Choral Arts Ensemble lets the "Voices" sing

Choral Arts Ensemble is known for its voices, but its final concert of the season will celebrate the various voices of poets, sages and philosophers that have influenced people through the ages.

The program for "Listening to the Voices," which will be presented May 4 and 5, was inspired by "The Voices," a new piece by Minnesota composer Dale Warland.

Co-commissioned by Choral Arts Ensemble and Chorus America, a nationwide consortium of choirs, the piece will be premiered across the country this spring.

The text by Minnesota poet Michael Dennis Browne was written for Warland's retirement from the Dale Warland Singers, said Rick Kvam, artistic director of Choral Arts Ensemble.

"It's a really lovely text," Kvam said. Quoting from the text he added, "From where I stand now I cannot see every singer … but I can hear all the song."


"From the kernel of that voice, I thought about how other voices, both musical and literary, have influence over us," Kvam said.

The concert will include the ancient voices of the psalmists as the ensemble sings works of Bach in "Singet dem Herrn," other Biblical texts as well as Gregorian chants.

The poetic voices of Robert Frost and e.e. cummings have been set to music by composers Randall Thompson and Elliot Levine.

And prose is heard in the premier of "Infinite Expectation of the Dawn," by Choral Arts Ensemble Commissioning Contest winner of 2012, John Orfe, who set words of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau to music.

"It's beautiful, innovative and complex," Kvam said of the piece.

Orfe will be present at at least one of the concerts to speak about the piece, he said.

Rounding out the concert are voices from beyond as imagined by Ysaye Barnwell, a member of Sweet Honey in the Rock, an a cappella sextet of African American women, in her popular piece "Wanting Memories."

Alice Parker's setting of the folk hymn, "Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal," ends the concert with the voices of the people who crossed over the Jordan, Kvam said.

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