This professionally recorded CD contains music for mixed and women’s choir, a capella, some with piano accompaniment, some with soloists or strings.
Some selected explanation and background information on the compositions:
- Three works based on the Christian religion: "Lux Aeterna" (a capella version and one with string accompaniment), where the mystery of eternal life is evoked but also questioned. "O Magnum Mysterium" about the mystery of new life. And an "Agnus Dei", seen as a prayer for peace, a difficult theme for humanity.
- "4 Haiku's" (about the 4 seasons) written by Herman Van Rompuy, and set for a capella women's choir or soloists. Short pieces... obviously!
- "Er was eens water" after a poem by the Flemish poet Peter Verhelst, written in response to the shocking photo (2015) of a little boy (Alan Kurdi) who drowned during a crossing of the Mediterranean Sea.
- The song "Mother Earth" is based on a poem by New Zealand writer Nadine Anne Hura. She wrote this poem on the day the world went into lockdown in March 2020. At the same time, she links this to the climate crisis. This poem was intensively shared on Facebook in 2020. For women’s choir and two soloists.
- A song on a text by Edgar Allan Poe: "Spirits of the dead". A text that has a personal meaning to the conductor, Joris Derder.
- “Hope is a thing with feathers”: written during lockdown in the summer of 2020 and can be performed in corona proof fashion.....
- The Voice: an anti-war poem written in the Ypres trenches in the First World War by Alfred Mills. Mixed choir with soprano solo.
- Rilke's poetry is always very grateful to set to music. The poem ‘Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen’ (mixed choir a capella) and the three poems on three animals in the Parisian zoo (women’s choir accompanied by horn) were used for compositions.
On March 3 2023, Wynold Verweij - a reviewer of contemporary classical music for the web-based klassiek-centraal- wrote the following about the CD:
Ghent composer Stefaan Vanheertum has just released his new CD Suoni Celesti. The CD contains choral works he wrote between 2014 and 2021. The collection is the result of a concert that took place September 2022.
Suoni Celesti (heavenly sounds) consists of religious and liturgical works and pieces based on poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, Peter Verhelst, Nadine Anne Hura, Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson. Also included are four short pieces on haikus by Herman Van Rompuy. Performers are the Ghent Singers, Ateneres, Koriolis and Arabesk.
The Roman Catholic religious experience is addressed in three works: Lux Aeterna, where the mystery of eternal life is exuberantly highlighted on the one hand but also nuanced via some dissonances. O Magnum Mysterium is performed in a relatively light setting, with the use of hoketus (hiccups) for the upper voices and a convincingly rousing alleluia. The third is an Agnus Dei, a prayer for peace composed as an antiphon.
4 Haikus, written by Belgian former politician Herman Van Rompuy, deal with the four seasons. These works are simply and accessibly scored for a cappella female choir and soloists.
Er was eens water (Once upon a time, there was water) is inspired by a poem by Flemish poet Peter Verhelst, written in response to the drowning of a young refugee in the Mediterranean in 2015. The result is a sombre musical tale in which the ending words “As loud as we could, we tried to keep thinking there once was, there once was” are respectfully laid down. Pieter Coene, who reads the poem, demonstrates the poignancy of the Dutch language as a recitation art.
Mother Earth, based on a poem by New Zealand’s Nadine Anne Hura, and Spirits of the dead, a song to a text by Edgar Allan Poe, depict finitude (corona and climate crisis) and death.
The CD’s pièce de résistance is The Voice, a World War I poem written by Alfred Mills in the trenches of Ypres. The poem tells the story of a frontline soldier whose thoughts are with his loved one (soprano solo) and who gives him courage not to give up. The choir comments, in keeping with musical tradition, with the mood changing in the middle of the piece when it turns out that “the voice” is not his beloved but actually represents death. At that point, the choir shifts into a kind of trance through the sustained violence. The descending chromatic line of the soprano solo when singing “I’ll always be there to hold your hand” is both compelling and fatalistic. The Voice is richly upholstered, its repetitive melody lines ingeniously interwoven.
The CD closes with 3 Rilke Songs for female choir/ensemble and horn, written in response to Rilke’s visit to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris in 1902. It is a light-hearted and funny description of successively the panther, the flamingos and the parrots who, despite their captivity, try to make the best of it.
This professionally recorded CD contains instrumental music for string orchestra with harpsicord soloist.
Some selected explanation and background information on the compositions:
- Harpsichord concerto (2020) A new harpsichord concerto in three parts. This work was selected for the semi-finals of the “Kaleidoscope call for works 2020”, called for by the University of Los Angeles”.
- Divertimento for strings (2022) : is actually a relaxed distraction, a pleasant walk, in short a divertimento….
- Per Ellie: divertimento de speranza e amore (2020) This work was written on the occasion of the (early) birth in May 2020 of our first granddaughter Ellie in the middle of the first covid-19 lockdown. The music starts off hesitantly and vulnerable, but eventually an ode to life bursts open and the composition ends full of expectation.
- Adagietto for strings (2020) A short piece for strings.
- Lux Aeterna (choir SATB and strings, 2020) is a work in which the mystery of the eternal life (light) is evoked but also questioned.
- 09h02’07” or the “Elegy for the victims of 9/11” (string orchestra 2002) Ode to the victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001. Concert recording of November 2013. The title of the work refers to a precise time indication: a sunny late summer day downtown New York . At 9am , 02 minutes and 7 seconds, a man answers a call from his daughter. She calls on her cell phone. It is September 11, 2001 and at that time his daughter is already at work in one of the two WTC towers . She tells how the tower neighboring the one she works in was hit by a plane . She assures her father that she is okay and they say goodbye. One minute after the call ends the second plane slams into the WTC tower. She is at a level far above the point of impact and does not stand a chance. The phone call was the last contact between father and daughter. This story was told by the father on the American television, three days after the attacks. Like many others in the aftermath of the attack, he shows a picture of her and is desperately looking for her.
At the time of the attacks, I was in the U.S. myself ( New York State not in New York city). The period immediately after the attacks was very strange. Ordinary life was paralyzed for days and everyone was in chock, watching television for hours every day. It became clear later that, for the first time in history, the mobile phone played a crucial role in many ways. Not only because there were many mobile contacts between the terrorists themselves, but also between victims and family members. Especially the many farewell conversations between relatives and loved ones, are moving. The ultimate example is the fact that the fourth hijacked plane, on its way to the White House, crashed after passengers were informed via mobile phones about what was happening and took their destiny into their own hands.
September 11, 2001 marked the new era of communication possibilities. This piece of music evokes serenity but also anger, sadness and triumph, disbelief, despair and finally acceptance . The music refers to the American minimalist and repetitive music . This elegy is dedicated to all the victims of the attacks of 9/11.
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