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Dallas Chamber Choir & Jon L. Culpepper | Refuge: Our Quest for Sanctuary and Meaning (Live at Texas Choral Directors Association Annual Convention 2019)

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Refuge: Our Quest for Sanctuary and Meaning (Live at Texas Choral Directors Association Annual Convention 2019)

by Dallas Chamber Choir & Jon L. Culpepper

Professional classical chamber choir
Genre: Classical: Choral Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Magnifikat (Live)
Dallas Chamber Choir, Jon L. Culpepper & Matt Shaw
4:16 $0.99
2. Duo Seraphim (Live)
Dallas Chamber Choir & Jon L. Culpepper
2:51 $0.99
3. Judaskuss (The Kiss of Judas) [Live]
Dallas Chamber Choir, Jon L. Culpepper & Andrew Steffen
5:26 $0.99
4. The Cloths of Heaven (Live)
Dallas Chamber Choir, Jon L. Culpepper & Jordan Peek
3:32 $0.99
5. White Stones (Live)
Dallas Chamber Choir, Jon L. Culpepper, Alie Lory & De’evin J. Johnson
6:18 $0.99
6. Divi Sirmi Kumeliņi (Arr. Ethan Sperry) [Live]
Dallas Chamber Choir, Jon L. Culpepper & Matt Shaw
3:22 $0.99
7. Niliriya (Arr. Hyoyoung Ahn) [Live]
Dallas Chamber Choir, Jon L. Culpepper & Shelby Stroud
5:11 $0.99
8. Refuge (Live)
Dallas Chamber Choir, Jon L. Culpepper, Jordan Peek & Daniel Nix
5:56 $0.99
9. My God Is a Rock (Arr. Ily Matthew Maniano) [Live]
Dallas Chamber Choir, Jon L. Culpepper, Shelbi McMullen, Trenton Taber, Alie Lory, Heather Hawk, Anthony McMullen & Andrew Steffen
5:12 $0.99
10. Proud Music of the Storm (Live)
Dallas Chamber Choir, Jon L. Culpepper & Jordan Peek
8:08 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Program Notes

The struggle for refuge and sanctuary has been a durable quest for humanity through the ages from all corners of the earth.
Our program, offering text in six languages that spans three continents, explores this shared human experience through personal
narratives that uncover a complex internal emotional landscape of self-doubt, fear, and regret on the one hand, and of
redemption, hope, and optimism on the other.

Perhaps the earliest Marian hymn in the Christian tradition, the Magnificat (Latin for "My soul magnifies the Lord"), is taken from
the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55). Tradition holds that these are the words spoken by Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant
with John the Baptist. The canticle reveals the depth of Mary’s understanding of her own self-worth, wherein humility is exalted
and emptiness fulfilled. For believers, spiritual faith anchored in a benevolent, relational God is foundational to an internal joy
and meaning. Our program explores this joy in Ily Matthew Maniano’s energetic Latin-Filipino setting, Magnifikat, interlacing
original Latin text with Tagalog phrases and wooden-block percussive patterns common in the southern part of the Philippines.
We are thrilled to give Magnifikat its US premiere. Equally energetic and in keeping with the Christian tradition is a new choral
setting of Duo Seraphim, receiving its World premiere, by one of our own, composer and music educator, Andrew Steffen.
Dedicated to Dallas Chamber Choir for our 2019 TCDA performance, this rhythmic fanfare provides equal parts lilt and heft
with vibrant tonal colors and lyrical cantabiles that crescendo to an exuberant finish. Also dedicated to us is Z. Randall Stroope’s
JUDASKUSS (The Kiss of Judas), setting the provocative text by the Austrian writer, Josef Weinheber (1892-1945), to a violent,
relentless meter mixing German text with a few key phrases in English. The work dramatizes the internal turmoil of Judas who
betrayed Christ—justifying greed, abdicating judgment—overcome ultimately by the weight of regret and disillusionment:

Du bittre Reue, Scham und Gram! Er gap mir mein Geshick.
[You bitter regret, shame, and sorrow! He gave me my fate.]

Departing briefly from the Christian tradition, we encounter the imaginative text of the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats (1865-
1939), who at an early age became fascinated with the occult and esoteric. Yet, The Cloths of Heaven, set to mixed voices with
flowing, impassioned piano by another DCC musician, composer and music educator, Mari Valverde, paints with vivid clarity
the heavens above and nature below in a narrative familiar to anyone’s romantic beat. Perhaps the poet’s own sanctuary lies in
his dreams—But I, being poor have only my dreams—for only there does his poverty (of talent, inspiration, or skill) have self-worth
and meaning. Such vulnerability is echoed in Thomas LaVoy’s White Stones, written when he was just 16 years old! His mother,
the poet Esther Margaret Ayers (1954-), provides the autobiographical text that depicts a duality of fears played out in a vignette
all too familiar to parents and parent-figures. Both depictions are relatable, though the latter is concealed.

Giants are coming here, mama, the child almost inaudibly whispers.
Nothing can hurt you while mama is here, the mother reassures.

She tells white lies to quiet his fears, giving him white stones to throw at giants (a reference to the biblical narrative of David and
Goliath). But like all good stories, this one doesn’t end there. To her astonishment (and ours), she later realizes that the heavy
tread was her own racing heart. We are left to ponder: who will quiet her fears, comfort her worries, strengthen her resolve? The
music and text of White Stones have touched me deeply. That the complex interplays between child and mother, dream and
reality, white lies and parental heartaches were set to such communicative music by an adolescent—with dissonant tonalities
and a haunting, lullaby-quality solo and duet—betrays an enviable and rare wisdom. In the composer’s own words, The music
and text have long been important mental anchors of mine, aiding and comforting me throughout the most difficult and trying periods of my life. Tom, may you continue to slay giants in your creative path!

Other mythical creatures in this imaginative landscape include the Two Grey Steeds depicted in the mythological song, Divi sirmi
kumeliņi, arranged for mixed voices with percussion by Ethan Sperry. In Latvian mythology, Dievs is considered to be the
supreme deity, and Saule is the goddess of the sun. The celestial affairs involve two horses with their golden saddles and silver
harnesses racing to the drumbeat of 7/8 and 3/4 percussion and mythical tonalities in traditional Latvian text. In other ancient
musical traditions, perhaps a blend of myth and folklore, earthly affairs encompass an amalgam of internal torments experienced
by a longing spouse-figure, relieved and pained by her husband’s return from a past life that had all but been forgotten. Will
she dare another chance at happiness or retreat to a familiar loneliness? Such is the drama in the Korean folksong, Niliriya,
receiving its US premiere, arranged by South Korean composer Hyoyoung Ahn, who gives us pentatonic passages in ample 3/4
and 6/8 rhythmic syncopations and melodic lines, setting a rather gleeful backdrop juxtaposed by a heartfelt mezzo solo that
conveys equal parts suffering and rejoicing.

일구월심 그리던 님
ilguwolsim geurideon nim
[My lover whom I have missed with all my heart.]
그 어느 시절 만나볼까
geu eoneu sijeol mannabolka
[I wonder when I can see you.]

Perhaps this internal struggle finds its solace and purpose not from an externality that may promise fulfillment and satisfaction,
not even from one’s hopes and dreams, like “sand [s]ifting through my closed-clenched hand” (Refuge, Sara Teasdale, 1884-
1933). As portrayed by Elaine Hagenberg’s frantic piano arpeggios, our internal turmoil is met with the voice of heartache and despair that longs for freedom from our own enslavement. The melancholy of the double bass captures this depth of despair, while its lyric alto becomes the singing voice that proffers refuge, as if pleading us to create our own in the same manner. Hagenberg captures this self-actualization in successive moments of such intimate self-awakenings when the choir patiently peels back the layers of doubt and insecurity to make way for self-discovery, proclaiming emphatically: If I can sing, I still am free!

The choice, then, rests with us. The raging storms may pound us beat. But when they pass, will we be beaten? In the African-American Spiritual, My God Is a Rock, arranged by Maniano, God is declared a steadfast, foundational figure who provides shelter and safety amid the torrents of life. Musically, the former is characterized by a steady gospel beat, a repetitious refrain, and the drone-like sustains of My God in the bass line; the latter by the jazzy, at times dissonant, glissandos and slides into stratospheric fortes. For believers, sanctuary and meaning are found in the person and salvific mission of Christ.

The American poet, Walt Whitman (1819-1892), whose bicentennial of his birth we celebrate this year, offers an equally
compelling storm-metaphor, depicting nature as a cacophony of sounds that become music, from the earliest recollection of
sounds as in a mother’s lullaby, to the internal agonies and despairs that are part and parcel to our shared, lived humanity. What
is the meaning of these sounds? Why do they overwhelm us? Whitman intercedes in the last two stanzas of Proud Music of the
Storm, set for mixed voices and piano by Jake Runestad, whose work was jointly commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Chorus
and Dallas Independent School District for the Celebration of Singing in honor of the 40th anniversary of the DSC:

Then I woke softly,
And pausing, questioning the music of my dream,
I said to my silent, curious Soul,
Go forth ,
Cheerfully tallying life, walking the world, the real ,
What thou hast heard, O Soul, was not the sound of winds,
Nor dream of raging storm,
But, to a new rhythmus fitted for thee,
Poems, bridging the way from Life to Death,
vaguely wafted in night air, uncaught , unwritten ,
Which, let us go forth in the bold day, and write.

Quite an unexpected twist! Runestad seizes this moment in the poetry to propel us into the familiar 6/8 meter to end with a
resolute and majestic 12/8 beat that lands on write in a perfect fifth that’s held for five bars, while the piano bombasts to a
brilliant, uplifting finish.

Refuge, I submit, is in our art—in our doing, creating, and writing! It is in our work that we encounter meaning, using our
talent, skill, and passion. May we cast aside self-doubt and insecurities to discover ourselves, perhaps for the first time, immersed
in our art, our work, our passion. There we will find not just ourselves anew but also a shared humanity, our own refuge.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot, 1888-1965

-Jon L. Culpepper



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