About the Program

Tread Softly: Songs of a Winter's Night

December 5, 2021 | Download PDF | Print

By now, I hope you are aware that I am conducting my last full season with Cantemus. After a period of quiet reflection and eleven years of pure magic, I have decided that the 2021-22 season will be my last. Despite the pandemic and shuttered concerts of the last two years, I will leave Cantemus, as a chorus and organization, in good health. We spent our “down time” well and wisely: classes in musical self-improvement, driveway choir rehearsal, video program developments, digital music making. And you, as audience, supporters, and state and local cultural councils, buoyed our spirits and responded with a generosity we could not have imagined. Thank you.

It is time for Cantemus to leap into a bright and exciting future with new artistic leadership. While the search committee has been executing an artistic director search, the membership has been busy – but, this time, preparing to bring you live choral music. This is our COVID “breakthrough.” What a delight to be back together, rehearsing on Tuesday evenings, with all the appropriate safety measures in place. Despite the discomfort of social distance and singing in masks, we have loved being together, as a community of kindred spirits, where music is the heart of our relationships.

Tread Softly: Songs of a Winter's NightI have chosen a program that brings me great joy, coupled with aching poignancy. With two exceptions, the pieces represent a smattering of the last eleven years’ worth of programs. Songs of a winter’s night, they are works of stunning beauty, energy, and profound meaning. To anchor the program, we give you a three-movement cantata that is old in spirit but new to us – Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach’s marvelous setting of Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Awake, the voice calls to us), BWV 140, also known as “Sleepers Wake!” The fifth son of Johann Sebastian, J.C.F. Bach creates a glorious and unique rendering of his father’s famous chorale, full of energy, movement, and good contrapuntal cheer.

Our concert opener is a beautiful work that quietly pulls us out of the lull of the last two years. Brittany Betts, ensemble member and emerging superstar composer, gives us Do You Hear Me? – a piece she lovingly calls “a song of victory after a pandemic-sized silence.” What better way to begin anew? The concert also features smaller works by favorite composers Morten Lauridsen, Samuel Barber, Randall Thompson, and Alice Parker. The title of our concert, Tread Softly, comes from a gorgeous work by Z. Randall Stroope: The Cloths of Heaven. It is a delicious setting of William Butler Yeats’ poem “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.” The poet reminds us of the fragility of relationships and the nobility of dreams; he nudges us, gently, to “tread softly.”

We are grateful to be with you once again. May the holiday season bring you peace and renewal.

—Jane Ring Frank, Artistic Director