NPR: Performance Today -- Live in Studio 4A: St. Olaf Choir

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Live in Studio 4A
The St. Olaf Choir
The St. Olaf Choir The renowned 75-voice St. Olaf Choir, led by Dr. Anton Armstrong, is in the studio with songs ranging from the Renaissance, to spirituals and contemporary works. Celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2002, the choir has set the model for a cappella choral singing throughout the country.
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Selected Program Audio Excerpts

Dr. Anton Armstrong shares the history of the St. Olaf Choir

The Music

Dr. Anton Armstrong
Billings: "Easter Anthem" and Grieg: "Blessed Morning"
(Saint Olaf Records E 2047)

Rossi: "Elohim Hashivenu" (Psalm 81) | View text
Dr. Armstrong explains their tradition of holding hands during performances

Mendelssohn: "Justice, O God" Op. 78, No.2 | View text

Johnson: "Evening Meal" and Gawthrop: "Sing Me to Heaven" | View text

Hopkins: "Past Life Melodies" | View text
Choir member Matt McDonald talks about this haunting piece that incorporates the age-old technique of harmonic overtone singing

Arr. Jennings: "Tancuj, Tancuj" and Arr. Flummerfelt: "Danny Boy" | View text

Arr. Hogan: "This Little Light of Mine" and Arr. Dawson: "In His Care-O" | View text
Soloist: Matt McDonald

Christiansen: "Beautiful savior" | View text
St. Olaf Choir's signature piece; soloist: Maret Wilson

The St. Olaf Choir
          The St. Olaf Choir

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  • Discography

    Texts & Translations

    Elohim Hashivenu
    Salamone Rossi (ca. 1570-ca. 1630)
    (HaZamir Music Publications)
    Sung in Hebrew

    Elohim hashivenu
         O, Lord God, turn our hearts unto Thee.
    Vehaer panecha, venivashea.
         SHine Thy light upon us, and we shall be saved
    Elohim tsevaot, hashivenu,
         O God almighty, turn our hearts unto Thee.
    Vehaer panecha, venivashea.
         Shine Thy light upon us, and we shall be saved.

    Adonai, Elohim, tsevaot, hashivenu.
         Our Father, O Lord God, Almighty,
         turn our hearts unto Thee
    Haer panecha, venivashea.
         Shine Thy light upon us, and we shall be saved.
               -- Psalm 80:3,7,19; Trans. Joshua Jacobson

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    Justice, O God (Op. 78, no. 2)
    Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)
    (Neil A. Kjos Music Company)

    Justice, O God!
    Defend my cause against a people of unrighteous ways,
    And deliver me from the hands of the evil doers.

    For you are my God,
    You are my God and my stronghold,
    Why have you cast me aside?
    Must I walk like a mourner sorrowing,
    While the foe prevails?

    Send forth your light and your truth, Lord,
    That they shall lead me and be my guide to your holy hill
    And your sacred dwelling place.

    And then will I go to God's holy altar,
    To my God, who is my joy and delight and life,
    I will praise you with the harp and thank you my God.

    O my soul, why be full of sorrow,
    And why remain deep in despair?
    Hope in the Lord! For I will sing God's praises
    God is my redeemer and savior,
    And my Lord God.
            -- Psalm 43, adapted by Kenneth Jennings

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    Evening Meal (The Lord's Supper)
    Ralph M. Johnson (b. 1955)
    Charles Gray, violin

    O holy food sent down to us from heaven!
    O drink which, tasted, makes us long for more!
    O food by which we grow to heaven's door!
    O drink that to the dead new life has given!
    O food that clings not to the lowly earth
    But makes us taste that Christ is sweet and good!
    Mild heaven-dew, far better than the flood
    That out of the hard rock was once brought forth!
    O Manna, dropping down from God's high hand,
    Cluster of grapes from out of the promised land,
    Fill both my heart and mouth with praises sweet!
    Climb up, my soul; forsake that which you see,
    Thy bridegroom is the only food for thee:
    His blood is truly wine, his flesh is truly meat.
            -- Jacobus Revius; Trans. Henrietta Ten Harmsel

    Sing Me to Heaven
    Daniel Gawthrop (b. 1949)
    (Dunstan House)

    In my heart's sequestered chambers
    Lie truths stripped of poet's gloss.
    Words alone are vain and vacant and my heart is mute.
    In response to aching silence
    Memory summons half-heard voices,
    And my soul finds primal eloquence and wraps me in song.

    If you would comfort me, sing me a lullaby.
    If you would win my heart, sing me a love song.
    If you would mourn me and bring me to God,
    Sing me a reequiem, sing me to heaven.

    Touch in me grief and comfort;
    Love and passion, pain and pleasure.
    Sing me a lullaby, a love song, a requiem.
    Love me, comfort me, bring me to GOd:
    Sing me a love song, Sing me to heaven.
            -- Jane Griner

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    Past Life Melodies
    Sarah Hopkins (b. 1958)
    (Morton Music)

    The melodic ideas of the work, like those in all of Sarah Hopkins' music, are simple in structure and reach deep into the soul. The first melody was one which haunted the composer for many years -- a melody which came to her at moments of extreme emotion. The second melody reflects her considerable interest in the music of various world cultures, and in this particular case, her eight years in Darwin where she had much contact with Australian Aboriginal art and music. The third section of the work utilizes a concept called harmonic-overtone singing, which is as ancient a technique as singing itself. Here the separate harmonic voices weave and dart like 'golden threads' above the earthy drone sustained by the main body of the choir. The richness and subtlety of colours and the earthy hearty quality of the voices, along with an inner rhythm of very simple ideas and materials, offers the listener a communication with the very soul and heart of music itself.
            -- Program note by Stephen Leek

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    Tancuj, Tancuj
    arr. Carolyn Jennings
    (Alliance Publications)
    Sung in Slovak

    Tancuj, vykrúcaj,
         Dance and turn,
    len mi piecku nezrúcaj,
         But do not pull down my oven.
    dobrá piecka na zimu,
         An oven is good for winter
    nemá Kazdý perinu.
         Because not everyone has a comforter.
         Tralalala, ...

    Stojí vojak na várte,
         A soldier is standing on guard
    v roztrhanom kabáte,
         in a torn coat.
    od vecera do rána
         From evening till morning
    rosa nanho padala.
         dew was falling on him.
         Tralalala, ...
            -- Trans. Ivana Sabanosová

    Danny Boy

    Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling,
    From glen to glen and down the mountain side.
    The summer's gone, and all roses faling,
    It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.
    But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
    Or when the valley's hush'd and white with snow.
    It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
    Oh Danny boy, I love you so.

    But when ye come and all the flow'rs are dying,
    If I am dead, as dead I well may be.
    Ye'll come and find the place where I am lying,
    And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.
    And I shall hear though soft you tread above me,
    And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be.
    For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
    And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.
            Frederick E. Wetherby

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    This Little Light of Mine
    arr. Moses Hogan
    (Hal Leonard Publishing)

    This little light of mine,
    I'm gonna let it shine.

    All through the night,
    I'm gonna let it shine.

    My God gave it to me,
    I'm gonna let it shine.

    In my home let it shine,
    ALl over the world, let it shine.
            -- Traditional Spiritual

    In His Care-O
    arr. William Dawson
    (Tuskegee Music Press/Neil A. Kjos Music Company)

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    Beautiful Savior
    arr. F. Melius Christiansen
    (Augsburg Fortress)

    Fair are the meadows,
    Fairer the woodlands,
    Robed in flow'rs of blooming spring;
    Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
    He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

    Beautiful Savior! Lord of the Nations!
    Son of God and Son of Man!
    Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
    Now and forever more be thine!

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