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.