St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church
Note: This concert is part of both the Masterworks Subscription Series and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra Subscription Series
Artists: Arwen Myers and Danielle Reutter-Harrah, sopranos; Nicholas Burns, alto; Lawrence Williford, tenor; Sumner Thompson baritone; musica intima; Cappella Borealis; the Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Programme and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Alexander Weimann
A collection of musicians including musica intima, Capella Borealis, and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra join forces to mark the 350th anniversary of prolific composer Heinrich Schütz’s death. Directly affected by the violence and political tension that accompanied the Thirty Year’s War (1618–1648), Schütz produced works of comfort and lamentation to directly comment on the conflict. Alongside the famous Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich? (1650) and settings of the Psalms of David are works by the composer’s contemporaries, revolving around the ever-prevalent theme of peace in times of war.
PART I: War
Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672)
Der Herr sprach zu meinem Herren, SWV 22 (1619)
Samuel Michael (c.1599–1632)
Lob und Danck Lied (1631)
Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich?, SWV 415
Erasmus Widmann (1572-1634)
Gott ist unser Zuversicht (1633)
Da pacem, Domine, SWV 465 (1627)
“Eile mich, Gott, zu erretten” from the Kleine geistliche Konzerte (1636)
Giovanni Gabrieli (1557–1612)
Canzon III à 6 (C197)
“Herr nun lässest Du Deinen Diener,” from the Musikalische Exequien, SWV 281
PART II: Peace
Verleih uns Frieden
Gib unsern Obrigkeit (1648)
Fili mi, Absalon (1629)
Johann Erasmus Kindermann (1616–1655)
“Ach Herr sih doch wie bang ist mir” from Musicalische Friedens-Seufftzer (1642)
Melchior Franck (1580–1639)
Suspirium Germaniae Publicum
Sophie-Elisabeth von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1613–1676)
Ich, der hässlich bleiche Tod
Andreas Berger (1584–1656)
Da pacem Domine
Sigismund Theophil Staden (1607–1655)
“Brich an, du schöner Tag”
Danket dem Herren (1650), SWV 45?
Almost exactly 350 years ago, Heinrich Schütz was laid to rest in Dresden. Born in 1585, Schütz had enjoyed an extraordinarily long life by the time of his death in 1672, mastering the widest diversity of musical practices ranging from the high Renaissance polyphony of his youth to the modern theatrical styles from Italy that dominated his older years. Having enjoyed the heights of Renaissance culture as a young man—his studies with Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice between 1609 and 1613 proved to be formative—he would also suffer through the harsh years of religious and geopolitical conflict in Germany that we today call the Thirty Years War (1618–1648).
If large-scale religious war seems a thing of the past, the resurgence of war in our own time makes this a fitting occasion to recall how music reflects and shapes our understanding of conflict and reconciliation. In Schütz’s age, rulers with absolutist pretensions routinely engaged composers who might write the drumbeats of war into their own music, stiffening resolve, finding comfort in tribulation, and supplicating for God’s assistance in matters both spiritual and military. Conversely, composers embroiled in the Thirty Years War lamented in their music the inevitable costs of conflict and deplored the outbreak of violence as a prefiguration of a coming Apocalypse. When peace finally arrived in 1648, composers responded in kind with works of celebration and rejoicing. Their embrace of new affective musical resources from Italy—accompanied solo song, opera, and oratorio above all—enhanced the role that music could play in official persuasion and even propaganda. Tonight’s program is not only a celebration of Heinrich Schütz and his legacy, but also a meditation on how music became a sounding board for the tragedy of war.
For Protestants and Catholics alike the Psalms of David provided a wealth of sustenance and comfort in times of war, and it is no accident that they feature strongly in tonight’s program. The opening work, Schütz’s Der Herr sprach zu meinem Herren (1619), mixes the Venetian splendor of multiple choirs with the dark underbelly of religious violence: God “will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses, he will shatter heads over the wide earth.” Other Psalms praise God’s might and splendor: Tobias Michael’s Lob und Danck Lied (1631), performed in the wake of the Protestant victory at Breitenfeld, gives “thanks to you, Lord King,” leaving it up to us to decide whether it is God, or the victorious Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus, who receives this praise.
Also likely written for Breitenfeld was Schütz’s famous Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich? (1650), with a text referring to Saul’s persecution of Christians and to God’s dramatic intervention—his voice echoing vividly off the rocks—to turn him to Christianity. Success or failure at arms also informed simpler music accessible to amateur singers of the day: the king’s death at the Battle of Lützen would be lamented in the anonymous “Ach Gott wie ist mein Hertz,” circulating in a cheap print.
Other works on our program composed during the war are explicit calls for peace, recognizing the inevitable horrors that war brings. Melchior Franck’s Suspirium Germaniae Publicum quotes Daniel and Genesis in a call for prayer and penitence in the face of tribulation, concluding with a chorale-like composition begging God to spare his people from his wrath. We also present settings of Da pacem Domine (“Lord, give us peace”) by Andreas Berger and by Heinrich Schütz, both for divided choirs. Schütz’s setting was heard at peace negotiations at Mühlhausen in 1627 as the electors and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire entered the church of St. Mary: while one choir sang the “Da pacem,” the other praised the dignitaries directly, including the “unconquerable emperor” Ferdinand whose armies were quickly achieving dominance. Much later, Schütz would compose his Verleih uns Frieden as a part of his a cappella volume Geistliche Chormusik (1648), a deliberately archaic but beautiful choral collection that hearkened back to Renaissance traditions.
The sieges, plunder, and pestilence visited by the war could not but leave their traces in music of lamentation and tears. In Johann Eramus Kindermann’s “Ach Herr, sih doch, wie bang ist mir” (O Lord, see how frightened I am) we hear the Lamentations of the biblical prophet Jeremiah, while the figures of Death, Hunger, Poverty, and Injustice proclaim themselves the “daughters of war” in Duchess Sophie-Elisabeth of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel’s “Ich, der hässlich bleiche Tod,” penned by a courtly play called the “Triumph of Peace” (1642). “Eile mich, Gott, zu erretten” (Hurry, Lord, to save me) was the first piece printed in Schütz’s Kleine geistliche Konzerte (Little Sacred Concertos) in 1636, designed explicitly for institutions that could no longer present large-scale music. Composed “in the oratorical style,” the solo soprano makes an impassioned plea for God’s assistance in speechlike, dramatic declamation.
The gravity of death reaches a special intensity in Schütz’s “Fili mi Absalon” (1629), King David’s lament on the demise of his son Absalom, who had rebelled against his father’s authority: here the melancholy tones of a quartet of sackbuts magnify the wailing motives of the bass soloist. But those left behind by the deceased required comfort as well. In 1636 Schütz had been commissioned by the nobleman Heinrich Posthumus von Reuss to compose a musical burial service—the Musicalische Exequien—based on the inscriptions he chose for his own coffin. The conclusion of this service features the biblical canticle “Herr, nun lässest du Deinen Diener” (Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace) sung by the main choir. But sounding from above is a vocal trio, consisting of two seraphim (sopranos) and “the blessed soul with the seraphim” singing the text “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord”. The bass singer was likely understood to be none other than Posthumus von Reuss himself, his voice providing comfort to listeners left behind.
The conclusion of the war in 1648 was met with shared exhaustion but also widespread celebration. The peace negotiations conducted at Nuremberg, for example, were accompanied by a rich banquet of poetry, music, and civic spectacle in which the city’s leading composers played an important role (Kindermann, having previously published his “Musical Tears for Peace”, now responded with his “Musical Rejoicing for Peace”). One of Sigismund Theophil Staden’s “Musical Songs for Peace” was “Brich an, du schöner Tag” (“Dawn, you beautiful day”), presenting allegorical figures from Greek myth, including the Roman goddess of war Bellona, the Greek goddess of victory, and Irene, the Greek personification of peace. Colourful interludes for wind and string instruments add to the joyous affect. The conclusion of our program returns to Schütz’s Psalms of David, offering a splendid hymn of thanks “Danket dem Herren” (“Thanks be to God”) with trumpet calls that might be heard as a call to arms, or as a celebration of peace long desired.
- notes by Dr. Alex Fisher
Arwen Myers, soprano
Praised for her “crystalline tone and delicate passagework” (San Francisco Chronicle), soprano Arwen Myers captivates audiences with her timeless artistry and exquisite interpretations. Transmitting a warmth and “deep poignancy” (Palm Beach Arts Paper) onstage, Arwen shines in solo performance across the US and beyond. With outstanding technique and mastery of a wide range of vocal colors, Arwen’s dazzling oratorio and solo appearances feature repertoire from the baroque to modern day, and everything in between. Her history includes appearances with Portland Baroque Orchestra, Early Music Vancouver, Pacific MusicWorks, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra & Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, working with such notable conductors as Nicholas McGegan, Monica Huggett, David Fallis, John Butt, David Hill, Scott Allen Jarrett, Erick Lichte & Matthew Dirst.
Recent highlights include Handel with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; Bach & Purcell with Portland Baroque Orchestra; Vivaldi, Monteverdi & Gabrieli with Early Music Vancouver; Handel with Oregon Bach Festival; Fauré with Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; and the world premiere of Zachary Wadsworth’s JUNO-nominated When There is Peace with Chor Leoni, which received national broadcast across Canada. Of her title role in Handel’s Semele with American Bach Soloists Academy in 2018, San Francisco Classical Voice noted, “some of these star turns were shiny indeed, with soprano Arwen Myers leading the way… her musicality and demure demeanor remained a renewable pleasure.” An exceptionally talented and generous chamber musician, Arwen features with some of the nation’s premiere ensembles, including Seraphic Fire, Bach Akademie Charlotte, Spire Chamber Ensemble, and Bach Collegium San Diego, and Fear No Music. Arwen is represented by Aligned Artistry.
Danielle Reutter-Harrah, soprano
Danielle Reutter-Harrah has performed at the Boston Early Music Festival, with Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Opera, California Bach Society, American Bach Soloists, Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Alabama Symphony, and Early Music Vancouver, among others. She most recently sang the role of Belinda in Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado’s semi-staged rendition of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. In fall 2019 she performed with Pacific MusicWorks, the Byrd Ensemble and Early Music Vancouver. The 2018/19 season involved concerts of music by Brahms, Bach, Monteverdi, Handel, Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn, and others. Reutter-Harrah is a founding member of the voice and plucked strings duo Jarring Sounds, with Adam Cockerham on guitar, theorbo, Baroque guitar and lute. She sings frequently with Seattle’s Byrd Ensemble and Pacific MusicWorks. Danielle received her Bachelor’s of Music degree from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music and her Master of Music degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She lives in Seattle with her husband and son.
Nicholas Burns, alto
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, countertenor Nicholas Burns has been described as possessing a “thrilling voice” and past performances have been described as a “revelation” (Opera Canada). As an artist at the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, Nicholas performed Bach cantatas under Philippe Herreweghe. He has appeared with Early Music Vancouver for several iterations of the Christmas Vespers and summer Bach Festivals. Nicholas has also appeared with the American Bach Soloists, Arion Baroque Orchestra, Tafelmusik, The Theatre of Early Music, le Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, L’Harmonie des saisons, and l’Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil. On the opera stage, Nicholas has performed in numerous Handel operas including the title role in Giulio Cesare, Bertarido in Rodelinda, and the world premiere of a new opera, L’Orangeraie. Upcoming engagements include performances of Bach cantatas at the BachFest Leipzig, and a programme of Monteverdi with the American Bach Soloists. Aside from singing, Nicholas is an accomplished bagpiper, having won the World Pipe Band Championships in 2012.
Lawrence Wiliford, tenor
Lauded for his luminous projection, lyrical sensitivity, and brilliant coloratura, American-Canadian tenor Lawrence Wiliford is in high demand in concert, opera, and recital repertoire. 2019-20 season highlights include a performance of Mozart’s Requiem with the Eugene Symphony, Mozart’s Coronation Mass with the Back Bay Chorale, Bach’s St. John Passion with the Florida Orchestra, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Hamilton Philharmonic, Beethoven’s Mass in C Major with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, Handel’s Messiah with the Rochester Philharmonic, Mozart’s Requiem with the Seattle Symphony, and a performance of Considering Matthew Shephard with Pax Christi Chorale.
In the 2018-19 season, Mr. Wiliford performed Mozart’s Coronation Mass with Les Violins Du Roy, a new work by Zachary Wadsworth with Chor Leoni Men’s Choir, Handel’s Messiah with the Phoenix Symphony, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Bach’s St. John Passion at the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, and Bach’s St. John Passion with Luminous Voices.
Sumner Thompson, bass
Praised for his “elegant style” (The Boston Globe), Sumner Thompson is one of today’s most sought-after tenors. His appearances on the operatic stage include roles in the Boston Early Music Festival’s productions of Conradi’s Ariadne (2003) and Lully’s Psyché (2007) and several European tours with Contemporary Opera Denmark as Orfeo in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. He has performed across North America as a soloist with Concerto Palatino, Tafelmusik, Apollo’s Fire, Les Boréades de Montréal, Les Voix Baroques, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the King’s Noyse, Mercury Baroque, and the symphony orchestras of Charlotte, Memphis, and Phoenix. Recent highlights include Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and the new Vespers of 1640 with the Green Mountain Project, Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri with Les Voix Baroques and Houston’s Mercury Baroque, Mozart’s Requiem at St. Thomas Church in New York City, a tour of Japan with Joshua Rifkin and the Cambridge Concentus, a return to the Carmel Bach Festival, and Britten’s War Requiem with the New England Philharmonic and several guest choruses.
Internationally renowned for their engaging stage presence, impeccable musicianship and new perspectives on ensemble singing, musica intima has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s most unique vocal ensembles. A shared leadership model allows the singers to exchange ideas freely while exploring their own musical creativity, and this freedom leads to dynamic performances where the ensemble engages with the audience directly and spontaneously.
Over the past almost thirty years, musica intima has commissioned twenty new works from Canadian composers and has championed contemporary Canadian vocal repertoire around the country and across the world. musica intima has released ten commercial recordings, received two JUNO nominations, and one Western Canadian Music Award.
Recent and upcoming highlights include collaborations with international superstar vocalist Bobby McFerrin (2019), Kenyan-Canadian spoken-word artist Germaine Konji (2021), Indigenous choreographer Olivia C. Davies (2022), Indigenous painter Sonny Assu (2022), and composer of Cree descent, Andrew Balfour, in the premiere of his project Nagamo (2022).
Nagamo is a musical reimagining of first contact between the “Old” and “New” worlds through the translation of Elizabethan motets into Cree and Ojibwe, which will be released as a CD, and toured and workshopped with youth choirs across Canada in 2023.
Cappella Borealis was founded in 2015 as Vancouver’s own ensemble for early brass music. Consisting of Jeremy Berkman, Alex Fisher, Ellen Marple, and Nathan Wilkes, all performers on the early trombone (or “sackbut”), Cappella Borealis explores a range of repertoire from the Renaissance and Baroque periods featuring early brass, often in combination with voices and other instruments. The ensemble has appeared in various presentations by Early Music Vancouver, musica intima, and in other venues.
Baroque Mentorship Orchestra
About five years ago a new and exciting educational initiative took root in Vancouver, a Baroque Mentorship Orchestra in which the seasoned professionals of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra rehearse and perform side-by-side with students and aspiring young artists from the community. The programme is made possible by the collaboration of Early Music Vancouver, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, and the University of British Columbia, and thanks to the generosity of Vic and Joan Baker. The mentorship orchestra is directed by Alexander Weimann. Chloe Meyers and Natalie Mackie serve as regular mentors, aided by many other specialist coaches for strings, woodwinds, and brasses. The orchestra has offered an ambitious variety of music from the 17th and 18th centuries: highlights have included Telemann’s Don Quixote Suite, Handel’s Fireworks Music at the Chan Centre, a spicy programme of Mediterranean music entitled Fandango!, excerpts from Handel’s magnificent early opera Agrippina, and a festival of Telemann concertos and suites.
Pacific Baroque Orchestra
The Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO) is recognized as one of Canada’s most exciting and innovative ensembles performing “early music for modern ears”. PBO brings the music of the past up to date by performing with cutting-edge style and enthusiasm. Formed in 1990, the orchestra quickly established itself as a force in Vancouver’s burgeoning music scene with the ongoing support of Early Music Vancouver.
In 2009, PBO welcomed Alexander Weimann as Artistic Director. His imaginative programming and expert leadership have drawn in many new concertgoers, and his creativity and engaging musicianship have carved out a unique and vital place in the cultural landscape of Vancouver.
PBO regularly joins forces with internationally celebrated Canadian guest artists, providing performance opportunities for Canadian musicians while exposing West Coast audiences to a spectacular variety of talent. The Orchestra has also toured BC, the northern United States and across Canada. Their 2019 East Coast Canadian tour with Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin showcased the rarely-heard opera arias of 18th century Russia, culminating in a critically acclaimed album “Nuit Blanches” released by Atma Classique. The musicians of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra have been at the core of many large-scale productions by Early Music Vancouver in recent years, including many summer festival performances led by Alexander Weimann.
Alexander Weimann, dir.
Alexander Weimann is one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation. After traveling the world with ensembles like Tragicomedia, and as frequent guest with Cantus Cölln, the Freiburger Barockorchester, Gesualdo Consort and Tafelmusik, he now focuses on his activities as Music Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver, Music Director of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and regular guest conductor of ensembles including the Victoria Symphony, Symphony Nova Scotia, Arion Baroque Orchestra in Montreal and the Portland Baroque Orchestra.
Weimann was born in 1965 in Munich, where he studied the organ, church music, musicology (with a summa con laude thesis on Bach’s secco recitatives), theatre, mediæval Latin, and jazz piano, supported by a variety of federal scholarships. From 1990 to 1995, Weimann taught music theory, improvisation, and Jazz at the Munich Musikhochschule. Since 1998, he has been giving master classes in harpsichord and historical performance practice at institutions such as Lunds University in Malmö and the Bremen Musikhochschule, and at North American universities such as The University of California in Berkeley, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, McGill University, Université de Montréal, and Mount Allison in New Brunswick. Since 2007, he has conducted several acclaimed opera productions at the Amherst Early Music Festival. He now teaches at the University of British Columbia and directs the Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Programme there.
A multiple JUNO and GRAMMY nominee, Weimann can be heard on some 100 CDs. Highlights include an Opus and JUNO award-winning CD of Handel oratorio arias with soprano Karina Gauvin, a recording of Bach’s St. John’s Passion with Les Voix Baroques/Arion Baroque Orchestra, a JUNO nominated recording of Handel’s Orlando with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra that was also awarded a Gramophone Editor’s Choice award, and most recently, the JUNO-nominated album Nuit Blanches with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and Karina Gauvin.