Las Cantantes Women's Choir, University of New Mexico, Maxine Thévenot, director
Anne Laird and Maxine Thévenot, piano; Iain Quinn, organ
Imant Raminsh (b. 1943): In the Beginning
Robert Nelson (arr.): Steal Away *
Bradley Ellingboe (b. 1958): Getting Used to Heavens *
Imant Raminsh: Chariot Children
Eugene Butler (b. 1935): Autumn Song
Richard Kidd (1954): Wind Song
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): Tantum Ergo
Léo Delibes (1836-1891): Messe brève
Nicholas White (b. 1967): Magnificat & Nunc dimittis
Jean Langlais (1907-1991): Cinq Motets
Ave mundi Gloria
O Salutaris hostia
O Bone Jesu
Glenda Tippett (arr.): Dream a Little Dream (Schwandt, André, Kahn, composers)
Daniel Kallmann (arr.): My God Is a Rock *
Imant Raminsh (b. 1943) is a Canadian composer who emigrated from Latvia at age 5 and became a Canadian citizen in 1954. A composer of much chamber and orchestral music, his ouvre include a large number of choral works as well. In the Beginning and The Chariot Children were created in 1991 and 1992, respectively, for female chorus and piano accompaniment. The earlier piece is based on the Book of Genesis and the text of The Chariot Children is by Cyril Dabydeen (b. 1945), a widely-published Guyanese-born Canadian writer teaching English at the University of Ottawa.
Robert Nelson arranged the Gospel song Steal Away to Jesus in 2004 for treble voices and dedicated it to the American Festival for the Arts held in Houston, Texas, that year. It was published in 2006. He is professor of composition and music theory at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston and composes choral works, songs, as well as operas and other music for the theatre, including incidental music for most of Shakespeare’s plays. Steal Away to Jesus has been attributed to the mid-19th-century slave Wallace Willis by researchers who traced its first transcription to Rev. Alexander Reid some years after hearing Willis sing it during the 1850s while Willis was laboring at the Spencer Academy, where Reid was superintendent, in the Choctaw Nation of what is now Oklahoma. Reid also transcribed other songs he heard sung by “Uncle Wallace” and “Aunt Minerva” Willis including Swing Low Sweet Chariot, The Angels are Coming, I’m a Rolling, and Roll Jordan Roll and sent them to the Jubilee Singers at Fisk University. They were sung in programs by the Jubilee Singers and published in 1872. Did the Willises compose these songs? Some historians suggest that abolitionists used Steal Away and some other spirituals as a veiled entreaty to rebellion among slaves.
Bradley Ellingboe (b. 1958), professor of music at the University of New Mexico and director of choral activities, was founding director of Las Cantantes 1994-2007. Prolific as a composer of choral music, more than one hundred of his works are published. Getting Used to Heavens uses the text of a poem written in French by the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke and reflects encounters with art and music.
Eugene Butler (b. 1935) composed this setting of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Autumn Song for treble voices and published it in 1981. To devote more of his time to composing, Dr. Butler retired in 1998 after a long teaching career and work as a municipal choral conductor and church musician, his last educational post having been Director of Choral Activities and Music Theory at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. Some 750 of his works, mostly choral, are published.
Richard Kidd (b. 1954) is Organist and Director of Music at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, and has served in that post since 1986. He emigrated from England to Montreal in his youth and graduated from McGill University. In addition to composing and his cathedral job, he is also a trombonist in Symphony New Brunswick and a harpsichordist. The text of Wind Song is based on words which describe differing types of wind.
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) held a long association with the fashionable church of La Madeleine in Paris beginning in 1877, where he was choirmaster under Théodore Dubois; he succeeded Dubois as organist in 1896 and remained there for many years. His Tantum ergo is set for three-part women’s choir with organ accompaniment. It was published in 1894 as No. 2 in Op. 65. Of course, Fauré holds great fame as a composer in all genres, especially songs, but also chamber works and his beloved Requiem. His incidental music composed in 1898 for Maurice Maeterlinck’s play, Pelleas et Melisande, is well known as an orchestral suite. Tantum ergo are the opening words of the last two stanzas of a hymn composed by St. Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi to honor the institution of the Eucharist. The last two stanzas are sung during veneration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament as a rite in liturgical Christian churches, especially Roman Catholic churches. The words are translated “Down in adoration falling, this great Sacrament we hail . . .” A literal translation from the Latin is, “Let us, with heads bowed, venerate so great a Sacrament . . .”
Léo Delibes (1836-1891) worked in the Paris musical theatre and played the organ in a Paris church following his study with Aldolphe Adam at the Paris Conservatoire, where he later taught. He is well known for composing operas (such as Le Roi l’a dit and Lakmé), operettas, and ballet music (Coppélia, Naila and Sylvia) and vocal music with various ensembles. Messe brève (a musical setting of the Mass made brief by omission of the Credo) was composed in 1875 for treble voices and organ accompaniment. So thoroughly had opera and musical theatre pervaded mid-19th-century culture that music performed in church, such as this Mass, was composed to emulate in some ways the music that was heard in the opera house and theatre.
Nicholas White (b. 1967) composed this Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (the canticles sung at Evensong in liturgical churches) in 2000 for the boy choir of the Washington National Cathedral. Raised in England and trained as a treble chorister, at age 15 he took his first position as an organist and choirmaster. He was Organ Scholar at Clare College, Cambridge, 1986-89, after which he emigrated to the United States. From 1994-1998 he was Assistant Organist and Choirmaster of Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, and has served in several other US churches in New York and Philadelphia. He now serves St. John’s Episcopal Church, Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, and is Artistic Director of Joyful Noise, an organization in northwest Connecticut that supports five choral ensembles involving more than one hundred singers, age 5 to adult. He is the founding director of the New York city vocal ensemble, Tiffany Consort. Composing almost exclusively for solo voice and choral ensembles, his many works are published by four major houses and also by himself.
Jean Langlais (1907-1991) composed the first three of the Cinq Motets and premiered them in 1933 (May 29) at Sainte-Antoine-des-Quinze-Vingts in Paris. The latter two motets were composed in 1941 and 1942, respectively. They are written in two voices with organ accompaniment. Langlais, blind from age 2, was sent from his home in Brittany to the School for Blind Children in Paris (established in 1784, the first such school in the world), where he first learned to play the organ. The school had established an organ class for blind students in 1826, and had 14 organ students enrolled by 1833. He continued music study at the Paris Conservatoire with Marcel Dupré, André Marchal, and Paul Dukas, then returned to the Blind Institute to teach. Well adapted to his blindness, he minimized the disability and became well-known as an organist, eventually taking the position of titulaire organist at the Basilica of St-Clotilde in Paris in 1945 and holding the post for 42 years, succeeding illustrious predecessors César Franck, Gabriel Pierné, and Charles Tournemire. He composed at least 250 works, mostly for organ or vocal ensembles.
Dream a Little Dream was first recorded in 1931 by Ozzie Nelson and his orchestra, and many others have recorded it since, perhaps the most famous recording being that made by Mama Cass Eliot in 1968. Fabian Andre (1910-1960) and Wilbur Schwandt (1904-1998) composed the music, and Gus Kahn (1886-1941) wrote the lyrics. Glenda Tippett (1916-2009) arranged the song for treble choir.
Daniel Kallman (b. 1956) composes secular and sacred works for all types of ensembles and soloists, symphony orchestra and large choirs to church congregations and concert bands. He received his musical training at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and at the University of Minnesota studying composition with Dominick Argento and Paul Fetler. The Gospel song My God Is a Rock in a Weary Land was set for treble choir in 2004. He writes, “I conducted the premiere of this spiritual setting in May 2004 with the New World Singers of the Columbus (Ohio) Children’s Choir, Sandy Mathias, Music Director. We dedicated the performance to the memory of Moses Hogan. He was originally to have fulfilled the commission which he had offered as a gift through the annual Chorus America silent auction. The Columbus Children’s Choir had purchased the item in 2001, and after Moses’ untimely death, Sandra contacted me to request that I fulfill it.”
The women’s chorus, Las Cantantes, is directed by Dr. Maxine Thévenot. The group is comprised of 20 singers who are selected via audition. This ensemble studies, rehearses and performs the finest literature written for treble voices. The ensemble is, at times, accompanied by other instruments such as the harp, percussion, piano, and pipe organ.
Performances occur several times throughout each academic term both on and off campus at many local churches, synagogues and concert halls including: Keller Hall; The Bill & Barbara Richardson Pavillion, UNM Hospital; The Cathedral of St. John; and Faith Lutheran Church.
Las Cantantes was founded in 1994 by Professor Bradley Ellingboe and during his fourteen-year tenure as its director, the group collaborated with such important musical figures as Libby Larsen and Dave Brubeck, and enjoyed master classes with such eminent musicians as Alice Parker and Moses Hogan. Also during Prof. Ellingboe’s tenure, the choir toured in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, where they sang for the American Choral Directors Association Regional Convention. In addition to two compact disc recordings with Prof. Ellingboe, their holiday special, Enchantment at Chimayo, made in conjunction with the UNM Chamber Orchestra, has been heard on NPR stations throughout the United States.
Directed by Dr. Maxine Thévenot since the Fall of 2007, Las Cantantes has performed three dozen concerts and has recorded a Christmas CD, My Dancing Day (Raven OAR-980). The CD features premiere recordings of several works composed for the Christmas season and includes works by New Mexican composers Bradley Ellingboe and Frederick Frahm.
Based on the success of this recording, during the week of May 26th-31st, 2009, Las Cantantes was invited to sing concerts in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Church on lower Broadway, the historic Cathedral of the Incarnation, and Church of the Heavenly Rest. They continue to work with living composers in the preparation of premiere performances of new works.
Las Cantantes 2009-2010
An accomplished, respected, and dynamic choral conductor much in demand, Dr. Maxine Thévenot has directed ensembles across North America. She also maintains an active career as an international organist, is a visiting lecturer at universities, is a recording artist, and is a published writer and photographer. In addition to directing Las Cantantes, Dr. Thévenot serves as the Founding & Artistic Director of the professional vocal ensemble, POLYPHONY: Voices of New Mexico, and as the Director of Cathedral Music & Organist at the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque. The Choir of the Cathedral of St. John toured in the UK with her in 2007 and will sing services under her direction in 2010 at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Southwark Cathedral in London and will sing in residence at York Minster. Maxine Thévenot was the Founding Director of the women’s ensemble, Concentus, while serving on the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City in 2005. Concentus is an auditioned, 30-voice ensemble comprised of freshman and sophomore composition, guitar, piano and vocal students. They have collaborated with their male counterpart, Camerata, in the presentation of large-scale choir and orchestra works. Concentus has commissioned works including the 2005 world premiere of Sicut Rosa by American composer Hayes Biggs who dedicated the work to Maxine Thévenot and Concentus. Dr. Thévenot also served as the Associate Conductor for the Manhattan School of Music Chorus comprised of 120 freshmen and sophomore students from 2002-2004.
From 2003-2005, Dr. Thévenot served as the Associate Choirmaster at The Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York, where she was the Director of the Cathedral Girls Choir and the Schola Cantorum. Both ensembles sang for weekly choral services and bi-annual concerts. They toured the UK in 2004.
Past choral experiences have included working in Canada as Senior Accompanist and Assistant Conductor, Calgary Girls Choir; Calgary Philharmonic Chorus, rehearsal pianist and Assistant Conductor; Assistant Conductor, Cathedral Church of the Redeemer Cathedral Choir, Calgary, Alberta; rehearsal pianist and Assistant Conductor, University of Saskatchewan, University Chorus, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Dr. Thévenot received the Bachelor of Music in Music Education with distinction from the University of Saskatchewan, and the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in organ performance from the Manhattan School of Music, New York, where she was twice-awarded the Bronson Ragan Award for “most outstanding organist.” She also holds the Associate diplomas from the Royal Canadian College of Organists and the Royal Conservatory of Music. In December 2006, Dr. Thévenot was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the National College of Music, London, UK, for her services to music.
As concert organist, Maxine Thévenot has recorded three discs for Raven: L'Orgue Magnifique playing the landmark organ built at Girard College, Philadelphia, in 1933 by Ernest Skinner (OAR-909); and Without Boundaries and Fiesta! (OAR-890 and OAR-912) played on the 2002 Reuter organ at the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque. She accompanies the cathedral choir on the recordings Missa Orbis Factor (OAR-907) and Missa Omnes Sancti (OAR-901), conducting several works on the former. All include first recordings of new works.