A new oratorio by composer Scott Gendel
Brian Thorsett, tenor
Alexandra LoBianco, soprano
San José Chamber Orchestra
Santa Clara University Choirs
Building on the successes of bringing new music to life, next season culminates in the world premiere of a new concert length oratorio by composer Scott Gendel. Scott and I met each other while I was working on my masters at Wisconsin. He was finishing up a DMA in composition, singing in many choirs, playing piano beautifully for choral ensembles (including mine), and constantly having his new pieces premiered by the best choirs at UW. Since arriving in California, Scott has written the SCU Chamber Singers three new compositions: Just Delicate Needles, #dreamsongs, and an arrangement of No me, No you, No more.
Before I came to California, Tom Colohan (yes, that Tom Colohan) and I commissioned Scott to create a new work for All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC. His 35 minute cantata, All Souls, is an excellent example of the kind of writing that he does: brilliantly informed by text, incredibly vocal, and rich in unexpected but beautiful sonorities.
I am confident that Scott will write beautifully and appropriately for us as a choir. He’s familiar with my work, with the work of our sought after soloists, and is incredibly gifted at writing music that is achievable, appropriately challenging at the same time, and incredibly enjoyable to work on and perform. We have a tremendous opportunity to do something very exciting here and I am incredibly thankful to the artistic committee and the board for their support of this project.
A Note from Scott Gendel on Barbara Allen:
The traditional oratorio takes a Biblical text and expands it into a grandiose musical work, employing vocal soloists, choir, and orchestra to take that basic story and turn it into something so theatrical, it often verges on Grand Opera (but without the staging). It may seem like a surprising leap, but I believe that American folk songs are actually remarkably similar to those Biblical texts in a way: incredibly old stories, passed down from generation to generation, that illustrate a moral, and have become an completely integral part of our culture. One of my very favorite folk songs is “Barbara Allen,” a beautiful Appalachian ballad that’s as old as the hills, and a song that almost every folk singer knows (and has his/her own version). This new oratorio will treat “Barbara Allen” as source material, taking its powerful, centuries-old text as a jumping-off point for a hugely theatrical concert work. My “Barbara Allen” Oratorio, for soprano and tenor soloists, choir, acoustic guitar, and chamber orchestra, will nod to the traditional folk ballad, adding folk-inflected guitar to the usual “classical” orchestra, and incorporating traditional folk melodies. But it will also take that old song’s text as a starting point for a wild, nearly operatic musical journey that uses a huge array of musical forces to expand “Barbara Allen” into a huge emotional tour-de-force, a symphonic exploration of love and loss, and a larger-than-life musical experience that brings oratorio into a whole new universe.