THE FLORIDA ORCHESTRA | 2019-2020 63
cathedrals. The dean also loved West Side Story, and
hoped Bernstein would write something just as catchy.
After completion, Bernstein wrote back to the dean, saying,
“It is quite popular in feeling, and it has an old-fashioned
sweetness along with its more violent moments.’’ Above
all, Bernstein wanted Chichester Psalms to be easy on the
ears, not the test of dissonance like so much of what was
being written in the 1960s. To console listeners, he wrote
These psalms are a simple and modest affair
Tonal and tuneful and somewhat square
Certain to sicken a stout John Cager
With its tonics and triads in E-flat major
Crisp and concise, Chichester Psalms is in three short parts
that use one entire psalm and sections of others: I. Psalm
108 and 100; II. Psalm 23 and 2; III. Psalm 131 and 133. The
score includes male alto soloist, full choir, and orchestra
An explosive opening greets listeners with Awake, psaltery
and harp! followed by Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
Section II begins with a sweetly sung The Lord is my
shepherd over a lilting harp accompaniment, countered
by tenors and basses ripping out Why do the nations rage.
The orchestra introduces the final section with its tender
Lord, my heart is not haughty, and the work ends in a
luminous plea for unity and peace.
AARON COPLAND (1900-1990)
Duration: ca. 10 minutes
“Why be a composer?” Aaron Copland once asked. “The
rewards are small. No money in the bank. No good reviews
in the papers the next day. You really have to be strong.’’
Copland was, and he endured. He came from a generation
of American composers who competed with European
music, the onslaught of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, big
bands and jazz, the radio, recordings, and a public adverse
to artistic experimentation. Copland fought an uphill
battle. What did he do? He addressed the public head-on,
and gave them music they could understand.
With his 1944 ballet score, Appalachian Spring, Copland
became the most respected serious composer in America.
After experimenting with avant-garde styles, he found
his voice, at least one that comforted a public tiring
of academic formulas. Copland acted on his promise,
producing a string of works that embraced rather than
alienated the public: El Salon Mexico, A Lincoln Portrait,
Rodeo, Billy the Kid, The Tender Land, Fanfare for the
Common Man, and Quiet City. They rode on spacious and
agreeable harmonies, delicate suspensions, and heartfelt
tunes tilled in American soil.
As its name suggests, Quiet City is a soft, delicate work
that hangs over listeners like a mist. It was intended as
incidental music for Irwin Shaw’s failed play of the same
name, but in 1941 Copland turned it into stand-alone
concert piece for trumpet, English horn and strings.
The music opens with a haunting, distant trumpet call
that invites the strings to follow. With no apparent
effort, Copland creates a palpable atmosphere, an urban
impression that could be a late night or early morning
in any city or town across America. It begins in shadow,
evolves gently, and ends in quiet.
ERIC WHITACRE (b. 1970 )
Duration: ca. 20 minutes
Next year, the Hubble Space Telescope will turn 30,
surpassing its expected lifespan and continuing to
snap mind-blowing images from the edge of the known
universe. One of its most iconic pictures is known as
the Hubble Deep Field, a mosaic of nearly 350 separate
exposures taken over 10 days in 1995.
Hubble had an impact on Eric Whitacre, who muses over
the size and scope of our universe in his recent score,
Deep Field. The 20-minute piece for chorus and orchestra
complements the film Deep Field: The Impossible
Magnitude of our Universe, a collaboration among
Whitacre, two production companies, and NASA’s Space
Telescope Science Institute. The original score included
Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 5, made up of more than 8,000
online voices from around the world.
So far this year, the video has appeared at the Smithsonian
Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.; the Dolby
Theatre in London; the World Science Festival in New
York; the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles; the American
Astronomical Society Annual Meeting in Seattle; and in
concert halls around the world.
Whitacre takes audiences on a cosmic ride through the
Milky Way, past supernovas and nebula, a spiral galaxy,
and the distant realm of the Deep Field as seen through
the window of the constellation Ursa Major. “It starts with
our local solar system, our moon and the planets,’’ he said,
“and takes us to the edges of our known universe some 13
billion light years away.’’
Suddenly, the Hubble telescope appears as the chorus
sings wordless text against hushed orchestral textures.
We see our Earth, dotted with a mosaic of human faces,
and soon the planet recedes into the void. Although Deep
Field is essentially a film score, it may be Whitacre’s most
ambitious project, one that combined his love of music
with his fascination for space.
“I spent much of my career writing choral music, but not
as much for orchestra, so with Deep Field I tried things
I’d never tried before,’’ he said. “I was already a space
nut, and this gave me access to all these physicists and
astronauts, so I got to meet some of my heroes.’’
Program notes by Kurt Loft, a freelance writer and
former music critic for the Tampa Tribune.