Hildegard von Bingen – Caritas Abundat

Hildegard von Bingen (1098 – 1179)  was an abbess, composer, writer, philosopher, and mystic born in Bermersheim vor der Höhe, Germany.  She is considered one of the most influential women in medieval music and is sometimes referred to as the “Sibyl of the Rhine” or “The First Woman of Western Music.”

At an early age, Hildegard began to experience mystical visions, which she later recorded in her writings.  The tenth child in her family, she was tithed into the Catholic Church.  She joined a convent at the age of eight and became an abbess at the age of thirty-eight.  During her time as abbess, Hildegard founded two monasteries, wrote extensively on a wide range of subjects, and composed a large body of music.

Hildegard’s music consists of over 70 works. Her compositions were recognized during her lifetime and continue to be performed, studied, and rearranged today.  In addition to her music, Hildegard was a prolific writer of poetry, treatises on theology, medicine, and botany, and an autobiography.  She was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church in 2012, and she remains a revered figure in religious and musical history.

“Caritas Abundat” is a poem written by Hildegard von Bingen, set to music and arranged by Michael John Trotta. The text is adapted from Liber Divinorum Operum (The Book of Divine Works), to create a new text to express empowerment and grace.

The piece begins with a hand drum and four-part open harmony.  While the harmonies ebb and flow from dissonance to resolution, the violin part weaves in and out of the choral texture, providing counterpoint, emotional intensity, and a haunting, ethereal effect.  The drums accentuate the rhythmic vitality of the piece and give it a unique flavor, blending ancient and modern musical traditions to create a sound that is both timeless and refreshingly contemporary.

Sarah Quartel – As You Sing

Sarah Quartel was born and raised in Great Britain in a family of musicians.  A typical day would feature mom singing arias in the kitchen while cooking dinner, and dad, a church choir director,  practicing his harpsichord in the basement.  Sarah recalls “I think I was eight years old before I realized that having a harpsichord in your basement was a bit of a unique thing.” 

In spite of her rich musical background, Quartel says that singing in choirs was her most profound influence as a composer, due to the unique marriage of text, melody, harmony, and careful pedagogy among her choral directors.  In her compositions, she emulates this care, while allowing us a glimpse of the heartfelt connections that she made by singing in a choral group.

“Choral music has this incredible way of bringing people together,” says Quartel.

Sarah started her songwriting in high school, singing her original works in cafes and coffee houses. She found that her harmonies and textures were well-suited for choral music.   At university, she began composing in earnest for the choral genre, and she had her first commissioned work, Snow Angel, published in 2017 while in her second year of college.  Since then, she has successfully published close to 30 choral pieces for a variety of voicings. 

For Sara Quartel, composing is “not only a job… it’s also something I feel very emotionally connected to.”

“As You Sing” by Sarah Quartel is a lively and rhythmic SSAA piece that incorporates hand drums as its sole accompaniment. The piece begins with a soloist or small group singing a brief melody, which is then echoed by the full choir. This call-and-response pattern continues throughout the piece, with various sections of the choir taking turns singing the lead melody.

The hand drums enter shortly after the choir begins singing, establishing a driving rhythm that propels the piece forward. The drums play throughout the piece, with occasional breaks or fills that add interest and variation to the accompaniment.

The harmonies in “As You Sing” are largely diatonic and straightforward, with occasional moments of dissonance or unexpected chord progressions. The piece is joyful and celebratory. This is well-suited to its theme of singing and making music together. The final statement of the melody builds with a gradual crescendo, never subsiding until it culminates at the very end of the piece.

Mari Esabel Valverde – Les Papillons, Le Colibri

Mari Esabel Valverde is a Mexican-American composer based in Forth Worth, Texas. Born and raised in Texas, she began studying music at a young age. All her life, Mari has had a passion for foreign languages.  As a child, she wanted to study French, but her parents wanted her to understand the language of her heritage, so she first studied Spanish.  In high school, she began to study German lieder and French mélodie.  Today, she is proficient in French, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese. Swedish is her next challenge.

Valverde’s music draws on her Mexican heritage and her experiences as a trans woman and a person of color. Her works often incorporate traditional Mexican instruments and folk music traditions, as well as contemporary classical techniques.  

Valverde has been commissioned by ACDA, the Boston Choral Ensemble, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses, and the Texas Music Educators Association.

She earned her Bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College,  a Certificate from The European American Musical Alliance in Paris, France, and her Master’s in Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. During her time at St. Olaf, Valverde was a member of the St. Olaf Choir under the direction of Dr. Anton Armstrong, to whom she attributes much of her growth and nurturing as a composer.  She also studied composition with Timothy Mahr during that time, and she earned opportunities to compose for band and chorus in her undergraduate years.

Says Mari, 

I aspire to create music that is humanist in message and sensual in expression. Dissonance is very purposeful and not to be overindulged. When composing for the voice, I put great care into setting a text.  Before drawing a single notehead, I memorize the text.  I sing it and sketch the composition with attention to articulation and breath.  My goal is to honor the text by ensuring clarity and space for the words and to extend its meaning in melody and harmony.

This Spring, The Canticle Singers will be performing two arrangements of French mélodie, originally set for solo voice by Ernest Chausson and arranged for treble choir by Mari Esabel Valverde:

“Le Colibri” is a setting of a poem by the French poet Leconte de Lisle (1818-1894).  Valverde’s setting of the piece begins with the hummingbird before it takes flight.  Throughout the piece, the voices dance, flutter, and weave in and out in a series of intricate, overlapping phrases.  The voices rise and fall seamlessly throughout the piece, which ends in a hushed, sustained octave unison, creating a sense of quiet wonder, awe, and unity.

“Les Papillons” features a text by the French poet Théophile Gautier (1811-1872).  Valverde’s arrangement is upbeat and playful, featuring lively rhythms and jaunty melodies that capture the flight of the butterfly (papillon) referenced in the poem.  The choral parts are homophonic but rhythmically syncopated.  The piece builds to a joyful climax before ending with a final phrase, and then the piano emulates the butterfly’s flight as it fades into the distance.

Faith Morgan Zimmer – I Am in Love

Faith Morgan Zimmer is a choral composer, poet, singer, songwriter, illustrator, and pianist based in Minnesota.  She has a diverse background in music, having studied both classical and jazz piano as well as voice, choral conducting, and music theory.  Faith has childhood memories of sitting down at the piano after dinner and experimenting with musical hooks while transforming her thoughts into lyrics. In short, she cannot remember a time when she wasn’t creating and composing music.

Faith is rarely idle. As a Missouri State University student, she published three of her choral compositions while her band at the time, the Faith Morgan Band, also produced an album.

Says Faith:

I am passionate about writing songs I truly feel to the core of my being. Feelings I couldn’t explain without poetry and melody.  I feel that is what I am called to do, to create moments so beautiful it’s like heaven meeting earth.

Faith graduated from Missouri State University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Composition, and in 2021 with a graduate certificate in choral studies.  While at Missouri State, she studied with Dr. John Wykoff, Dr. Cameron LaBarr, and Susan LaBarr.  However, Faith’s most profound influence as a composer came from her studies with Alice Parker:

She showed me that I can rely on my ear and sense of melody.  That knowledge helped me find freedom in my writing.  It doesn’t have to be based on a theoretical math problem or calculation, but you can actually base it on beauty and simplicity.

In May 2019 Morgan earned her degree in music composition. Immediately following graduation, Morgan spent six months with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in South Africa, splitting her time between Cape Town, India, and Namibia. It is notable that this was during the pandemic. While she served as a missionary, she learned about herself as well.

I was able to find my identity, not based on my talents or anything. I feel that I can perform and compose again in a much healthier and holistic state of mind.

Faith’s choral works are published through Walton Music and have been recorded by the Missouri State Chorale.

Faith also records music as a singer-songwriter and leader of her newest band called Adamant Faith. In addition to composing, Faith paints commissioned visual art, writes poetry, teaches voice and songwriting, and leads worship at her local church. Faith lives with her husband, Sam, in Springfield, Missouri.

Says Faith, 

I might never have a five-year or 10-year plan, but I’ll simply go to the next thing I am called to do.

Faith’s arrangement of the American folk song “I Am in Love” begins with the soprano singing the open and somewhat stark melody, while soprano 2 sings a rhythmic augmentation of the phrase with a complementary melody. When the alto part appears, soprano 1 and 2 have joined in unison, so there are essentially two parts that expand again to three as the emotional tension grows and climaxes with the phrase “but love grows old”, and then decrescendos  with the words “fades away.” The latter part of the song is sung in hushed undertones with the ending repeating “I am in love” as the music gradually fades.  

This is the first of Faith’s arrangements that The Canticle Singers will have performed, but I have a feeling it won’t be the last.

Elaine Hagenberg – I Am the Wind

Elaine Hagenberg is an accomplished pianist and singer who is becoming well-known as a contemporary American composer and arranger of choral music.  She was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington, and studied at Washington State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree, and Portland State University, where she earned a Master of Music degree in choral conducting.  After earning her degree in music, she began raising a family of four children and composing while at home.  Within the last decade, she has become a household word among choral artists, and she composes for a wide range of skill levels.

Hagenberg’s music is known for its lush harmonies, memorable melodies, and sensitive settings of poetry and texts.  Her works have been performed by choruses around the world and have been featured at national and regional music conferences in the United States.  Some of her most well-known pieces include “O Love,”  “The Music of Living,” and “The Tree of Peace.”

In addition to her work as a composer and arranger, Hagenberg is also an active conductor and clinician and has taught at the high school and college levels.  She currently resides in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to compose and arrange music for choirs of all levels.

Hagenberg is a prolific writer. Having been commissioned for over fifty works in the past ten years, she has composed new music for the American Choral Directors Association, professional choirs, colleges, universities, community choirs, high schools, and churches.  

The Canticle Singers will be performing Hagenberg’s “I Am the Wind,” which was commissioned by the National ACDA Women’s Choir Consortium, and named the winner of the 2020 ACDA Brock Competition for Professional Composers.

Elaine Hagenberg’s SSAA setting of “I Am the Wind” is a beautiful and evocative piece of music that captures the spirit of the poem by Zoe Atkins. 

The piece begins with a subtle entrance of a cappella voices, then the piano enters with a simple accompaniment, while the melody is passed between the different voice parts, creating a sense of unity and harmony. The harmonies are lush and complex, with unexpected chord progressions and suspensions that add to the overall sense of wonder and awe.

The poem’s imagery of the wind is reflected in the music through the use of flowing melodies and dynamic contrasts. The choir sings with a sense of longing and nostalgia as if they are being carried away by the wind itself. Beginning with the phrase, “You are the light” there is a very gradual crescendo and building of energy which builds to the end without ever receding.

Says Hagenberg,

In this piece, poet Zöe Atkins compares her uncertainty to the wavering winds and shifting shadows, contrasting with the unchanging stars and secure land. This poetic tension is mirrored musically through rhythmic contrast and dissonant choral harmonies which highlight the power of women’s voices—joining together, offering strength, and, ultimately, soaring as one.

Diane Loomer – Away from the Rolling Sea

Diane Loomer (1940-2012) was a Canadian musician, conductor, and founder of the Elektra Women’s Choir.  She was born on July 31, 1940, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her parents were both music lovers, and her mother played the piano and sang in a choir. Manifesting an early aptitude for music, she began taking piano lessons at the age of six. Loomer continued to study music throughout her childhood and teenage years, and then attended Vancouver’s Magee Secondary School, where she was active in the school choir and studied piano and voice. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at Gustavus Adolphus College, earning her Bachelor of Music degree in 1962.  She earned her Master of Music degree two years later from the University of Arizona.

After graduation, Loomer settled back in Canada.  She founded the Elektra Women’s Choir in 1987 with the goal of creating a choir that celebrated the distinct sound of women’s voices. The choir quickly gained recognition for their exceptional performances and recordings of choral music, particularly music by Canadian and female composers.  The Elektra Choir remains an inspiration for The Canticle Singers.

Under Loomer’s leadership, the Elektra Women’s Choir performed at numerous prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and the Vancouver Olympic Games. The choir has also released numerous recordings.

Loomer was an avid gardener and spent much of her free time tending to her garden at her home in Vancouver. She was also a passionate traveler and enjoyed exploring different cultures and music traditions around the world. Her travels often inspired her work as a composer and conductor. 

Loomer received numerous awards and accolades for her contributions to the arts, including the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia. She made frequent appearances on CBC national radio as a spokesperson for classical arts.   In 1990, she received the Healey Willan Award for her service to choral music in British Columbia, and in 2002, she received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for her contribution to Canadian culture.  Additionally, she was a key figure in the early success of Cypress music publications, which is now a thriving source of new Canadian music.  Diane Loomer passed away in 2012 at the age of 72, but her legacy lives on through the Elektra Women’s Choir and the countless musicians and music lovers she inspired throughout her career.

“Away from the Rolling Sea” is a traditional Newfoundland folk song that was arranged by Diane Loomer for the Elektra Women’s Choir.  Loomer’s beautifully haunting arrangement showcases the versatility of women’s voices.

The arrangement begins with sopranos singing the beginning of the first verse, accompanied by the piano.  The altos take the second phrase, and then the other voices gradually join in, building to a rich harmony that evokes the vast mysteriousness of the sea.

Throughout the arrangement, Loomer creates depth and emotion.  The voices rise and fall in waves, emulating the ebb and flow of the sea.  The dynamics shift from quietly introspective to boldly powerful, conveying the depth of emotions associated with life at sea.

Giving Tuesday Starts Early This Year!

We are excited to participate in GivingTuesday to help kick-start the Canticle Singer’s giving season on Tuesday, November 15th! Our main goal for GivingTuesday is for Canticle Singers to reach new audiences in order to gain a larger and more sustainable support base. Please consider a sustaining monthly gift, and/or a matching challenge so we can meet our $10,000 goal.

Only 30% of our revenue is met through ticket sales and offerings, and we are grateful for them! Our offerings and ticket sales and individual gifts from you, our partners, allow us to maintain musical excellence, recruit the most skilled singers, hire accomplished instrumentalists and bring the highest quality music to our audiences. We understand that everyone is in a unique place financially. We encourage you to begin a FB or Instagram fundraiser on our behalf so that we can continue the excellent programming and grow our audience base. To begin a FB fundraiser, simply follow the link here. Here are instructions for an Instagram fundraiser as well.

Research shows that even a small matching or challenge grant makes a big difference by renewing energy with yearly givers and generating new interest with newcomers or lapsed givers. Our campaign for Canticle Singers will be focused on FaceBook and Instagram giving. Our goal is $10,000 in revenue!  We would like to spur additional engagement and attract new supporters with matching funds or a challenge grant.

 We are ever grateful to our intimate circle of supporters, and it is important to grow our base of individuals who step up to fund our work to inspire others musically. If you know an individual (family member, friend) or if you or your place of business would be interested in partnering with us with a matching gift, we look forward to speaking with you further and sharing our vision.

Thank you!

Canticle Singers 2022 – 2023 Season

Greetings friends!

Welcome back to our new year, and what a full and exciting year it is! We are fortunate to be part of two concert series, perform a world premiere, and collaborate with two other excellent women’s choirs in the Baltimore/Washington area! Your generous partnership makes it all possible, so we are grateful to you!

For our first concert of the season, Visions of Winter, we are honored to be annual guests of the Music at St. David’s Concert Series, The concert will take place on Friday, December 2, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. Debra Dyko, the winner of our 2022 Emerging Composer’s Competition, will be there that evening when we perform the world premiere of her original composition The Vision of the Night Sentry. (Admission is free/offering with a suggested donation of $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors).

On Tuesday, December 6th at 7:00 PM, we will perform at the Roland Park Place Retirement Community. The Canticle Singers has performed for the Roland Park Place Retirement Community for many years. Both residents and singers look forward to this event each year. Please contact Roland Park Place for more information.

We look forward to our final performance of the winter season at Trinity Episcopal Church on Sunday, December 11th at 4:00 PM. Join us afterward for a meet and greet wine and cheese reception where we can share the joy of the holidays together. Admission is free – an offering will be collected.  

Spring Season 2023

We have four official concert dates for our Spring, 2023 performances! Beginning in mid-April, we are thrilled to announce the 2023 Chesapeake Women’s Choral Festival: Songs of the Earth, featuring the Towson Treble Voices – led by Diana Saez, the Washington Women’s Chorale – led by Leona Lowery Fitzhugh, and the Canticle Singers, led by Wendy Wickham.  We are excited about working with the top women’s ensembles in the area and celebrating a diverse palette of music by and for women. The concert will take place on April 15th at 7:00 p.m. at the Maryland State Boychoir Center for the Arts, 3400 Norman Avenue, Baltimore, MD. Admission is free, and an offering will be taken. Please click this link to register: bit.ly/ChesapeakeWomensFest

We are especially grateful to return to the intimate setting of St. John’s Episcopal Church on April 23rd at 5:30 PM for the renowned Music in the Valley series. Stay tuned for programming details. Consider this as a special night out with friends or a special one. This is a ticketed event that will include a delicious buffet meal following the event where you can meet and greet the artists!
Tickets are $45 in advance; $50 at the door.; Students: $25

Friday, May 12th, we will perform our Spring Concert at the Church of the Resurrection at 7:30 p.m. This is followed by a delicious wine and dessert reception where you can meet and greet the artists. Admission is free, and an offering will be collected.

If you are busy on Friday, you can join us for our season finale on Saturday, May 13th, at 7:00 PM at Trinity Episcopal Church. Admission is free, and an offering will be collected. Following the concert, you are cordially invited to a wine and cheese reception where you can join in conversation with members of the group, and learn of our exciting plans for the 2023 – 2024 season.

Composer Competition 2022 – Results!

The Emerging Composer Competition was a success!  We received 52 entries from all of the United States, coast to coast and north to south. Moreover, we received compositions from Armenia, Argentina, Austria, and Brazil! To ensure a non-biased approach to the compositions, our President, Anne Lopez, received all entries, biographies, and pieces of music. She then made sure that all scores were void of personal content and re-cataloged them alphabetically according to the order in which they were received. Beginning with the letter A, and ending with ZZ, it worked out beautifully. The panelists were our Artistic Director, Wendy Wickham, me (Cécile Audette, outreach director), and Douglas Buchanan (composition professor at Peabody Institute of Music).  

We judged the pieces individually and gave each piece a score for matching the criteria in terms of theme, style, and timing. Then we further scored them based upon singability (tessitura, melodic flow) and cohesiveness. We read through all fifty-two and narrowed down the selection of entries to five pieces. When we reached the five, we gathered and sang each part a cappella and with accompaniment. We are thrilled to announce that our composer competition winner this year is Ms. Debra Dyko, with a piece by the title of “Night Sentry!”   You will hear Night Sentry in our Winter Program at David’s Church (4700 Roland Avenue, Baltimore) on Friday, December 2, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. Ms. Dyko will be present at this event. Stay tuned!

About our Featured Composer, Debra Dyko

Debra Dyko has been influenced by the wide range of musical appointments she has held, from modern dance accompanist to her positions as music director of cathedrals and seminaries. Her musical styles span a wide variety of mediums. In addition to her compositions for the choir, she has written for orchestra, band, voice, and chamber ensembles. She has studied with Charles Ruggerio, Alvin Singleton, and William Schirmer. 

Debra earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Composition from Jacksonville University, (Jacksonville, Florida) in 1993. After graduation, she held many positions as an accompanist; and in 1999, she was employed at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, where she began tailoring the music to the skills of the students and ensembles in the seminary.  She also developed performance groups where there were none before and wrote music to fill the gaps in the repertoire.  Ms. Dyko received her Master’s Degree in Organ Performance from Azusa Pacific University in Whittier California in 2006.  She was employed that year by St. Pius V Catholic Church in Buena Park, California, and remained until 2012, when she was hired by St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana. A lifelong learner, she has sought to hone her skills through summer intensives and retreats, including a Summer Composition Intensive at St. Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Indiana) in 2016, the Choral Composers Forum Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) in 2018, the Creative Musicians Retreat Walden School (Dublin, New Hampshire) in 2019, and the East Chamber Music Early Career Composer Festival (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) in 2021. 

Ms. Dyko has previously published with Gia Publications, and other works include:

We look forward to welcoming Ms. Dyko on Friday,  December 2, 2002, at 7:30 p.m. at St. David’s  Church (4700 Roland Avenue, Baltimore) when we premier her composition, The Vision of the Night Sentry!

Says Ms. Dyko about her music:

My music uses rhythmic expressiveness within a tonal palette, using contrapuntal preciseness to blend multiple lines into one unified vision.” 

The original inspiration for The Vision of the Night Sentry was listening to my neighbor practice her viola, as I was arranging music for my church choir. I have taken the traditional words from the English carol and reset them to a new melody. The new melody reflects a more Middle Eastern feel, which gave me the thought [that] the words could be what a sentry would tell an audience, and that also gave me the idea, that, of course, the sentry would hear the teams of men powering the ships and would incorporate the songs in the story.

(Debra Dyko)

Mother’s Day: History and Acknowledgment

The beauty of life is that it is multi-faceted. Mother’s Day has many facets as well. For some, it is a time of great joy, and for others, it is a difficult time. We acknowledge and honor this. The following is a bit of history about the holiday as we prepare to sing for you.

The tradition of honoring mothers stems from the ancient Greeks and Romans when festivals were held for the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.  In Anglican traditions, it was a call in England to return to the Mother Church or Anglican church. Our tradition in the United States came from Ann Reeves Jarvis who, in 1868,  founded several “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” in West Virginia to train women to care for their children.

Two years later, Julia Ward Howe, a suffragist and abolitionist, wrote a “Mother’s Day Peace Proclamation” wherein one day per year would be held to honor world peace.

After Ann Reeves Jarvis passed away, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, petitioned for Mother’s Day to become a holiday to honor the sacrifices of mothers. The first Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1908 during a Methodist Church service in West Virginia, and in 1914, after much petitioning, it became a national holiday.  

That is not the end of the story, as Anna meant for it to be a time of reflection and honor. Soon, florists, stationery shops, and retailers abounded with commercialism.  As this was not Anna’s intention, she denounced the holiday, but it has remained to this day.

Many cultures around the world have set aside one day to honor mothers and caregivers. For some, it is a day of great joy, and for others, it is a reminder of loss. However, we can all agree on one common ground: We have all been children, and if we are here sharing this earth, we have been cared for in some way.  Therefore, our concert theme is honoring mothers and caregivers equally.  

Our concert program, “Nature Sings,” weaves through it several aspects of nature and gratitude. We have chosen to leave Sunday for families this year, and we hope that you will join us on Friday and/or Saturday, May 12th and 13th to celebrate nature, families, and gratitude while allowing the angelic voices of the Canticle Singers to nourish your souls.