Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Music Presents O Ever Returning Spring
Inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman and deeply rooted in American history, BU premieres the “Traditional Hymn, ‘For Those We Love Within the Veil’” with the music of Charles Ives and Paul Hindemith
Boston, MA – On Tuesday, April 9, the School of Music at the College of Fine Arts (CFA) at Boston University will pay tribute to the American spirit at Boston’s Symphony Hall.
O Ever Returning Spring!
Boston University Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus
Conducted by David Hoose
With Soloists James Demler, baritone and Penelope Bitzas, mezzo soprano
Tuesday, April 9, 8pm
Traditional Hymn, “For Those We Love within the Veil” (Premiere)
Arrangement by David Hoose
Requiem for Those We Love, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”
Symphony Hall (301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston)
Tickets: $25 General Admission; Student Rush: $10, available at the door, day of performance; One free ticket with BU ID at the door, day of performance, 10am–6pm.
bostonsymphonyhall.org or 617-262-1200
The concert will be webcast live on the School of Music website and will be rebroadcast on the School of Music’s Virtual Concert Hall: bu.edu/cfa/music/virtual-concert-hall.
Listen Boston Symphony Historian Brian Bell and Boston University Symphony Conductor David Hoose recently spoke about the upcoming concert
Inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman, and deeply rooted in the history of our nation, Boston University Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus, under the baton of David Hoose, will premiere the Traditional Hymn, “For Those We Love within the Veil,” with Charles Ives’ Decoration Day and Paul Hindemith’s Requiem for Those We Love, “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d.”
“Walt Whitman inspired many composers, from John Adams to Paul Hindemith to Roger Sessions,” said David Hoose, Conductor of O Ever Lasting Spring. “Whitman’s poetry has been set to music, or referenced in music, more than any other writer in the world to date, except Shakespeare.”
Traditional Hymn, “For Those We Love within the Veil”
The subtitle, For Those we Love of Paul Hindemith’s “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d” is a fitting dedication to two American leaders, and to the fallen dead of two wars — President Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Second World War.
For many years, For Those We Love was thought to be a wordless hymn, until musicologist, Kim Kowalke, discovered the hymn in 1997 in an edition of the hymnal at Christ Church in New Haven, used during the years Hindemith taught at Yale University (1940–1953).
“In his Requiem, Hindemith quotes and re-harmonizes this hymn tune, first quietly in the strings, then in the full orchestra,” said David Hoose, Conductor. “But the very beautiful words, which remember the dead of World War I, are never sung.” Composed for a program that included Hindemith’s Requiem, O Ever Lasting Spring marks the premiere Conductor David Hoose’s arrangement of the Traditional Hymn, “For Those We Love Within the Veil.”
In the 1860s, a day was set aside in the late spring for mourners to bring flowers to decorate the graves of those lost in the Civil War. The day became known as Decoration Day, and later, Memorial Day, in memory of veterans of all American wars.
Considered one of Charles Ives’ most haunting works, the second movement of Ives’ A Symphony: New England Holidays, Decoration Day memorializes the fallen dead of the Civil War, while at the same time, remembering the traditions of his childhood on Decoration Day.
“Charles Ives and Paul Hindemith are very different composers,” said Conductor, David Hoose. “Ives is most impractical, often disorganized, whereas Hindemith’s music, particularly in his later years, was organized. I’ve enjoyed this rare opportunity to find a connection between the two composers in the poetry of Walt Whitman.”
Requiem for Those We Love, “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d”
Born in Germany in 1895, Composer Paul Hindemith fled his home country in 1938 after his music was condemned as Entartete Musik, or “degenerate music,” for its modernism. Following the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who worked tirelessly to help bring about the end of the Second World War, Conductor Robert Shaw, commissioned Hindemith to compose a memorial to the leader most responsible for Germany’s defeat by the allied nations.
For his memorial, Hindemith turned to the words of the American poet who embodied a utopian vision of an egalitarian land uplifted by brotherly love, Walt Whitman. “He not trying to pull at your heart strings,” continued Hoose. “He’s just writing what he hears, and what he believes in.”
Drawing on Whitman’s When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d, written by Whitman in response to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Hindemith, in Requiem for Those We Love, “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d” compressed the poetic form into eleven movements, defining the sound world of his Requiem by controlling his resources.
The voice of the poet belongs to the solo baritone, James Demler, who imparts Whitman’s images, thoughts, and emotional drama with great nobility and expansiveness. The role of the recurrent grey-brown bird is sung by a mezzo-soprano, who is accompanied by soft, burnished strings and plaintive woodwinds in various combinations. The mezzo-soprano has no aria or recitative, but ariosos, a happy medium of expression in which words and melody do not overpower each other.
“Its not about the melody,” continued Hoose. “It’s about the emotion that is present in Whitman’s texts — the heartiness, the sturdiness, and the strength of the American spirit.”
For Hindemith, his Requiem embodied his deepest ideals, many of which resonate in Whitman’s work. “There is a kind of nobility and melancholy within the text,” continued Hoose. “That nobility and that melancholy appeal to the American sensibility. Throughout his Requiem, Hindemith captured the spirit that America aspired to at the time, and still aspires to today.