Thursday, July 16, 2009

Alleluia by Randall Thompson

Performed by the Dordt College Concert Choir. To be sung by the Washington Collegium under the direction of Evan Tucker on this Sunday, July 19th beginning at 7:30 PM at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood of Washington, DC.

"The Lord gaveth and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Job 1:21

It was this quotation which Randall Thompson recalled while writing his most famous piece in 5 days during the summer of 1940. Eastern Europe was locked in a struggle to the death between Fascism and Communism, Spain and France had fallen to Hitler's allies, and Britain stood alone.

(Loud guy with mustache.)

It was also during these years that the legendary Russian conductor Serge Koussevitsky brought together the greatest musical talent of America and Europe every summer in the Berkshire mountains of Western Massechussets to educate America's most promising young musicians. In the first few years, a promising young musician (like Leonard Bernstein) could study conducting with Koussevitsky, composition with Aaron Copland, theory with Paul Hindemith, and instrumental lessons from any of the first-desk members of the Boston Symphony. A few years later, musicians as eminent as Olivier Messiaen, Bohuslav Martinu, Charles Munch and Leonard Bernstein himself would join the faculty.

(Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Boston Symphony in the American premiere of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem at Tanglewood)

It was for a chorus of Tanglewood students that the Alleluia was written. It was written on commission from Koussevitzky to commemorate the opening of the Berkshire Music Center. Thompson composed it in the five days before the opening and completed it only 45 minutes before the performance. The text comprised of only the word "Alleluia" and a final "Amen.' According to legend, the conductor looked over the score and said to Thompson 'Well at least the text won't be a problem.'

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