian hymn by American Baptist minister Robert Wadsworth Lowry. The original composition is now public domain and appears in several hymnals and song collections, both in its original form and with a revised text that omits most of the explicitly Christian content and adds a verse about solidarity in the face of oppression. Though it was not originally a Quaker hymn, Quakers adopted it as their own in the twentieth century and use it widely today.

Widely performed throughout the country, the music of American composer Gwyneth Walker is beloved by performers and audiences alike for its energy, beauty, reverence, drama, and humor. Dr. Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947) is a graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music. She holds B.A., M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in Music Composition. A former faculty member of the Oberlin College Conservatory, she resigned from academic employment in 1982 in order to pursue a career as a full-time composer. For nearly 30 years, she lived on a dairy farm in Braintree, Vermont. She now divides her time between her childhood hometown of New Canaan, Connecticut and the musical community of Randolph, Vermont.

Gwyneth Walker is a proud resident of New England. She was the recipient of the 2000 “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Vermont Arts Council and the 2018 “Alfred Nash Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award” from Choral Arts New England. In 2020, her alma mater, the Hartt School of Music of the University of Hartford, presented her with the Hartt Alumni Award.

Spring Session 2: "Sure On This Shining Night"

Samuel Barber was a prolific song composer, having written over 100 works for voice and piano, the majority of which still remain unpublished. Of the published songs, Barber’s “Sure on this Shining Night” (from Four Songs, op. 13) is widely considered as one of the composer’s most famous contributions to the genre. Quintessential Barber with its lyrical lines, “Sure on this Shining Night” has become one of the most frequently programmed songs both in the United States and Europe.

“Sure on this Shining Night” is the third song in the collection entitled Four Songs which was published by G. Schirmer in 1940. Unlike his earlier collection of Three Songs, op. 10, in which all three songs are set to poetry by James Joyce, Barber’s Four Songs, op. 13 features the texts of four different poets. The text for “Sure on this Shining Night” was based on an untitled lyric from James Agee’s first published collection of poems, Permit Me Voyage (1934). Barber eventually met and formed a lasting friendship with the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, but it was not until after he set Agee’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 in 1948.

The brilliance of “Sure on this Shining Night” lies in its long, seamlessly lyrical canonical lines, initiated by the voice and followed immediately by the piano. The song’s structure resembles that of songs crafted by 19th-century masters such as Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann, especially in the dexterous use of canonic principals (in which Brahms excelled) and in the use of the pulsating chordal-style accompaniment, as found in Schmann’s “Ich grolle nicht” (from Dichterliebe, 1840). 

Source: Library of Congress,

Spring Session 3: "Yesterday"

Enjoy this adaptation of the King’s Singers’ arrangement of “Yesterday,” written by Paul McCartney.

“Yesterday” is a melancholy ballad about the break-up of a relationship. The singer nostalgically laments for yesterday when he and his love were together, before she left because of something he said.


Spring Session 4: "When Music Sounds"

Set to a popular text by Walter de la Mare (1873–1956), this secular work is an expressive homage to J. S. Bach, combining lyrical vocal lines with a contrapuntal accompaniment.

Spring Session 5: "A Girl's Garden"

This women’s chorus selection from Randall Thompson’s Frostiana was composed in 1959 and based on the poem “A Girl’s Garden” by Robert Frost.

In this piece, we hear the story of a young girl asking her father to give her a small piece of the farm so that she can start a garden. The music and text catches the innocence and excitement of having a piece of land to call her own. She learns, though, that cultivating the land is difficult and while her yields are less than satisfactory, she feels she can relate to the other farmers in the village (on a smaller scale).

Robert Frost is known to use life lessons in his poetry. The garden is a metaphor for life, the seeds being planted the girl’s hopes and dreams. What she eventually reaps is the fruition of those hopes and dreams. While she may not have gotten exactly what she wanted from the garden, she got many other things in small amounts and is content.

Lastly, we learn through the way the poem is delivered that one’s experiences and the lessons learned from them never halt with the person. Experiences are shared from person to person, with each individual taking from another’s experience a unique lesson that applies their life. The narrator of the story is the girl’s neighbor, and this person is telling the story to us as the girl must have told it to the narrator and to many other people in the village. Thus, one girl’s gardening experience has the ability to teach many, or, at the very least, to appeal to the shared experience of being human.

Spring Session 6: "Homeward Bound"

“Homeward Bound” arr. Jay Althouse
Original Song and Text by Marta Keen

From the original composer:
“I wrote this song for a loved one who was embarking upon a new phase of life’s journey, to express the soul’s yearning to grow and change. It was premiered by a Seattle Irish tenor, but soon after was beautifully arranged by Jay Althouse and published by Alfred Music. It has been performed by choirs of all ages throughout the English-speaking world and many Asian countries. I continue to be delighted at the wide range of performances and interpretations of this song, which now truly seems to have a life of its own.”
–Marta Keen

We hope you have enjoyed this Season 43 as we have all endured a year of growth and change. We are looking forward to seeing you soon during Season 44!