Chamber Singers of Iowa City

Thank you!

February 24 2015 - In: General

A huge thank you to everyone who made it to our concert last weekend. It was a pleasure performing for you and it makes all the difference to have friends, family, and familiar faces in the audience. There’s no way we’d be the organization we are today without your support! Thanks again. We’ll see you in April.

Musical Moments in Time

February 8 2015 - In: General

One of the many pleasures of singing with Chamber Singers of Iowa City is the broad range of music one learns and then shares with the audience. The upcoming concert “Vignettes” is a fine example. David Puderbaugh, music director, has chosen five themes for these musical moments in time: “Music,” “Night,” “Troubled Thoughts,” “Faith” and “Love.”

In the vignette “Music,” we’ll hear Lloyd Pfautsch’s “Consecrate the Place and Day,” a stirring piece that sounds at once like trumpets at a coronation, and again like a bit of rollicking fun. John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music” is a lovely hymn, that works very well here as a study in musical contrasts. William Billings was America’s first choral composer (writing in the 18th century). His “Modern Music” explains everything one needs to know about listening to fine music — including when the audience should applaud.

“Night” brings us music from Estonian composer Pärt Uusberg and his luscious “Õhtul“ (In the Evening), a charming reverie combining a flowing melody with unexpected chords and meters, deeply romantic.

A more familiar piece, Samuel Barber’s “Sure, on This Shining Night,” is a mystical song that speaks of love and wandering, and even “shadows on the stars.” Mendelssohn’s “There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob” begins as a triumphant prophecy then takes a darker, even chilling, turn, then returns to the original theme and ends with a transcendent blessing. Randall Thompson’s “Choose Something Like a Star” finishes the “Night” vignette with music set to Robert Frost’s poem, part of the “Frostiana“ collection.

“Troubled Thoughts” is Brahms’ all-too-real description of a sleepless night with its fears, worries and downright terrors. With a fevered run of notes in the piano accompaniment and a driving five-four meter, we are pulled along on a nightmarish ride, ending only at dawn, with the insomniac forced to face another day.

It is an honor to write that all six of the soloists for this concert come from within Chamber Singers: Alison Burchett, soprano; Kristen Eisenhammer, soprano; Hillary Foster, alto; Lisa White, alto; Richard Hanson, tenor; Patrick Gilpin, bass.

Ms. Foster’s and Ms. White’s duet of Schumann’s “Erste Begegnung“ (First Encounter) is a delight about roses and new beginnings to warm us on a cold winter’s afternoon.

The final vignettes, “Faith” and “Love” include works by Haydn, Palestrina, Martini, Schumann, Dello Joio, and a jaundiced look at love entitled “Lost Love.”

Guest pianist Nathanael Filippelli, a doctoral student at the University of Iowa will perform Franz Liszt’s “Nuages gris,’ a short piano solo and an excellent example of tone painting. With its gentle, brooding quality, the careful listener might imagine the gray clouds of the title. Filippelli will also play Johannes Brahms: Intermezzo, Op. 116, No. 5, a piece with a honeyed, ambling, quality, and a loud-soft, soft-loud dynamic that is very, very Brahms.

James Petersen sings with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.

If you go

What: The Chamber Singers of Iowa City present “Vignettes.”

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15.

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 2701 Rochester, Iowa City

The Chamber Singers of Iowa City will present “Vignettes” at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at First Presbyterian Church, 2701 Rochester Ave. in Iowa City.

A vignette can be described as a brief scene, an account or an episode. In this concert, a vignette can also be a moment or a reverie. The five vignettes of the concert’s title describe concepts or conditions that are common to all humans: “Music,” “Night,” “Troubled Thoughts,” “Faith” and “Love.”

Music director David Puderbaugh has chosen works dating from the early Renaissance to the present day to reveal different aspects of each idea. For example, under the vignette “Music,” he has chosen Lloyd Pfautsch’s rousing “Consecrate the Place and Day,” John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music” and William Billings’ “Modern Music.” It should be pointed out that Billings’ idea of “modern music” may not match your own — he is often considered America’s first true choral composer, having lived in the 18th century. His description of what to listen for in music — from range to melody, harmony and meter — are all laid out very carefully and sung by the chorus to demonstrate their use. It is as true today as it was then.

“Night” introduces the listener to Estonian composer Pärt Uusberg, whose “Õhtul” (“In the Evening”) begins, “The birds fall silent along with the wind, flowers fall asleep in the arms of dew,” and we immediately begin to slip into a sweet undulation with Uusberg’s tender chords and alternating meters.

Many concertgoers will recognize Samuel Barber’s “Sure on this Shining Night,” a moving, mystical piece that describes a host of emotions and invites us to imagine shadows on stars! Continuing in the star theme, the Singers perform Mendelssohn’s “There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob,” based on the Book of Numbers 24:17. Beginning as a sweeping, triumphant prophecy, it moves in its second section to a darker, threatening theme — the destruction of princes and nations — then returns to sweeping chords and joyous music, and ends in blessing and praise.

Randall Thompson’s “Choose Something Like a Star” completes the theme of this vignette with music set to Robert Frost’s poem, part of the “Frostiana” compilation.

“Troubled Thoughts” begins with Brahms’ “Nächtens.” A delirium of 32 notes in the piano accompaniment in driving five-four meter carries us on an all-too-familiar ride for most of us on occasion: “At night awaken those wandering, deceptive phantoms that bewilder the mind. At night grief and worry nestle within your heart and the morning gazes in upon tears.” Troubled thoughts, indeed. The last two vignettes, “Faith” and “Love,” are far gentler on the nerves with familiar works by Haydn, Palestrina, Martini, Schumann, Dello Joio and a humorous look at love, “Love Lost,” by Paul Sjolund. We’ll give you a little hint here: Dorothy Parker wrote the words to one of the three pieces in “Love Lost.”

If you go:

• What: The Chamber Singers of Iowa City will present “Vignettes.”

• When: 3 p.m. Feb. 15.

• Where: First Presbyterian Church, 2701 Rochester Ave. in Iowa City. 


James Petersen sings with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City and the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre Chorus.

Vi·gnette /vin-‘yet/: A brief evocative description, account, or episode.

How does one evocatively describe a scene, a moment, even a thought through music? Our second concert explores how composers from different lands and times choose to convey musically such ideas as the seasons, day and night, freedom, love, and faith.  These vignettes bear commonalities within themselves, yet within them each piece is unique—a snapshot of its creator’s time, place, and personality.

Join us !

Sunday, February 15, 3:00 p.m.

First Presbyterian Church

2701 Rochester Avenue, Iowa City


  • November 16, 2014 – Polychoral Splendor
    3:00 pm, Concert
  • February 15, 2015 – Vignettes
    3:00 pm, Concert
  • April 25, 2015 – George Frideric Handel: Judas Maccabaeus
    7:00 pm, Concert

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