Una Voce Chamber Choir presents “Seeking What is Yet Unfound”, a choral program based on poetry by Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and e.e. cummings, on June 15th at 7:30 PM and June 16th at 2:30 PM in Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Yarmouth.
The program features Randall Thompson’s Frostiana, a fresh but never simplistic setting of seven Frost poems; A Whitman Triptych, David Conte’s lush translations of Whitman’s journey to find soulful connection with nature sublime; and Eric Whitacre’s The City and the Sea, ingenious responses to e.e. cummings’ quirky vignettes of everyday life.
The title for the concert derives from a line in Walt Whitman’s “Facing West from California’s Shore”, explained Virgil Bozeman III, the choir’s Artistic Director. “The poet’s metaphorical journey westward, circling the world ‘inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound…’ relates well to what composers do. Why? Because both poet and composer undertake something like Whitman’s tireless and never completed quest to achieve insights into the conundrums, imperfections, contradictions, ironies, grandeur, even terrors, of being human.”
The American composer David Conte excerpts three of Whitman’s poems, “Song at Sunset”, “What is the Grass?”, and “Facing West” in A Whitman Triptych. Unabashedly tonal, Conte’s work blends arioso solos, which perfectly capture the grandeur of Whitman’s free verse, with fairly conventional harmonies written for a capella chorus. His settings translate the poet’s rhythmic speech and imagery into soaring musical experiences that intimate, as Whitman mused, “living Soul” in the sublime cycles of nature.
A master of form and modal counterpoint, Randall Thompson captures in Frostianathe deceptive simplicity and rhythmic clarity of seven poems written by Robert Frost, among others “The Road Not Taken”, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Choose Something Like a Star.” Thompson translates the nostalgia and vernacular language of Frost’s worlds into tuneful, accessible, but never simplistic choral writing. Melody and harmony for choral and piano voices capture sentiment and visual texture of the underlying poetry while subtly disguising compositional techniques and harmonic allusions deeply rooted in musical history.
Eric Whitacre chose five poems by e.e. cummings for his The City and the Sea. Each poem typifies the style for which the poet is famous—sparse language, wit, irony, and striking insights gleaned from city walks (“i walked the boulevard”), visits to the beach (“maggie and milly and molly and may”), and moonlit evenings (“the moon is hiding in her hair”). Though unusual for him, Whitacre’s musical choices capture the rhythmic eccentricities, contemplative moments, and sometimes jazzy urgencies suggested by the underlying poems. He innovatively structures the piano accompaniments around four-finger, mitt-like, white-key tone clusters which he re-imagines as unique, mood setting sound palettes for each poem.
Tickets cost $15 advanced purchase online and $20 at the door. Youth (13 to 18 years), $10; children (12 and under), free
Una Voce Chamber Choir traces its origins to the critically acclaimed Vox Nova Chamber Choir, which concluded its ninth concert season in June, 2018. When founding Director Shannon Chase decided to pursue other opportunities, the Vox Nova singers quickly reorganized as Una Voce Chamber Choir and appointed Bozeman as Artistic Director.
Artwork courtesy of Burke Long
Una Voce Chamber Choir (formerly Vox Nova) presents “Through the Long Night”, a program of winter themed traditional and contemporary music, on January 19 at 7:30 PM and January 27 (postponed from Jan. 20) at 2:30 PM in the Chapel on the campus of Bowdoin College.
The music marks transitions from night to coming dawn, and treats that in-between time as a metaphor for yearning, awe, and hope—yearning for divine protection; awe beholding the beauty of nature; hope for salvation and love requited.
“My first choice as the major work for the concert,” said Artistic Director Virgil Bozeman IV, “was Missa a capella by Einojuhani Rautavaara, perhaps the greatest Finnish composer since Sibelius.” Largely tonal, but pleasantly dissonant, the Mass features familiar harmonic progressions colored by “sound fields”, a term Rautavaara used for tone clusters. The resulting melodies have a chant-like character while evoking Eastern Orthodox rituals and earthy pre-Christian solstice rites. “What better way to delve into the mysterious, yet hopeful qualities that we northern folk associate with winter darkness and dawning light,” added Bozeman.
The program includes works by two other Scandinavian composers—De Profundis by Arvo Pärt, and Evening Sonata by Thomas Åberg, the latter performed by organist Jay Zoller.
“De Profundis is a striking example of Pärt’s unique compositional technique which he invented during long periods of self-examination,” commented Bozeman. This setting of Psalm 130 (‘Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord’) introduces male voices individually, then combines them in tension-building ways until all four together intone ‘for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.’ Pärt lends powerful, full-throated assurance to those words, a conviction that lingers even as the voices gradually subside to quietly await redemption.
The concert also includes the Third Set of the Hymns from the Rig Veda by the English composer Gustav Holst. Featured among American composers are Eric Whitacre, Morton Lauridsen, Gwyneth Walker, and Daniel Elder. The program concludes with African-American spirituals, each of which express prayerful, yet spirited longings for light beyond earthly pain.
Tickets cost $15 advanced purchase on line at https://unavocechamberchoir.org/ and $20 at the door. Youth (13 to 18 years), $10; children (12 and under), free.
Una Voce Chamber Choir traces its origins to the critically acclaimed Vox Nova Chamber Choir, which concluded its ninth concert season in June, 2018. When founding Director Shannon Chase decided to pursue other opportunities, the Vox Nova singers quickly reorganized as Una Voce Chamber Choir, keeping almost all of the original group intact and appointing Bozeman as Artistic Director.
Virgil Bozeman IV holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Literature and Performance from Northeastern University, where he studied choral conducting with Joshua Jacobson and sang with the world-renowned Zamir Chorale of Boston. Holding a Master of Choral Music from the University of Illinois, Bozeman is the immediate past Chairman of Maine Music Educators Association District III and immediate past Vice-President (Choral Music) for the MMEA State Executive Board. In 2018, the Association named Bozeman the MMEA District III Educator of the Year.
December 16, 2018
Widely praised since 2009 for their performances of contemporary choral music, members of Vox Nova Chamber Choir have reorganized as Una Voce Chamber Choir under the direction of Virgil Bozeman IV, a twenty-year veteran choral conductor.
“New name, same great music,” commented Scott Miller, President of Una Voce’s Board of Directors. “Nearly all Vox Nova singers stayed with us. That brings an established ensemble with amazingly high level musical skills, not to mention enthusiasm, to Una Voce. I’m honored to help lead such an exceptional group of musicians.”
The choir of about 30 singers promotes contemporary choral music by composers from various regions and cultures, including Maine. Una Voce will perform mostly a cappella, but occasionally will be accompanied by solo and ensemble instrumentalists. While not neglecting choral favorites, the choir will specialize in intimate chamber music that employs complex chords, multiple rhythms, and elegant dissonances. Its members, many of whom are trained performers, music educators and professional choir directors, live in mid coast, central and southern Maine.
“In time, we’ll go beyond concerts in southern and mid coast Maine,” added Miller. “We intend to reach underserved areas of the state through audio and video technology and to provide educational programs to Maine’s secondary schools and colleges.”
Bozeman does not shrink from such challenges. Faced last summer with the decision by Vox Nova’s founding director Shannon Chase to pursue other opportunities, Bozeman opened discussions with Miller, an experienced actor, singer and leader of performing arts organizations; his wife Lynn Hannings, a bassist in the Portland Symphony Orchestra; and a few singers associated with Vox Nova Chamber Choir. In fewer than six weeks, the state of Maine and the IRS recognized Una Voce Chamber Choir as a non-profit organization and its first Board of Directors appointed Bozeman as Artistic Director. He began rehearsals in late September.
Una Voce’s concert season opens on January 19 at 7:30 PM and January 20 at 2:30 PM, in the Chapel on the campus of Bowdoin College. Titled Through the Long Night, the program explores night and the coming dawn as meditative spaces of eerie beauty, spiritual introspection and sensuous dreams, according to Bozeman.
“Continuity with the musical experiences we singers shared in Vox Nova has been my north star as I built this first program.” added Bozeman. “Scandinavian composers, such as Einojuhani Rautavaara, Arvo Pärt, and Gustav Holst, along with Americans Gwyneth Walker, Eric Whitacre, and Morton Lauridsen—these are the musical voices that weave a fabric of continuity.”
Bozeman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Literature and Performance from Northeastern University, where he studied choral conducting with Joshua Jacobson. In addition to serving as student conductor of the university’s Choral Society, Bozeman sang with the world-renowned Zamir Chorale of Boston, and was Northeastern University’s inaugural Gideon Klein Scholar.
He earned a Master of Choral Music from the University of Illinois as a student of Fred Stoltzfus, Don V. Moses and Chester Alwes. He also served as Assistant Conductor of the University of Illinois Concert Choir, the school’s top auditioned undergraduate chorus.
Since 2000, Bozeman has been Middle/High School Choral Music Teacher in Richmond and Senior Choir Director at South Parish Congregational Church in Augusta. He became the Artistic Director of the Greater Freeport Community Chorus in 2006 and currently serves in that capacity. An active member of the Maine Music Educators’ Association, Bozeman is Chairman of MMEA District III and Vice-President (Choral Music) for the MMEA State Executive Board. In 2018, the Association named Bozeman the MMEA District III Educator of the Year.