Monday evening, October 21 , 2013, Visitation Church in Kansas City, Missouri was filled with glorious music. The gothic space and perimeter balcony were put to inventive use by the combined forces, led by Dr. Anthony Maglione.
The highlight of the evening was after intermission, the world premier of Dr. Maglione's eight movement setting of Walt Whitman's poem, The Mystic Trumpeter.
According to the composer's notes, the work was composed with the evening's performers in mind: Randolph Lee, trumpeter; Mark Langdon, organist; Sarah Tannehill Anderson, soprano; Jay Carter, countertenor; Ron Witzke, baritone; and the American Guild of Organists' Schola Cantorum and the William Jewell College Concert Choir. Add three trumpeters, three trombonists and three percussionists and you have the entire combined ensemble for the work.
According to the composer, the first three movements serve as introduction, setting the quest of following the trumpet's tune to obtain it, interpret it into life and to give the trumpeter freedom to create sound (life) as he synthesizes it.
Movement 1, "Recitative for Baritone and Trumpet," was a somber conversation between Mr. Witzke and Dr. Lee's trumpet. In very balanced tones, the baritone invites the trumpeter into his intimacy; he will catch the unseen notes as they surround him. Mvt. II, "for Chorus," and the ubiquitous trumpeter, still in beautifully blended conversation, the voices vow to interpret the life meanings of the trumpet's continuing melody through life. Mvt. III, Aria for Baritone, Trumpet and Chorus, set a foreboding challenge for the trumpet melody to enter the "fretting world," and to free the speaker's spirit.
In Movement IV, "Recitative and Aria for Countertenor and Trumpet," Dr. Maglione employs a 14th Century dance tune "La Regina," on the organ. The countertenor, Mr. Carter, displayed his national reputation for musicality and clarity as he describes medievel war making, undoubtedly a metaphor for the Civil War, the life-forming event in Whitman's life. The brass sextet is added as a crescendo builds to a clashing conflict and a grand pause, followed by a grand hymnic conclusion, reminiscent of, "Lift High the Cross."
Soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson used her ability to fill a room with glistening, painfully soft sound in Mvt. V, "Aria for Soprano and Trumpet," a song of love. This love is romantic, blissful, overwhelming and, "sick with perfume." Dr. Lee's trumpet timbre seemed to adjust mood and voice to blend best with each solo voice and verse. Throughout the movement, the chimes echoed the trumpet theme.
The war movement, VI, "Aria for Baritone and Chorus," presents men's voices laid bare of supporting harmonies; the baritone soloist summons the trumpeter to announce war. The aural picture passes through expectation to the "cracking of the guns;" and a bombastic view of murder and dead and maimed sailors littering a man-of-war.
Movement VII, "Chorus" in dialogue with a piccolo trumpet, contemplating the genetic evil of the human race, finally vanquished by colassal Pride, enduring to the end.
Movement VIII, "Soprano, Countertenor, Baritone, Trumpet and Chorus," builds a great crescendo celebrating an overcoming joy that humans have in each other, exulting in a world replenished from the ruin of war. The final, all stops: drums, chimes and voices join together in the final sonorous phrase, "Joy! Joy! all over Joy!"
The sixty per cent crowd rose as one in applause, in full realization that they had experience something very important.
Gracing the first half program was the world premier of Ian Coleman's October 2013 homage to Dr. Martin Luther King's, "I Have a Dream," speech, "The Trumpet Sounds With In-a My Soul." In it, Mr. Coleman layers "Steal Away to Jesus," representing the centuries of African-American struggle, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," personifying the irony of slaves and masters praying to the same God, and muted, bluesy trumpet fanfares representing the African-American inner turmoil resulting from both physical and spiritual encumbrances. The tender trumpet exclamations, both muted and not, completed the pathos of continuing human struggle.
The other music of the evening, the fine organ preludes and postlude, played majestically by Mark Langdon, the antiphonal usage of the acoustically fine room, the wonderful multi-period choral music embellished by skillful brass work are all worthy of extended comment, were they not overpowered by the original music heard this very special evening.
Music for a Great Space
Prelude: Praeludium in g minor - Nicolaus Bruhns (1663-1697)
Beata es Virgo - Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1555-1612)
O lieber Herre Gott, SWV 381 - Heinrich Schuetz (1585- 1672)
"Steal Away" - arr. Michael Tippett (1905-1988)
"Two Hymns to the Mother of God" - John Tavener (b. 1944)
"The Trumpet Sounds With In-a My Soul" (World Premiere) - Ian Coleman (b. 1968)
Herr, auf Dich Traue Ich, SWV 77 - Heinrich Schuetz
In Ecclesiis - Giovanni Gabrieli
"Prayer of Saint Gregory" - Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000)
The Mystic Trumpeter - Anthony Maglione (b. 1978)
1. Recitative for Baritone and Trumpet
III. Aria for Baritone, Trumpet and Chorus
IV. Recitative and Aria for Countertenor and Trumpet
V. Aria for Soprano and Trumpet
VI. Aria for Baritone and Chorus
VIII. Soprano, Countertenor, Baritone, Trumpet and Chorus
Postlude: Toccata pour Grande Orgue - Gaston Bélier (1863-1938)