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Choral Works

My choral works range from religious to secular- Christian to pre-Hindu...
 
Here are recordings of four favorites: a setting of a Walt Whitman poem from his Civil War series "Drum Taps" (movement 4 of my own hour-long piece called "Drum Taps"); a setting of verses from the Rig Veda calling forth the storm gods to bring rain; an earthy blues/rock/doowop setting of a particularly earthy translation of the Genesis creation story and a Christmas cantata in homage to Bach and Gabrieli.  The first and third are a cappella, the second contains a thunderous accompanying piano solo and the cantata uses brass quintet.
 
Look Down, Fair Moon (from "Drum Taps: Nine Poems on Themes of War for mixed choir, SATB soloists and orchestra"
"Look down fair moon and bathe this scene,
Pour softly down night’s nimbus floods
                On faces ghastly, swollen, purple,
On the dead on their backs with arms toss’d wide,
Pour down your unstinted nimbus sacred moon."
Fashion a Hymn in the Mouth
Fashion a Hymn in the Mouth is a setting for mixed choir and piano soloist of excerpts from a Hymn from the Rig Veda, the 3500 year old sacred texts from India. The images in this prayer for rain are those of famers and herders everywhere- fields, animals, the awesome forces of nature- and the texts are wonderfully evocative: “Fashion a hymn in the mouth, expand like the cloud, sing a song of praise….” The musical setting is dramatic, moving from despair to questioning divine intentions to ecstatic, ritual prayer.
 
The Godmaking of the Skies and the Earth

Hebrew scholar Harris Lenowitz' English translation of "Priestly Genesis" was an astonishing discovery for me in his book: Origins: Creation Myths of the Eastern Mediterranean."  Earthy and full of surprises, it demanded musical setting.  Lenowitz explained to me over the phone that he had sought to replicate in English the folk-like quality of the original ancient Hebrew- before it received its glorious "King James" and later "modern" renditions. When I asked him for permission to set it in "vernacular" musical styles including gospel, doowop, and rock, he was enthusiastic about it as being entirely consistent with his ideas. Indeed he had grown up in Texas listening to the music and speech of an elderly African American man who worked for his father and who had filled his ears with gospel and blues and the cadences of southern preachers, and he wondered out loud if maybe that had had some influence on his writing of this translation.  My setting is like a story told by a folk preacher, embellished and dramatized with the fiery folk music of my time.

 

I also asked Professor Lenowitz about the surprising use of the plural "gods" in the text.  His explanation was that "Elohim" is a plural form (gods), always understood of course, in the world's first monotheistic religion, to be a unique form, rather like the monarch's royal "we."  Nonetheless, in the very early Hebrew texts with which Lenowitz works, there is always the hint of the polytheism from which early Hebrew society was emerging as it left Southern Iraq for the Mediterranean.  In this translation he decided to let the folk language refer to the divine in the plural "as an experiment" in representing the lingering polytheism of folk religions contemporary with the writing of the Priestly Genesis text.

 

The Godmaking of the Skies and the Earth is an "experiment" then, in theology, translation and music- a merging of the ancient and the modern, the solemn and the joyous, the earthly and the divine.


Officium Pastorum (The Office of the Shepherds) is a 20 minute Christmas cantata for mixed choir, soloists and brass quintet. The text is from a late medieval Nativity play, originally performed in church on Christmas morning, and is sung by antiphonal choirs in both Latin and English. The form follows Bach as this was written on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of his birth. The commission specified brass quintet and so Gabrieli is also an influence, as is Poulenc (!) for the more "lively" sections of the piece. All the music is derived from the great Lutheran Christmas chorale Vom Himmel hoch.- from the mysterious opening phrases to the cheerful shepherds' song to the fugal fifth movement which concludes the first half. In good Bach fashion, the audience joins in singing the full chorale along with the performers in the final movement. The ten movements are below listed as OP 01-OP 10.

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5 Look Down fair Moon.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Jun 3, 2012, 9:41 PM
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Fashion a Hymn LIVE.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Jun 3, 2012, 8:18 PM
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Godmaking.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Jun 3, 2012, 8:39 PM
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OP01.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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OP02.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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OP03.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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OP04.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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OP05.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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OP06.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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OP07.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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OP08.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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OP09.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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OP10.mp3
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Gregory Youtz,
Mar 8, 2016, 12:46 PM
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