I am overjoyed to welcome you back to the dynamic choral art of Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble. The extraordinary vocal artists and I have been eagerly anticipating your return, our cherished listeners and friends, to our first live and in-person performances in nearly two years. Indeed, we celebrate this reunion with you and with this great music. I have often shared with colleagues that Cincinnati audience members are truly some of the most passionate and engaged listeners I have encountered. We are profoundly grateful to be together with you again.
This series of opening concerts is intended to be both concert and reunion-gathering ritual. We have chosen to experience this first outing back with you in Wilks Studio here in Music Hall with the intention that we can co-create a space where we will feel surrounded by the music and close with one another. The program holds reflections of where we have been together and also expresses our vision as an ensemble to honor and celebrate music from a broad spectrum of composers and creators, especially carrying forth the music of underrepresented voices.
A solo voice begins the program with the words of the well known American hymn tune,
“It sounds an echo in my soul, How can I keep from singing?”. We then sing the exquisite motet of remembrance from Heinrich Schütz, Selig sind die Toten, followed by his joyful double chorus work, Jauchzet dem Herrn. I composed Song from the Road, set to a text by Michael Dennis Brown about journeys and hope: “Open our lives to everything growing, How shall we say this grace?” The powerful work Say Her Name by Alyisa Lee is followed by Caroline Shaw’s hauntingly beautiful And the swallow. The first half is completed with John Clements’ tender Flower of Beauty and the thrilling setting by Shawn Kirchner, Sweet Rivers.
The second half of the program is entirely devoted to the world premiere of Moira Smiley’s imaginative and deeply engaging work, The Song Among Us. It is special to be able to share Moira’s new offering with you. When she and I spoke many months ago, I asked her if she could compose a secular liturgy, something uniquely suited to our first time back together. She created something truly unique which will give us all an opportunity to acknowledge the significance of our shared experience and our love for music and which also helps us take this first step back in shaping the vision for our future together.
—Craig Hella Johnson