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In order to get an impression of the music and its technical requirements, mp3 files of computer-generated performances are available from this site as well as pdf files of the lyrics. These files can be downloaded and used freely, yet for personal use only. Sample scores in pdf format for review require a password which can be provided upon request.
For songs written for a single voice or a few solo voices, click here.
For quick reference to more details about a specific piece, please use the following links:
"Massa's in the cold, cold ground" - a presentation of Steven Foster's old Negro Spiritual that accentuates its mocking satire of the negro slaves pretending to mourn the death of their master with joy in their hearts.
Although Steven Foster by many is considered "politically incorrect" by the later use of his songs for glorifying the discrimination of negro slaves in America and thus supporting racism and segregation, most of his now almost classic songs truly don't deserve such political over-interpretation; they do not need to be taken for any more than an expression of what was on black people's minds during times of heavy suppression. And, in that perspective, they are as relevant as ever, as discrimination of people who are "different" is not at all a piece of history yet...
The arrangement was originally intended for 8 soloists, but can easily be changed to a full double choir. As it stands, it is written for 8 solo voices and a full mixed choir. It should not be particularly difficult to perform for a reasonably experienced choir; even if it has no volunteer soloists, the many (but small) solo parts can be sung by the various members of the choir taking turns.
Total time for performance is about 4 minutes.
"King Valdemar's Hunt" - an English presentation of B.S. Ingemann's original Danish poem about the historic king Valdemar, who gathered Denmark into one nation again after it got split by debt to German landlords and bankers. Valdemar was, in a way, doing the same as what Bismarck did in Germany 500 years later. After finally having got the country under control, Valdemar enjoyed a happy life to a degree that made him claim that "If he could just keep Gurre (his amusement castle on Zealand), then God could keep Paradise". The legend goes that, for this insult to God, he and his hunting crews are now doomed to hunt forever as ghosts in the forests around Gurre.
A devoted Christian (Lutheran) priest in the first half of the 19th century, B.S.Ingemann has contributed a vast volume of psalms and hymns that are still in use in Danish churches today, along with many educational poems and novels about Danish history and cultural tradition. Together with his fellow priest N.S.F. Grundtvig, he was a main factor in the creation of a Danish national awareness, based on a thorough understanding of history, also by the common man.
The piece is based on the Danish composer Niels W. Gade's original tune, but developed for double choir (8 voices + piano), keeping the main text as close as possible to the Danish original. To accentuate the drama, some solo performances are added between the stanzas, like a commentary that sharply contrasts the serene beginning and leads to a scary ghost story at the end.
Performance should not be particularly challenging, as the tunes and harmonies and the use of the voices are all fairly straightforward and almost classical in nature. Duration of a performance will be about 3 minutes.
"The Echo of the Tongue of Bjarke" - an English "animation" of N.S.F. Grundtvig's original Danish poem about the Viking king Rolf Krake, who was famous for his justice and ability to develop Denmark's economy through stimulating and protecting fair trade and justice. He is particularly known through his bard/herald Bjarke, many of whose songs and poems about Rolf survived into historic times. Grundtvig's poem is about the death of both Rolf, Bjarke, and all the other brave and loyal vassals of Rolf's, including his lifeguard Hjalte, when Rolf's brother-in-law Hjartvar (who ruled one of Denmark's eastern provinces as duke) used a holiday celebration at Rolf's residence to usurp the royal powers by secretly gathering an army in the forest during the night and, by dawn, setting both forest and residence on fire to smoke the loyal Danes out of their beds, without their weapons and still not quite sober from last night's drinking, so they would be an easy slaughter. Despite much brave fighting on Rolf's side, Hjartvar succeeded and killed them all, except Vigge, who was thought to be dead, but wasn't. When Vigge came to his senses and realized he was the only survivor, he waited for the opportunity to kill Hjartvar - and did so with his last strength, paying for it with his own life, of course, as he quickly was grabbed by Hjartvar's guard.
The poem was written shortly after the Napoleonic wars, in which Denmark twice was "taken in the bed" by England attacking Denmark with no warning and destroying its fleet in the harbor, forcing the neutral Denmark on side with Napoleon - which ruined its economy and eventually cost it all Norway with about 40% of its population. Grundtvig wrote the poem in a style that could have been Bjarke's, making heavy use of names of famous persons as reference to past events and principles, in an almost commentary way that only indirectly tells the story, but certainly has a clear morale: Don't be "taken in the bed" ever again!
The music is fairly challenging, in terms of cooperation between voices with one voice taking over the tune from another voice before the first voice is finished, and in terms of the often devilishly changing time signatures and harsh disharmonies. The "battle scenes" in the center part can be heard as quite chaotic, also musically. It should also be noted that some second altos and second bases are required to go very deep, compared to what is normally accepted as "the limit"...
Performance takes about 3 minutes.
"Guantanamera" - Cuban folksong from 1929, possibly originally composed by Herminio Carcio Wilson, but definitely developed and promoted by Jose Fernandez Diaz in his radio program in the thirties on the basis of several simple poems written by Jose Marti and published in his "Versos Sencillos" ("Simple Verses").
Diaz used the song in his programs to express many different thoughts, and it is in complete compliance with this first use that several of Marti's small poems are being combined into one song by this beautiful tune that has now obtained status almost like a Cuban national anthem. The song has enjoyed being used for many purposes, and several musicians have presented it in various ways - and with various minor alterations, of which Pete Seeger's probably is the best known, from the time just before the Cuban crisis in 1962. There are many stories about the origin of the first lyrics, but they all involve a love affair to a self-confident and proud woman from Guantanamo who did not return the author's love, but retained a platonic relationship with him - and disappeared out of his life when he realized that she was lying to him.
This arrangement is for a solo bass (ranging from C#2 through B3) and a female choir with double sopranos (ranging from C4 through E5) and double altos (ranging from F#3 through D5), accompanied by a piano and/or a guitar. The original Spanish words are consistently sung by the bass, using the female voices for English translation. This version uses verses from 6 different poems of Marti and it is using the unhappy love affair as the recurring motif of the refrain... Time for performance is about 5 minutes.
"The Legend of Ramund" - Danish folksong dating back to the Viking time around 800.
The song is a long series of events that illustrate Ramund's deeds and peculiarities, in the form of an over 8 minutes long ballade. Ramund was certainly not someone who was easy to impress! And definitely not with any kind of power demonstration or assumed authority.
The original folksong contains more than 50 stanzas, many of which most likely are later additions. For this work 6 of them have been selected which present the essence of what Ramund is all about as a hero who objects to abuse and misuse of power at all levels. Although some of the stories are quite violent, violence is only used as a tool to fight oppression, power abuse, and lawlessness. The message behind this is actually extremely valid also today, although we might want to choose different means of asserting ourselves than plain bloodshed...
The "translation" of the old message into modern terms is made clear through the added text to the intermezzos, the last two added stanzas, and the coda, leaving the first 6 stanzas as close to the original as possible through translation.
This arrangement is for 8 voices and a keyboard and/or a guitar. The ranges are a bit demanding, particularly for the tenors that are supposed to hit a high G#4, as well as for the second basses that have many opportunities for showing off their deep range by dipping to D2. Aside from a single place with an A5 for the first sopranos (possible to substitute for a G5), the women's voices are within generally accepted and comfortable ranges, but the altos are required to make extensive use of their deepest ranges, with G3 as the lowest (but commonly occurring) note.
"Go Down, Moses!" - Negro spiritual, originally by Stephen foster.
The classic negro spiritual is probably known by everyone and his grand-daughter, and it is indeed a lovely tune with a lot of musical potential. In this presentation, the main theme from the times of slavery for Pharaoh and Moses' struggle to get the people out of that slavery is put into sharp contrast to today's lazy convenience and ignorance of what is truly important.
The original tune is presented only once. From there on, all kinds of variations of the theme are presented, including turning the supporting voices and the accompanying bass into tunes of their own!
The piece is divided into four parts:
- First part is a presentation of the most essential features of the original tune and its simplest variations, plus the essential lyrics.
- Second part is shifting from the main key (g minor) to mostly A Major and is providing a distorted use of this tune to caricature modern times and the consequences of ignorance and passivity.
- Third part is back in g minor with the main tune (almost), drawing the terrible consequences of taking no action, as we, today, are no better off than what the people of Israel was back then...
- Fourth part is a coda that invites action and it is clearly showing through its harsh use of disharmonies that it is not going to be an easy trip back to freedom...
This piece is for 8 voices and a keyboard and it takes slightly over 8 minutes to perform. The ranges are a bit demanding for the second basses for whom is it mandatory to hit the deep D2 again and again and again. The tenors are slightly pressed in the upper registry only once, with the first tenors being asked to do a high G4 that can be substituted for E4. The second tenors are pressed only once in the low register with a requirement for a B2 that can be substituted with an E3 if necessary. The women's voices are within generally accepted and comfortable ranges, although first sopranos are asked an A5 once and a G5 again and again, and the first altos are asked an E5 a few times.
The biggest challenges for the voices in this piece are probably the extensive use of disharmies that can be very difficult to "fit into" naturally - because those harmonies are not natural and are not supposed to be pleasant-sounding at all...
Let your voice be heard!