Happy Thanksgiving!

We are all wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving! From Turkey Day it’s only 22 days to our first Holiday Lights concert!

Solaris & composer Richard Stoehr

Continuing on with more about our Holiday Lights concerts programming:

We will present two pieces by Richard Stoehr – A Grace for Christmas, and Ave Maria.

If you have been following us for long, you will have seen that Solaris, through Dr. Willis and Dr. Summerfield has made a connection to the music of Stöhr. He was a well-respected composer and teacher in Vienna, Austria prior to WWII, but was forced to flee Europe by the Nazis. During the Anschluss in March 1938 Stöhr had been immediately identified by Nazi officials as a Jew and fired from his position at the Vienna Academy of Music.

In 1939, he emigrated to the United States, and took a position at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (here using the spelling Stoehr). When the war caused Curtis to downsize, Stoehr was out of a position, but quickly found another in Vermont at Saint Michael’s College, where he taught German and also music courses.

He continued at Saint Michael’s until his retirement in 1950 – he also continued to compose prolifically. However, none of his U.S. compositions were published. Saint Michael’s serves as the repository of those works, spanning all genres of music except opera.

During his 50 year career as a teacher his students numbered in the thousands and included Herbert von Karajan, Erich Leinsdorf, Rudolf Serkin, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and Marlene Dietrich. Richard Stoehr died in December, 1967 in Montpelier, Vermont and is buried in Merrill Cemetery in Colchester. More: http://www.richardstoehr.com/saint-michaels-college-the-1940s/

His charming A Grace for Christmas features soloist Brianne Keith, and his setting of Ave Maria features the entire men’s section with tenor soloist David Tetrault.

Magnificat Holidays

More on our Holiday Lights programming: We will perform “Magnificat in B-flat major,” which, though attributed to his student Pergolesi (not in his own time, but from about 1910 on) was written by Francesco Durante. It is as important a piece of 18th-century Italian sacred music as Vivaldi’s “Gloria” or Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater.”

Set in cantata form, it is masterful in use of polyphonic form as well as introducing pre-classical elements that set it apart from other works of its period. Durante wrote a five-part, as well as a four-part version; the more often used four-part version is what Solaris will present.

The Green Taylor String Quartet accompanies, as well as Dr. Susan Summerfield, playing the organ. Solaris members tenor Matt DeDiana, alto Sarah Gleich, bass Mark Madison, and soprano Linda Wheeler are the soloists.

In canonical terms, Magnificat is “the Canticle (song) of Mary,” Mary’s glorification of God in the miracle of the birth of Jesus.

Solaris Premieres Brand New Work

It sifts from Leaden Sieves – (291)

By Emily Dickinson


It sifts from Leaden Sieves –

It powders all the Wood.

It fills with Alabaster Wool

The Wrinkles of the Road –


It makes an even Face

Of Mountain, and of Plain –

Unbroken Forehead from the East

Unto the East again –


It reaches to the Fence –

It wraps it Rail by Rail

Till it is lost in Fleeces –

It deals Celestial Vail


To Stump, and Stack – and Stem –

A Summer’s empty Room –

Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,

Recordless, but for them –


It Ruffles Wrists of Posts

As Ankles of a Queen –

Then stills its Artisans – like Ghosts –

Denying they have been –


Solaris will be premiering the composition based on this poem, that tenor member David J. Tetreault has written especially for our ensemble! DJ is currently pursuing his MFA in Music Composition at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. We are very pleased to be the ones to sing this piece in its first, but surely not its last, performance! DJ was struck with the wonderful imagery in the poem, and has set it beautifully. We will perform it in our Holiday Lights concerts! (see “Concerts & Events”)


Annual Photo Shoot

Once a year, we do a photo shoot. This year was in September, in Jericho. While there, we visited Pat & Beth O’Connor’s backyard, which just happens to be the home of “Little Fenway,” “Little Wrigley Field,” and “Little Field of Dreams.” The O’Connors built these 1/4 size, exact replicas of the 3 ball fields, and hold whiffle ball tournaments there, which to date have raised $4 million for charity! (click on the images to see larger version)

Loss of a Musical Giant: Robert DeCormier

Robert DeCormier, beloved friend, mentor, teacher, conductor, champion of peace and justice – with whom Dr. Willis and many singers in our ensemble had a special relationship – passed away November 7, 2017.  Dr. Willis served as assistant to him during part of his time with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and almost half of Solaris members had an association with him as singers under his baton in that chorus and other choral projects. His kindness, humanity, passion for music, and love touched each of deeply, and yet we are only a tiny percentage of the hundreds and hundreds of people he has touched through music. His legacy will go on and on through his marvelous arrangements of American music – spirituals, folk songs, carols, original compositions, and other world music. We will honor him again and again through his music for years to come, and know he will be smiling upon us as we do so. Thank you Robert, for so many wonderful musical memories. All of Solaris sends our condolences and love to his family at this sad time.

Thanks for the Invitation!

Dr. Willis and the Solaris singers thank the Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center and Patrick Brown, its Director, for having invited us to perform last Saturday, November 4th for “A Night at the Opera.” It was a pleasure to hear the wonderful soloists and to perform for the appreciative audience.

Solaris Sings in “Night at the Opera”

The Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center is sponsoring a benefit concert “A Night at the Opera” to raise funds for the annual Burlington Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Remembrance and to support Caribbean Hurricane Relief Initiatives. Classical Musicians   will be performing works by Mozart, Verdi, Mascagni and Massenet. David Neiweem will play the Grand March from Aida on the Organ, Solaris Vocal Ensemble will perform the famous Va pensiero (the Slave Chorus) from Nabucco.  Soloists Sarah Cullins, Juliana Krajcovic, Keaun Guy and Hyung Song will perform operatic arias and Julia Deziel will play the Meditation (Violin Solo) from Thais.

Tickets: Available at the First Congregational Church, Peace & Justice Center and WM Ticket Office.

Invitation to Support Us

Fall 2017

Dear Friends of Solaris,

Solaris is celebrating our Fifth Anniversary this season and we have extraordinary performances planned for you! This would not be possible without your faithful support and continued presence with us during this very special musical journey.

New this season – Solaris has added a third December concert!  Our festive trio of Holiday Lights concerts in  December will feature works by Saint Michael’s College professor emeritus, Richard Stoehr (1874-1967), a prolific and highly-respected Austrian composer, who began his teaching career at the prestigious Academy of Music in Vienna.  Fleeing the Nazis, he came to the US and accepted a teaching position at the renowned Curtis Institute. When the Institute was forced to let some faculty members go due to the reduced number of male students during the war years, Richard Stoehr accepted a position teaching German and Music at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester.  Solaris will perform his setting of the timeless Ave Maria text and A Grace for Christmas.

The concert will also include Leonard Bernstein’s Gloria Tibi.  Bernstein was a student of Stoehr’s at Curtis.  Eric Whitacre’s stunning Lux Aurumque and two favorite pieces from our very first concert, Dale Wood’s lovely Carol from an Irish Cabin, and Ola Gjeilo’s ethereal Northern Lights will capture the vocal diversity that is Solaris’ hallmark. The program’s centerpiece is Francesco Durante’s majestic Magnificat featuring our very special guest artists, the Green Taylor String Quartet.

In February we are delighted to present our annual This Shining Night benefit concert in support of the Burlington-based non-profit organization, STEPS to End Domestic Violence. Also in February Solaris will be joined by our friends from the Counterpoint Chorus and the Bella Voce Women’s Chorus to present a joint program of Richard Stoehr’s profound but under-performed choral works.

Finally, to cap off this amazing Fifth Anniversary celebration, Solaris will present Carl Orff’s exciting and popular work Carmina Burana. The powerful vocal score includes robust and evocative music for the full chorus and deeply moving and dramatic music for soprano, tenor, and baritone soloists. The instrumental forces for this major work will be pianists performing on two pianos and an extensive percussion section led by UVM Professor and Vermont Symphony Orchestra Principal Percussionist Thomas Toner. Plan to buy your tickets early through our website for our single performance of Carmina Burana in April.

Please be sure to mark your calendar for these exciting Solaris 2017-18 season performances. You can stay up-to-date with Solaris by following us on Facebook or at our website www.SolarisEnsemble.org where you can also subscribe to our email communication.

As we prepare for this remarkable anniversary season, on behalf of Solaris, I wish again to thank you for your ongoing support of the musical arts and hope you will continue to support us in this coming year. Solaris’ commitment to bring light and meaning to great choral works would not be possible without you.  Donations received by November 17 will be included in the donor listing in our fall and spring concert programs.

I look forward to seeing you during this special anniversary year and again, my sincere gratitude for your generosity.


John Buck, Solaris Board Chair