by Brett Scott, The Choral Journal
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Read notes for Chords of Love (2002) for SATB chorus and treble voices
Chords of Love was commissioned for the combined choirs of King Philip Middle School and Hall HIgh School of West Hartford. The text is adapted from "The Pilgrim's Farewell", an early American lyric drawn from The Sacred Harp. Although the composer has written entirely new music for this text, her setting reflects the rhythm and harmonic simplicity of the original setting.
Scored for SATB chorus and treble voices (or solo), this piece was clearly written with high school and middle school singers in mind. The treble line is always in unison, either on the melody or in a simple harmonization with the mixed choir. The SATB choir has approachable melodic material with tessituri appropriate to developing voices. The tonal center is centered strongly in Aeolian mode and does not shift over the ourse of the work. The meter also stays constant, with changes of tempo providing variety. Subtly changing, but always managable harmonies keep the recurring statements of the melody fresh.
Constrating textures are the primary method for maintaining the listener's interest. Each verse opens with the treble choir singing the pilgrim's farewell to his friends, accompanied by the mixed choir on either a single held chord or slowly shifting harmonies. The mixed choir sings the verses and refrains in a primarily homophonic texture, occasionally broken by the pairing of voices. The two choirs don't truly join together until the final refrain, which is the most powerful section of the piece. After one more statement of the pilgrim's farewell by the treble choir, all voices sing the final stanza, closing with a resonant nine-part chord. The most colorful harmony and highest notes are reserved for this moment.
Gwyneth Walker has created an energetic and approachable piece out of simple musical material. With moments of real emotional power and a satisfying close, this piece would be a fine choice for an accomplished high school choral program.
From The Choral Journal, November 2004