Concert Program Notes

Titan Voices & Singing Titans • May, 10, 2023


Shout for Joy | DAN DAVISON 

Using a rousing combination of triple and duple meter, Pacific Northwest composer Dan Davison sets Psalm 98 in a rhythmic journey. Known for his excellent arrangements, and 30 plus years as a Middle School choral educator, Davison uses simple harmonies and thoughtful piano accompaniment to uplift the listener’s spirits in this common praise text.   


Shout for joy to the Lord!  

Shout for joy all the earth.  

O burst forth with joy,  

in jubilant song, with music.  

Praise the Lord with the harp.  

Join with voices of singing.  

O shout to the Lord  

with the trumpets  

and the blast of the horn,  

Shout for joy to the Lord.  

Let the sea resound  

and all it contains,  

the people in all of the world.  

Let the rivers clap their hands,  

let the mountains  

sing together with joy!  

Shout for joy to the Lord.  

Shout for joy all the earth.  

Let there be sound!  

Let there be music!  

Praise the Lord with a joyful song!  



Nachtviolen (Evening Violets) | FRANZ SCHUBERT  


Originally composed as a solo song, this German lieder speaks of a delicate and lovely flower, the violet, with tender admiration. Prolific Romantic-era composer Franz Schubert sets this text gently within a lilting piano accompaniment—the perfect complement to Austrian poet and librettist Johann Baptist Mayrhofer.  

Nachtviolen, Nachtviolen,  

Dunkle Augen, seelenvolle,  

Selig ist es, sich versenken  

In dem samtnen Blau.  


Grüne Blätter streben freudig,  

Euch zu hellen, euch zu schmücken;  

Doch ihr blicket ernst und schweigend  

In die laue Frühlingsluft.  


Mit erhabnen Wehmutsstrahlen  

Trafet ihr mein treues Herz,  

Und nun blüht in stummen Nächten,  

Fort die heilige Verbindung.  


Dame’s violets,  

dark, soulful eyes,  

it is blissful to immerse myself  

in your velvety blue.  


Green leaves strive joyously  

to brighten you, to adorn you;  

but you gaze, solemn and silent,  

into the mild spring air.  


With sublime shafts of melancholy  

you have pierced my faithful heart,  

and now, in silent nights,  

our sacred union blossoms.  


Exsultate justi in Domino | BRANT ADAMS  


This glory-filled text uses the harp, psaltery, and ten-stringed instrument to praise the Lord! Set by composer and educator Brant Adams, faculty at Oklahoma State University since 1987. Much like the previous Latin composition, this work features a psalm. Psalm 33 similarly praises the Lord in King David’s exalting style, and paired joyous piano, creates another uplifting song of celebration.  


Exsultate justi in Domino:  

rectos decet collaudatio.  

Confitemini Domino in cithara.  

In psalterio decem chordarum psallite illi.  

Cantate ei canticum novum.  

Bene psallite ei in vociferacione  



Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous ones:  

it is fitting for the upright ones to give praise.  

Acknowledge the Lord with the harp.  

Sing to him with a psaltery of ten strings.  

Sing to him a new song.  

Sing praises to him well with a loud voice  

There is a Lady Sweet and Kind | PATTI DRENNAN  


Public school educator and church director Patti Drennan composed this piece while working for West Mid High School in Oklahoma. Her tender setting is nostalgic and sweet, using piano tom communicate an overwhelming longing. This gorgeous text can be found in 17th Century poet Thomas Ford’s Mvsicke of svndrie kindes , but the musical accompaniment leads us to wonder, is this a song of rejoicing in new love? Or reminiscing on love lost?  


There is a lady sweet and kind,  

Was never face so pleased my mind;  

I did but see her passing by,  

And yet I love her till I die.  


Her gesture, motion and her smiles,  

Her wit, her voice, my heart beguiles;  

Beguiles my heart, I know not why,  

And yet I love her till I die.  



O Captain! My Captain! | JOHN LEAVITT  


This Walt Whitman poem was written in 1865, to honor President Abraham Lincoln after his horrifying assassination. While there are many settings of this inspiring and pivotal text, John Leavitt’s composition plays on his background as a pianist. The rollicking introduction paints a picture of stormy seas, and uses a haunting baritone solo as an allegory for the despair of the American people.  


O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,  

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,  

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,  

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;  

                         But O heart! heart! heart!  

                            O the bleeding drops of red,  

                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,  

                                  Fallen cold and dead.  


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;  

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,  

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,  

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;  

                         Here Captain! dear father!  

                            This arm beneath your head!  

                               It is some dream that on the deck,  

                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.  


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,  

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,  

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,  

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;  

                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!  

                            But I with mournful tread,  

                                Walk the deck my Captain lies,  

                                  Fallen cold and dead.  



Lunar Lullaby | JACOB NARVERUD  


Living American composer Jacob Narverud works in a variety of musical styles, including pop, musical theater, and contemporary, and this traditional choral setting of Kathleen Nicely’s poem utilizes modern harmonies to paint a gorgeous aural picture. Originally commissioned by Kathleen’s parents Chris and Sharon Nicely, the work premiered in celebration of her ninth year singing with Kansas City’s Allegro Choir.  


The moon settles in the dusty sky.  

The gentle eyes of the north star  

rest upon your sleeping face  

and the heavens gaze upon you.  



In this moment, I know:  

You are not from the ground on which you tread,  

but of the stars.  

You are my radiant, my celestial child.  


As night is drown’d by morning  

you remain at my side,  

accompanying the sunrise  

until night swells again across the sky.  


Then, dreaming, you return to the stars.  



Hooked on a Feeling | MARK JAMES, ARR. JON NICHOLAS  


While most recently heard in the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 , this 1980’s pop hit has been a crowd favorite for decades. Playing with barbershop-style harmony and the classic “ooh-ga-cha-ka” refrain, the original version of this song was recorded by many artists until finally finding status as #1 with the band Blue Swede.   


Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga  

Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga  


I can't stop this feeling  

Deep inside of me  

Girl, you just don't realize  

What you do to me  


When you hold me  

In your arms so tight  

You let me know  

Everything's alright  


I'm hooked on a feeling  

I'm high on believing  

That you're in love with me  


Lips as sweet as candy  

It's taste is on my mind  

Girl, you got me thirsty  

For another cup of wine  

Got a bug from you girl  

But I don't need no cure  

I just stay a victim  

If I can for sure  


When you hold me  

In your arms so tight  

You let me know  

Everything's alright  


I'm hooked on a feeling  

I'm high on believing  

That you're in love with me  





American singer-songwriter James Taylor originally wrote this song with his writing partner Dave Grolnick and released it in 1981. The melancholy text and melody touched King Singer Simon Carrington, who created this powerful arrangement for SATB. Our version, while slightly adjusted for a TTBB choir, highlights an ethereal Tenor solo, calling upon that same melancholy to bring the listener peace as they look forward in their lifelong journey.  


Walk down that Lonesome road  

All by yourself  

Don't turn your head  

Back over your shoulder  

And only stop to rest to yourself  

When the silver moon  

Is shining high above the trees  

If I had stopped to listen once or twice  

If I had closed my mouth and opened my eyes  

If I had cooled my head and warmed my heart  

I'd not be on this road tonight  

Carry on (carry on, carry on, carry on, carry on)  

Never run feeling sorry for yourself  

It doesn't save you from your  

Troubled mind  

Walk down that lonesome road  

All by yourself  

Don't turn your head  

Back over your shoulder  

And only stop to rest yourself  

When the silver moon  

Is shining high (shining high)  

Above the trees  





Arranged by our very own Dr. Christopher Peterson, this silly choral closer is sure to tickle your funny bone. Originally from off-Broadway show “Showing Off,” this piece will surprise you at the lengths it will go to get you to sing along with us!  



Look Out Above | JOCELYN HAGEN  

Text by Dessa  


Look Out Above by Jocelyn Hagen is a hip-hop and gospel infused work for chorus. The text, by Minnesota rapper, Dessa, speaks of the intensity of life and reaching your goals, kicking up dust behind you as we race towards our goals. The work utilizes vocal percussion to imitate a clock’s ticks and tocks, building the energy throughout the piece. Jocelyn Hagen graciously created this Treble voice arrangement for Titan Voices.  

We can’t be stopped  
they can’t catch us  
just like midnight on the clock:  
it’s all hands up–  
before tick goes toc,  
it’s just the dust we kick up, so  
look out, look out, look out  
look out above  
cause we’re coming up  
look about above  
there’s no stopping us  
We can’t be stopped….  


Pueblito, mi pueblo | CARLOS GUSTAVINO  

Text by Francisco Silva  


Translated as “O Village So Lovely,” Pueblito, mi pueblo is a simple song by Argentinian composer, Carlos Gustavino. Gustavino worked to create a distinct Argentinian folk music sound without basing this work in Argentinian folk music. The piano part imitates the strumming of a guitar, while the free and lilting vocal lines imitate the style of traditional folk singing. The text speaks of missing home and the nostalgia of the place we grew up in. The music and text together create a serene soundscape to create that feeling of “home.”  


Pueblito, mi pueblo. Extraño tus tardes.  

Querido pueblito no puedo olvidarte.  

Cuanta nostalgia ceñida tengo en el alma esta tarde.  

Ah! Si pudiera otra vez,  

Bajo tus sauces sonar, viendo las nubes que pasan.  

Ah! Y cuado el sol ya se va, sentir la brisa al pasar  

Fragante por los azahares.  

Pueblito, mi pueblo. No puedo olvidarte.  


Little village, my village. I miss your afternoons.  

My beloved little village I cannot forget you.  

How much strained nostalgia I have in my soul this afternoon!  

Ah! If I could once more  

Under your willow trees dream, Seeing the clouds that pass.  

Ah! And when the sun is leaving, To feel the breeze passing  

Fragrant from the orange blossoms. Little village, my village  

I miss your afternoons.  

My beloved little village, I cannot forget you.  





Ikan Kekek is a traditional Malay folk song from Southeast Asia. From the composer: “Despite the simplicity and repetitiveness of the melody, this sing if brought to life by the indirect expressions and metaphors in this pantum (poem). Pantun is a disjunctive form of poetry that comes in two parts: the first two lines being the pembayang (shadow) that usually connects to the isi (the heart of the message) by rhymes and verbal associations. In this pantun, different types of fish are symbols of the simple joys in everyday life that link to them in message: ‘let’s go home together, my dear younger brother/sister’.”  


Ikan kekek mak iloi iloi  

Ikan gelama mak ilia ilia  

Nanti adik mak iloi iloi  

Pulang sama mak ilia ilia  

Ada satu ikan parang  

Badannya Panjang berbelang-belang  

Isinya sikit banyak tulang  

Sedap dimakan kalua masak pindan  


The ponyfish, mak iloi iloi  

The soldier croaker fish, mak ilia ilia  

Wait a second, my dear younger brother/sister, mak ilia ilia  

Let’s go home together, mak ilia ilia  

There is a herring  

Its body is long and striped  

There are more bones than flesh  

It takes good if it is cooked in the style of pindang.  





This famed Korean song from the Seoul region was arranged by Korean composer Hyo-Wan Woo. The text recollects on the idea of home, centering on Arirang hill, a potentially fictional place where communal memories are made. This arrangement is separated into two sections, the opening, the traditional melody in triple time, then is transformed into a celebration of joy with the percussion, a faster tempo, and shift to 4/4 time.  


Arirang, Arirang, arariyo  

Arirang gogaero neomuhganda  

Nareul beorigo gasi neun nimeun  

Simridoh motgaseseo balbbyong nanda  


Arirang, Arirang, arariyo  

You are going over Arirang hill  

My love, you are leaving me  

Your feet will be sore before you go four hundred meters  



Salve Regina | CARLOS CORDERO  


Venezuelan-American composer Carlos Cordero composed this arrangement of the traditional Salve Regina text for the Concert Women’s Chorus of the University of Houston, where he completed his Master’s degree in Composition. The liturgical text draws on the concept of salvation from the Virgin Mary, and describes a cry for help and salvation. The work transforms itself from a gracious prayer to a more dynamic and aggressive B section when the choir is pleading, but returns to the more serene theme after modulating a tritone away from the original theme, symbolizing the hopeful future for the singers.  


Salve Regina, mater misericordiæ:  

Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.  

Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Evæ.  

Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes,  

In hac lacrimarum valle.  


Eja ergo, Advocata nostra,  

illos tuos misericordes oculos  

Ad nos converte.  


Et Jesum, benedictum fructum  

Ventris tui,  

Novis post hoc exilium ostende.  

O Clemens: O pia:  

O dulcis Virgo Maria.  


Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy:  

Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.  

To thee we do cry, poor banished children of Eve.  

To thee do we send up our sighs,  

Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.  


Turn then, most gracious Advocate,  

Thine eyes of mercy  

Toward us.  


After this,  

our exile,  

Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus  

O merciful: O Loving:  

O sweet Virgin Mary.  




Text from the Hebrew Prayer Book  


L’dor vador is a traditional Hebrew text about passing stories and culture from generation to generation. This text is often sung during celebrations and rituals in the Jewish faith. While the tune of this song often changes, the text is reminder of where we came from and how we will always have a connection to our home, whether we are religious or not. The composer of this melody, Meir Finkelstein, was born in Israel and is currently and has had a career composing music in Hollywood before moving a residing in Michigan.  


L'dor vador nagid godlecha  

Ul’netzach n’tzachim k’dushatcha nakdish.  

V’shivchacha Eloheinu  

Mipinu lo yamush l’olam va’ed.  

Ki Eil Melech gadol v’kadosh atah.  

Baruch Ata Adonai  

Baruch hu u’varuch sh’mo  

Ha’el hakadosh. Amen.  


From generation to generation, we will tell of Your greatness  

And through all eternity we will sanctify Your holiness,  

and Your praise, our God, will not depart from our mouths forever and ever.  

For you are the Almighty who is King; Great and Holy,  

Blessed are You, Adonai, the Almighty, the Holy One.  


..................Column Break.................. I am the Wind | ELAINE HAGENBERG  

Text by Zöe Atkins  


I am the Wind looks at the feeling of home in a person, particularly a partner. The text by Zöe Atkins, looks at the contrast between self-doubt, and the steadiness that can be felt in a partner. That consistent connection can establish a feeling of home. Hagenberg’s setting of this text focuses on that contrast by raising the melody line whenever the choir sings of the positive traits of the partner.  


I am the wind that wavers,  

You are the certain land;  

I am the shadow that passes  

Over the sand.  


I am the leaf that quivers,  

You the unshaken tree;  

You are the stars that are steadfast,  

I am the sea.  


You are the light eternal—  

Like a torch I shall die;  

You are the surge of dep music,  

I but a cry!  




Originally by North Carolina rock group, Delta Rae, this arrangement of Dance in the Graveyards was commissioned by Titan Voices. Former Titan Voices member Lorna Katz created this arrangement to feature a quartet of singers, along with the singers. The original tune encourages the listener to celebrate life and those that are close to them, in particular those that we’ve lost. Celebrating the joy in those that give us joy even in sadness is a perfect encapsulation of home and all that it represents.  


When I die,  

I don't want to rest in peace  

I want to dance in joy  

I want to dance in the graveyards,  

And while I'm alive,  

I don't want to be alone  

Mourning the ones who came before  

I want to dance with them some more,  

Let's dance in the graveyards.  


Gloria, like some other name we kept on calling ya  

and waiting for change  

But I belong to all of your mysteries.  

And all of us, were meant for the fire,  

but we keep rising up and walking the wires  

So when we go below don't lose us in mourning.  


'Cause when I die  

I don't want to rest in peace  

I want to dance in joy  

I want to dance in the graveyards,  

And while I'm alive  

I don't want to be alone  

Mourning the ones who came before  

I want to dance with them some more  

Let's dance in the graveyards  


Oh my love, don't cry when I'm gone  

I will lift you up, the air in your lungs  

And when you reach for me, we'll dance in the darkness  

And we will walk beyond our daughters and sons,  

they will carry on l ike when we were young,  

and we will stand beside and breathe in their new life.  


'Cause when I die  

I don't want to rest in peace I want to dance in joy  

I want to dance in the graveyards,  

And while I'm alive  

I don't want to be alone  

Mourning the ones who came before  

I want to dance with them some more  

Let's dance in the graveyards.  











University Symphony Orchestra & Symphonic Chorus • May 13, 2023

No One Can Hear Themselves Saying | TARIK O’REGAN 
When the copperplate cracks (Theatrum Orbis Terrarum) 
Text by Imtiaz Dharker 
So this is how it is done, one hand inching 
round the coast to map its ins and outs, 
to mark the point where ink may kiss 
the river’s mouth, or blade make up 
a terra incognita, an imagined south. 
This is where the needle turns to seek 
a latitude, where acid bites the naked shore 
and strips the sea till it is nothing 
more than metallic light. The lived terrain 
comes face to face with its mirror image 
on the page, the world made up 
and made again from sheets of ore, slept in, 
loved in, tumbled, turned until the copper 
buckles. You see it clearly in the print, 
the place where metal 
has been wounded, mended, where the hand 
attempts to heal the breakline in the heart.  
The Taxi 
Text by Amy Lowell 
When I go away from you 
The world beats dead 
Like a slackened drum. 
I call out for you against the jutted stars 
And shout into the ridges of the wind. 
Streets coming fast, 
One after the other, 
Wedge you away from me, 
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes 
So that I can no longer see your face. 
Why should I leave you, 
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night? 
Emigration Song 
Text by Christopher Bolin 
When everyone 
the plane 
forms an ice- 
and no one 
can hear 
and no one 
can hear 
we are 
one people 
missing from 
other lands. 
Tarik Hamilton O'Regan is a London-born composer based in San Francisco. In recent years much of his work has investigated and been influenced by his dual Arab and Irish heritages. 
Tarik is Composer-in-Residence with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (PBO), where he is also overseeing an ambitious new commissioning initiative. The 2022/23 season sees performances by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Choir, the Carducci Quartet, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Alexander String Quartet, PBO, and the televised world premiere of a commission from His Majesty King Charles III for The Coronation Service at Westminster Abbey. 
Tarik’s output, recognized with two GRAMMY® nominations and two Ivors®, has been recorded on over 40 albums, and is published exclusively by Novello. He maintains a longstanding commitment to education and service to the arts in general. Most recently, this has been recognized by his election to an Honorary Fellowship of Pembroke College, Oxford, and to the board of Yaddo, one of the oldest artists’ communities in the USA. Tarik was also included in the Washington Post’s annual list of creative artists “changing the classical landscape” for 2022. 
​​This evening marks the premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s work No One Can Hear Themselves Staying for strings and chorus. The work is a meditation on the idea of place and how we move through, and are moved by, the world around us. O’Regan draws from poets that explore the way that leaving a place can affect us and how we carry who we are wherever we go. The piece is centered on three choral movements, each preceded by orchestral interludes for solo instruments. These instrumental sections foreshadow the material given to the chorus, and function almost as premonitions of the most poignant musical moments to come. 
In the first choral movement, “When the copperplate cracks,” poet Imitiaz Dharker examines a historic atlas from 1635 and notes the many distinctive features. Dharker saw that the copper plate used to press the image onto the atlas page had been damaged and repaired, but still left a blemish upon the page. She explains that the map itself is distorted by the atlas’ binding, and almost appears to reflect itself across the gap. O’Regan reflects this literary conceit via figures that move in dramatic contrary motion in the treble voices. A jittery, rhythmic, and contrapuntal texture pervades his writing in this movement. The poetry becomes personal and internal as Dharker relates the imperfections in the map to the residual wounds in a human heart. O’Regan paints this moment in sound as the choir unifies in powerful, wrenching  homophony. The movement unwinds as O’Regan repeats the opening lines from the poem, “so this is how it is done.” 
“When I go away from you (The Taxi)” is a moving text from poet Amy Lowell. It captures the pain of detachment and the relative intense feelings of loss. Lowell imagines even the city itself becoming more and more inhospitable the further it moves away from her lover. A soprano solo calls out over a delicate harmonic bed but is subsumed by “the ridges of wind” before the rhythmic motion intensifies. O’Regan infuses rhythmic energy just as the taxi speeds through the city and further suffocates the poet’s melancholy. The musical material abruptly calms and winds a series of hypnotic suspensions around the text “Why should I leave you, to wound myself on the sharp edges of the night.”  
The final movement, “When everyone leaves (Emigration Song),” considers the act of separation from homeland. Poet Christopher Bolin conjures an image of an airplane’s shadow as an imaginary ice-bridge between the place one is leaving and the place to which they will go. Bolin  recognizes the duality of our unfolding lives as brittle and nomadic yet interconnected. O’Regan’s setting of the poetry infuses the major themes of the entire work on the text “we are one people still missing from other lands.” The conclusion builds tension of open intervals in the chorus with expressive writing for the strings that climaxes before retreating and ending with gentle, melancholic resolution.  
Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi 
Dona nobis pacem 
Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, 
Grant us peace 
Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow! Through the windows – through the doors burst like a ruthless force, Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation; Into the school where the scholar is studying; Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride; Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field, or gathering in his grain; So fierce you whirr and pound you drums – so shrill you bugles blow. Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow! Over the traffic of cities – over the rumble of wheels in the streets: Are beds prepared for the sleepers at night in the houses? No sleepers must sleep in those beds; No bargainers' bargains by day – no brokers or speculators – would they continue? Would the talkers be talking? Would the singer attempt to sing? Then rattle quicker, heavier drums – you bugles wilder blow. Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow! Make no parley – stop for no expostulation, Mind not the timid – mind not the weeper or prayer; Mind not the old man beseeching the young man; Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties; Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses, So strong you thump O terrible drums – so loud you bugles blow.  -Walt Whitman 
Word over all, beautiful as the sky, Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost, That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly, softly, wash again and ever again this soiled world; For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead, I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin I draw near, Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin. -Walt Whitman 
The last sunbeam 
Lightly falls from the finished Sabbath, 
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking 
Down a new-made double grave. 
Lo, the moon ascending, 
Up from the east the silvery round moon, 
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon, 
Immense and silent moon. 
I see a sad procession, 
And I hear the sound of coming full-keyed bugles, 
All the channels of the city streets they're flooding 
As with voices and with tears. 
I hear the great drums pounding, 
And the small drums steady whirring, 
And every blow of the great convulsive drums 
Strikes me through and through. 
For the son is brought with the father, 
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell, 
Two veterans, son and father, dropped together, 
And the double grave awaits them. 
Now nearer blow the bugles, 
And the drums strike more convulsive, 
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded, 
And the strong dead-march enwraps me. 
In the eastern sky up-buoying, 
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumined, 
'Tis some mother's large transparent face, 
In heaven brighter growing. 
O strong dead-march you please me! 
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me! 
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial! 
What I have I also give you. 
The moon gives you light, 
And the bugles and the drums give you music, 
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans, My heart gives you love. 
-Walt Whitman (1819–1892) 

The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings. There is no one as of old . . . to sprinkle with blood the lintel and the two side-posts of our doors, that he may spare and pass on. - John Bright (1811–1889) 
Dona nobis pacem. 
We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble! The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan; the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land...and those that dwell therein... The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved... Is there no balm in Gilead?; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? - Jeremiah 8: 15-16, 20, 22  
O man greatly beloved, fear not, peace be unto thee, be strong, yea be strong. - Daniel 10: 19 
The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former ... and in this place will I give peace. - Haggai 2: 9 
Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. And none shall make them afraid,...neither shall the sword go through their land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Open to me the gates of righteousness, I will go into them. 
Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled; ... and let them hear, and say, it is the truth. 
And it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues. 
And they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them ... and they shall declare my glory among the nations. 
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, so shall your seed and your name remain forever'. 
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men 
Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace) 
Program Note by Dr Katherine Reed 
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis Pacem 
Written on the cusp of the Second World War, the multi-movement cantata Dona Nobis Pacem (1936) by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) pleads for its title: “Grant us peace.” The work blends traditional religious text with more modern poetry on the horrors of war. In this way, it is similar to Benjamin Britten’s 1962 War Requiem. Commissioned by the Huddersfield Choral Society for their centenary, Dona Nobis Pacem is scored for choir, orchestra, and soprano and baritone soloists. In its music and text, Dona Nobis Pacem brings to life the terrifying reality of war and the interconnected nature of humanity in our need for peace. 
Having served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War I, Vaughan Williams brought personal experience to bear in this work. Prior to the war’s outbreak, Vaughan Williams was already established as one of the leading composers of his generation and a champion of British folk and historical music. Vaughan Williams enlisted in his 40s and served through the armistice in both artillery and ambulance units. He saw the aftermath of the battlefields of France; the experience left him a changed man. While he was already interested in peace movements, his first-hand knowledge of war helped to shape his philosophy. 
The texts chosen for the movements of Dona Nobis Pacem are varied, but all share a central focus on conflict and peace. The first movement uses the “Agnus Dei” from the Catholic Mass; this section refers to Christ as the sacrificial “lamb of God” and begs for mercy and peace. The central movements of the piece set Walt Whitman’s poetry, which was shaped by the American Civil War. “Beat! Beat! Drums!” shows the intrusion of war on every aspect of human life – church, school, everyday conversation. “Reconciliation” draws attention to our shared humanity with the lines: “For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead.” The final Whitman poem included is “Dirge for Two Veterans,” the text of which paints a detailed picture of a nighttime funeral march. The fifth movement features a speech from British politician John Bright (1811-1889). Though he was speaking against the Crimean War, his words resonate with 20th century conflicts. Here, they lead into a text compiled of scripture from Jeremiah, Daniel, Psalms, and other books of the Bible. Vaughan Williams ends by returning to the Mass’s plea for peace. In all, the work’s text moves from a reflection on peace through the realities of war and loss, acknowledging its deep human price before repeating a call for peace. 
Musically, the work takes a similar journey, moving from a focus on the solitary voice, through more complex contrapuntal writing, and back to a simple musical statement. Such moments mirror Vaughan Williams’s ideas about the relationships among the nations of the world, as World War I had so recently illuminated.  In a 1932 lecture published as National Music, the composer invoked the idea of unity, saying: “If the civilized world is not to come to an end we must become more and more ‘members one of another.’ But as our body politic becomes more unified so do the duties of the individual members of that body become more, not less, defined and differentiated. Our best way of serving the common cause will be to be more ourselves.” Vaughan Williams brings this idea to musical life in the interplay of soloists and ensemble in this work, dramatizing the stakes of unity in the face of aggression in the 1930s. 
The piece begins with a chantlike entrance by the soprano soloist in “Agnus Dei,” underscored with unsettling harmonies. This liturgical first movement contrasts with the military themes of the second, setting “Beat! Beat! Drums!” by Whitman. Similarly, the fourth movement’s restrained martial rhythms and brass embody the bugle calls described in the text. Vaughan Williams slowly reveals the intergenerational tragedy of this movement: the funeral march we hear is for father and son, both cut down on the battlefield. Dona Nobis Pacem depicts the personal and societal effects of war. In movements like “The Angel of Death has been abroad,” this contrast serves to hammer home the enormity and terror of human loss that war delivers. Voices follow each other in canon, repeating scriptural texts that search in vain for respite.  However, by the arrival of the final section, that same contrast of forces provides hope. With the return of the soprano solo at the work’s close, Vaughan Williams reiterates a fervent and moving call for peace, now supported by the choir in consonant harmony. 
Though Vaughan Williams’s hopes for peace would not come to pass, he continued to work toward that ideal. During World War II, he was not of an age to serve in the military, but he was involved in Home Office efforts to free interned foreign musicians. Vaughan Williams remained a central figure in British musical life, teaching and composing until his death in 1958. 

back to top

This site is maintained by College of the Arts.

Last Published 5/10/23

To report problems or comments with this site, please contact
© California State University, Fullerton. All Rights Reserved.

Web Accessibility

CSUF is committed to ensuring equal accessibility to our users. Let us know about any accessibility problems you encounter using this website.
We'll do our best to improve things and get you the information you need.