Larry A. Christiansen
Larry Christiansen received degrees in Music Composition from Ohio Wesleyan University and Northwestern University. His compositions include song-cycles, choral music (both accompanied and unaccompanied), a chamber opera, and works for solo instruments and chamber ensembles. He served on the faculty of Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California until his retirement. He is a member of the Society of Composers and a lawyer with a special interest in copyright law.
Choral Suite - Vanguard Premieres Contest 2004 (Winner - General Category)
In selecting the texts for Choral Suite and in composing the music, I was seeking to make the composition a work rich in contrasts. These contrasts include various tempos, volumes, textures, rhythmic patterns, and melodic contours in response to the various themes, atmospheres, and inflections of the texts.
The first chorus, “Song for a Dance,” begins vigorously with a rhythm suggesting “shake off your heavy trance” and continues with melodic leaps consistent with the words “leap into a dance.” The tempo slows and the volume softens for the text’s reference to the moon and the stars. This passage can be viewed as a transition to the next chorus.
The second chorus, “A Night Song,” is in a moderately slow tempo and features a soprano soloist with a sometimes sustained, sometimes smooth flowing accompaniment in the chorus. This is consistent with the text’s references to “the young May moon” and “the drowsy world is dreaming.” The texture changes and the full chorus presents the words “Then awake, for the heavens look bright my dear.” The ending recalls the opening words and texture of soprano solo with choral accompaniment.
The third chorus, “Streets,” is based on the alternation of greatly contrasting text and music. It begins with a dance-like pattern in the lower voices while the sopranos sing “Let’s dance the jig.” This lively section closes, and a male soloist, singing over a sustained sonority in the chorus, recalls a past love. The lively dance-like music returns. It is followed by the male soloist recalling how his past love broke his heart. The lively dance-like music returns and is followed by the soloist noting that he still treasures the memory of his hours together with his past love. The lively dance-like music returns one final time.
The fourth chorus, “Echo,” is imitative throughout. The moderate tempo and soft dynamic is suggested by the words “Come to me in the silence of the night.” The range of the opening melody is quite narrow. The range broadens in the melody set to the words “Come with soft and rounded cheeks” and reaches a high point to the words “and eyes as bright as sunlight on a stream.” This chorus closes with mild dissonances pointing to the sadness of the closing words: “Come back in tears, O mem’ry, hope, love of finish’d years.”
The final chorus, “To a Skylark,” opens with a vigorous fanfare-like passage to the words, “Hail to thee, blithe spirit.” An imitative section follows. It features a melody of ascending notes reflective of the words “Higher still and higher from the earth thou springest.” The fanfare-like passage returns and leads to an imitative section featuring various combinations of the voices to words imploring the skylark to “Teach me half the gladness that thy brain must know.” This builds to the final return of the fanfare-like passage which closes this chorus. (Notes by the composer, 2004)