by Daniel Hathaway
IN THIS EDITION:
. Kent State mega-concert at Severance tonight marks 1970 shootings
. May Day follow-ups: Magdalen Choir goes live again, lay clerks trounce choristers
. Almanac: Haydn’s Creation debuts in Vienna
TODAY’S FEATURED EVENT:
Tonight’s 7 pm performance at Severance by some 300 Kent State School of Music and University students will commemorate the tragic Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970 through “Stories of Peace, Protest, and Reflection.”
Performers include the Kent Wind Ensemble, Kent State Symphony Band, Kent State Youth Winds, Kent State Jazz Orchestra, Nova Jazz Singers, Kent State University Orchestra, guest spoken word artist Orlando Watson, Kent State Opera Theatre with vocal soloists Timothy Culver, Kishna Fowler, Lara Troyer, and Brian Keith Johnson, the Kent State Thai Ensemble, Kent State student dancers and New Music Ensemble.
The program will build to a climax with performances by guest artist David Shifrin, who will be featured in Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto with the Kent State Orchestra, Jungho Kim, conducting. Kent State Choirs will perform Brahms’ “Wie lieblich ist deine Wohnungen” from the Requiem), and for a grand finale, those voices will combine under the direction of Scott MacPherson with KSU Voices United, Cleveland School of the Arts Singers , and the Kent State African and Percussion Ensembles for “Be the Change” from the Justice Choir Songbook, arranged and conducted by Kent State alumnus Bryon Black II .
Yesterday was May Day, an important day in the human calendar.
A variety of traditions, both religious and secular, are associated with the first day of the fifth month in most cultures that have slogged through weeks of winter and are more than ready to celebrate the return of balmy breezes and the reflowering of the earth.
One tradition that’s persisted for over 500 years in England is the May Day morning singing of hymns and madrigals by the Magdalen College Choir from its iconic tower in Oxford.
That didn’t happen in May of 2020 nor in May of 2021 due to the pandemic, but Oxonians were out in force at dawn yesterday to witness the return of the ritual. Watch a video here.
There’s more to the tradition than elevated motets and madrigals, as this report on the Magdalen Choir’s Facebook page notes:
After singing on the Tower, the choir traditionally fills time between breakfast and Eucharist with a fiercely contested football match.
This year’s clerks contingent heroically ran out 4-2 winners, with our very own Geoff Hurst, Mr. Hodgkiss (number 10), impressively scoring all 4 goals.
Commiserations to the choristers, who should be proud of their performance – benefiting from a fortuitous own goal from Mr. Brown, and a tidy finish from young probational talent. But it just wasn’t to be in the end, and the clerks held on for a well-earned victory, which ends an embarrassing spell of four straight defeats in the contest.
May Day is also associated with the international labor movement, and an article in Van Magazine suggests a playlist of music to remind us of that connection:
In the last century, labor movements challenged the nature of work, fought for the humanity of the worker, and ultimately questioned the idea of a fulfilling life—and who was entitled to live such a life. It’s a theme that came up continually for composers, many of whom, despite working in a medium that catered to the wealthy industrialists who served as figureheads for inhumane working conditions, sided with the workers. This playlist brings together a selection of works by those composers, as well as those of a few working today who have picked up the thread…and one unlikely late Romantic who stumbled ass-backwards into the cause.
And speaking of May Day music, Joseph Haydn’s wonderful oratorio The Creation was first performed on May 2, 1798 at Schwarzenberg Palace in Vienna. Full of the composer’s signature gestures — the opening representation of Chaos, the musical portraits of animals and insects as the hand of God places them on the earth — it makes for a fine listen as the spring once more (at least) renews our world.
Lots of recordings, but here’s a thrilling one by the Harvard University Choir and Grand Harmonie led by Edward Elwyn Jones in 2017..