Solaris Helps Bring “Lost” Composer to Light

When Solaris Vocal Ensemble, Bella Voce Women’s Chorus (both under the direction of Dr. Dawn Willis) and Counterpoint chorus (under Nathaniel G. Lew’s direction) perform together in concert on Sunday February 18, 2018 at Saint Michael’s College, they will be part of an exciting event, Echoes – the Choral Music of Richard Stoehr.

Solaris is thrilled to be a part of this concert which will bring to the light the not-forgotten but never-heard compositions of Professor Emeritus of Saint Michael’s College, Richard Stoehr (1847-1967.) Most of the works to be performed are debuting for the first time world-wide (!), thanks to the Saint Michael’s Department of Fine Arts, of which Nathaniel Lew is the Department Chair, and also to Solaris’ Collaborative Accompanist, Dr. Susan Summerfield (former Department Chair, retiring from the College this spring.)

Solaris Ensemble have been priming its audience with works by Stoehr for a few past concerts now, having performed his magnificent “Crossing the Bar” in spring of 2017, and in December of 2017, “A Grace for Christmas.”  In the February concert, “…Grace”  will be sung as a charming finale by all three ensembles together.

When Solaris is the featured chorus on February 18, our ensemble will have the privilege of again presenting “Crossing the Bar,” an expansively set piece with a text of triumphant conquest of our last voyage as humans. (see text)

We are likewise excited to present a bit of Stoehr’s sense of humor on the subject of love, entitled “The Great Adventurer.” Although it may not completely align with modern sensibilities in some ways, it never the less is a timeless treatment of a favorite subject matter of the ages. (see text)

In addition to the joint-choral finale, Solaris’ men will join Counterpoint men for Stoehr’s beautiful setting of “Ave Maria.”

We enthusiastically invite you to this unique event, funded in part by a grant from the Marc and Dana vanderHeyden Endowment for the Arts at Saint Michael’s College. Admission to the concert is free, with a voluntary donation taken to help fund a recording project of these marvelous works. Hope to see you there! MORE INFO

Successful and Shining Night

Last night, we gave our This Shining Night concert to an appreciative audience AND raised money for STEPS to End Domestic Violence! Great job, Solaris singers, and thanks to all audience members who helped to make this a successful benefit for STEPS!

It May Be a Cold Night, But It Will Be Shining!

Each year, Solaris proudly fulfills its mission to serve the community through music, by presenting a concert to benefit a local non-profit organization. This Shining Night 2018 is for the benefit of STEPS To End Domestic Violence, for the second year in a row, to help provide a financial boost to this worthy organization. Free concert; attendees are encouraged to make a contribution to STEPS.

The ensemble will perform together as well as in smaller groups and as soloists – a smorgasbord of talent! This free concert will feature vibrant choral works including Richard Stoehr’s expansive Crossing the Bar, Morten Lauridsen’s lovely Sure on this Shining Night, and a sneak preview of our spring 2018 presentation, Carmina Burana!  Also featured will be a delightful array of vocal solos and small group selections showcasing the broad talents of Solaris’ members.

Saturday, February 3, 2018 @ 7:30pm at College Street Congregational Church, Burlington, VT.   Listen here!

Learn More about Richard Stoehr

ECHOES: THE CHORAL MUSIC OF RICHARD STOEHR – Hosted by St. Michael’s College Fine Arts Department

Solaris joins musical forces with Counterpoint and Bella Voce choruses to showcase the rarely heard choral music of Richard Stoehr, a highly respected Viennese composer, author, and teacher. Forced by the Nazis to flee Austria in 1939, Stoehr continued his art at Saint Michael’s College (1941-1950), now the repository for his many works including seven symphonies, two operas, choral music, lieder, numerous chamber works and solo piano music, as well as half a dozen widely used textbooks. During his 50-year career as a teacher, his students included Herbert von Karajan, Erich Leinsdorf, Rudolf Serkin, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and Marlene Dietrich. Solaris, under its Artistic Director Dawn Willis, will perform Stoehr’s magnificent Crossing the Bar and The Great Adventurer. FREE admission.

SUNDAY, February 18, 2018,  3:00pm, McCarthy Arts Center at Saint Michael’s College (More Info Here) and (Here)

Gotta Love this!

Wonderful comment posted online during one of our Holiday Lights concerts:

“We came to see our cousin sing, and have been sitting in rapt attention for the first half. We can’t wait for the second half! I don’t think there is any better compliment than a 10 year old and 12 year old exclaiming ‘This is awesome!’, and I agree.”


A Terrible Beauty – Northern Lights

On the Holiday Lights program:

In honor of our Fifth Anniversary this season, we will sing two pieces from our very first holiday concert – that mentioned in the former post, “Carol from an Irish Cabin”, and “Northern Lights” by Norwegian-born composer Ola Gjelio.

The composer says “this piece is and its text are about beauty. About a ‘terrible’ beauty, powerful beauty, although the music is quite serene on the surface…” as Gjeilo was looking out his window in Oslo, Norway one Christmas he thought about how “this ‘terrible’ beauty is so profoundly reflected in the northern lights, or aurora borealis…” with such “electric quality…mesmerizing…terrifying…”


      The stunning music sets the text:
Pulchra me, amica mea/suavis et decora sicut Jerusalem/terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata/ Averte oculos tuos a me/quia ipsi me avolare fecerunt.

      Which means:
Thou art beautiful, O my love/ sweet and comely as Jerusalem/ terrible as an army set in array/ turn away thy eyes from me, for they have made me flee away.

A Lamb, A Rose, A Cabin

On the Holiday Lights program: three works that will be led by our Assistant Conductor, Frank Whitcomb.

THE LAMB is a sweetly lyrical ballad composed by Christopher Matthews and based on a text by William Blake. Blake’s recognizable text, “Little lamb, who made thee, dost thou know who made thee?” was published in 1776 in “Songs of Innocence.” Blake originally intended his work to be sung, but his musical text was lost. Matthews has set this with a tender hand, evocative of the child-like wonder Blake sought to portray.

      THERE IS NO ROSE by Gary Garcia is based on the same text as Benjamin Britten used in his “Ceremony of Carols,” the rose referring to the Virgin Mary. Garcia’s modern setting is poignant and beautifully melodic. “There is no Rose of such virtue, as is the Rose that bare Jesu – “Res miranda, gaudeamus, transeamus, alleluia!”

       In CAROL FROM AN IRISH CABIN, the lonely speaker, living high above the sea, hopes for a visitor to help welcome a white Christmas. The composer, Dale Wood, musically captures a Celtic spirit in this lovely piece.

Madrigal Singers with Solaris!

Breaking News!

For our Saturday, December 16 concert at College Street Congregational in Burlington, the Champlain Valley Union High School Madrigal Singers (Hinesburg) will join Solaris for the carol “Fum! Fum! Fum!” and also have their solo moment.

We had the pleasure of hearing these young ladies sing for us this last week, and they are really marvelous! Yet another reason to join us for our Holiday Lights concert!

See them performing here:

Lux Aurumque

More on Holiday Lights programming: This past summer, Dr. Willis had the opportunity to meet and speak to composer Eric Whitacre. She had been wanting to program his 1999 composition, “Lux Arumque” for some time, and this holiday concert is the time we will proudly present it! It has special meaning to Solaris, as our mission is the “bring light and meaning” to choral works.

Whitacre rose to viral notice through the phenomenon of his online Virtual Choir in 2010, but had been active as composer, conductor, innovator, broadcaster, and charismatic public speaker prior to that time, with his choral compositions ranking among the most popular and frequently performed of the early 21st century.

Whitacre sets the elegant simplicity of the Edward Esch text, that has been translated into Latin, through an extraordinary use of building, cascading human voices.

Lux (Light)
calida gravisque pura velut aurum (warm & heavy as pure gold)
et canunt angeli molliter (and the angels sing softly)
modo natum. (to the newborn babe.)