Friday, November 18, 2011

Brahms Texts and Translations

Sechs Quartette, op. 112, no. 1
Sehnsucht, Johannes Brahms

The waters run day and night;
your yearning awakes.

You think of times past,
now so far away.

You gaze out into the morning light
and are alone.

The waters run day and night;
your yearning awakes.

            Franz Kugler

Sechs Quartette, op. 112, no. 2
Nächtens, Johannes Brahms

            At night the deranged,
            deceitful specters awake
            and perplex your mind.

            At night in the flower garden
            hoarfrost has fallen; in vain
            you would wait for the blossoms.

            At night grief and sorrow
            entrenched themselves in your heart,
            and the morning looks upon tears.

                        Franz Kugler

Drei Quartette, op. 31, no. 2
Neckereien, Johannes Brahms

            Indeed, my sweetheart, I want to court you,
            to introduce you as my dear wife at my house.
            You’ll be mine, my darling, indeed you will be mine,
            even if you don’t to be.

            Then I’ll become a little white dove;
            I already want to fly away, I want to fly into the forest.
            I don’t want to be yours, I don’t want to be your sweetheart,
            not for one hour.

            I have a good little rifle that shoots pretty easily;
            I will shoot down the little dove there in the forest.
            You’ll be mine, my darling, indeed you will be mine,
            even if you don’t want to be.

            Then I’ll become a fish, a golden fish;
            I will indeed escape into the fresh water.
            I don’t want to be yours, I don’t want to be your sweetheart,
            not for one hour.

            I have a good little net that fishes quite well;
            I’ll catch me the golden fish in the stream.
            You’ll be mine, my darling, indeed you will be mine,
            even if you don’t want to be.

            Then I’ll become a bunny, full of speed,
            and run off into the field, the wide field.
            I don’t want to be yours, I don’t want to be your sweetheart,
            not even for one hour.

            I have a good little dog, rather clever and sly,
            that will surely catch the bunny in the field.
            You’ll be mine, my darling, indeed you will be mine,
            even if you don’t want to be.

                              Moravian; Josef Wenzig, trans.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Successful Concerts

UAHuntsville is celebrating two very successful choral concerts this weekend.  Both the Concert Choir and the Chamber Choir performed very well, and I couldn't be more pleased.

I hope that this impels them to work even harder and prepare even more for the next endeavor.  My standards never change, of course; well, they may get higher.  In fact, I encourage them always to make the next performance better than the last even if it's the same repertoire.  Nothing in life should remain stagnant, or worse, fall backwards.

I was especially proud of the Chamber Choir today and their performance of the Hindemith Six Chansons, and their interpretation of O'Regan's Threshold of Night.  We'll be singing both pieces at AMEA in January, and I'm very excited for the members of that organization to hear them.  It will be very exciting.

For now, though, I'm going to take a little break and have some dinner out with my husband.

Night, all.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

UAHuntsville's Concert Choir performance at the AL-ACDA Collegiate Choral Festival, November 10, 2011

Picture it: the alarm goes off at 530am and my husband pops out of bed.  I, on the other hand, groan and bemoan my fate.  I hate mornings.  I really, really, really hate mornings.  However, on this morning, after groaning and moaning, I slowly wake up and tune into NPR on my clock radio while slowly becoming conscious; at the same time, I remember why I am waking up so damned early.  Oh, yeah!  The Concert Choir is singing at the AL-ACDA Collegiate Choral Festival in Birmingham today.  And suddenly, I am full of energy.  I am very excited about this young group of students this year.  They work really hard, and they sound really good.

Bill and I manage to make it out of the door at a reasonable time (which is good for me).  I got a call from LeAnna Whitaker, our wonderful assistant conductor, telling me that one of our tenors was MIA.  I sighed a sigh, and asked her to send me his number.  I called him, but no answer.  It's moments like these that I resent my job because I hate being the "bad guy".  But it's important of course that these young people learn about responsibility and all that good stuff that comes with being an adult.  Anyway, LeAnna had accounted for all others and we were on our way.

We got there really fast...I even passed sweet alto Mary Jane on the freeway.  (I have a bit of a lead foot.)  The festival started RIGHT at 900am, and my singers were no where to be found.  I frantically texted LeAnna and she said most were still 5 minutes away.  I was anxious, understandably.  The organizers were looking at me annoyed, like, "Hello?  Where are your singers?"  Not fun.  At that moment, I realized that we just need to find some money and hire a bus to take us down ALL TOGETHER.  No more of this carpooling B.S. 

I finally found my choir sitting at the back of the church.  God knows how long they were sitting there while I was in the front row having a panic attack trying to look pleasant while the other choirs were singing.  Sigh.  After I found them, Kirstin, our sweet Alto section leader tells me that one of the altos has a flat and probably won't make it in time.  Double sigh.  The good news is that they all were wearing the right things and dresses looked unwrinkled -- for the most part. 

Anyway, we went down to warm-up and we had a little talk about being on time, among other things.  Ahem.  I was disappointed that two people left before the morning session was over, but you can't win them all.
We were able to move past the unpleasantness of the morning and sing.  And boy, did they sing!

I know for a fact that this is the best they've ever sung at this particular festival, which is especially gratifying for my ego, considering this is one of the few times my colleagues get to hear my work; but more important was what it did for the singers.

There is something so special about performing.  There are moments when things just "click".  You don't know why or how, but it just does, and by some miracle, everyone is on the same page ...communicating through the ether and connected together through the mind and the music.  We had one of the moments today.  I'm not sure anyone but a performer -- especially an ensemble performer -- knows of what I speak, but it's truly remarkable.  It's moments like these that we in this business strive for.  It's moments like these that we hope for our students to have so that they get "hooked" like we got hooked way back when we decided to make this our life's work.  I don't make much money; I don't live extravagantly, but I have music, and music is my life.  I wouldn't change it for the world, and if I can give a piece of that to my students, then that's all I really need.

I hope they know that.  I certainly gave them a piece of myself today (in more than one way!)  And I hope they know that when I perform, it's with all my heart, and it belongs to them.
They've proved now just how good they are, and in typical Colwitz fashion, I kick the goal post back a little farther.  I expect tomorrow night to be just a little better than today, and the greatest thing about this moment right now is that I know they'll deliver.

Don't miss out, Huntsville.

UAHuntsville Concert Choir in Concert with Grissom High
730pm, Roberts Recital Hall
$10 general admission/$5 for students with I.D.

Chamber Choir Notes for Sunday's Performance and Beyond

Hi, Chamber Choir:

A few notes for you:

1) Please register for next need to call or go see Cil who will register you (824-6436) could also email her, but best to go see her...she'll remember easier that way. 

2) Please sign up for a dish to bring to the Pot Luck Christmas Party at my house (Secret Santa Craziness).  I have left enough slots for each person to bring ONE thing, so please sign up.  EVERYONE is REQUIRED to attend, so be sure to sign up.  The list is on the bulletin board in choir room.  We'll do the Secret Santa drawing next week.  Mwah, ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!  So fun. 

3) Remember to have your attire ready to go for Sunday.  Men: all black (black suit coat, black pants, black dress shoes (polished), black socks, black dress shirt...I'll give you a tie.  Women: long black dress (the more glamorous, the better), black shoes, black hose...please wear make-up!!!!!!  And put your hair up.  You want to look and feel glamorous when you perform.  We all perform better when we look our best.  Also, women, re: dresses...I also want you to buy something that you think you could wear again, either to a fancy party or to an event, etc.  You know what looks best on you, and I get tired of the "choir dress" look, and having everyone wear the same thing.  So, let's try this.  I just want the dresses floor-length.  BUT, if you can't find it for Sunday, that's cool...just start looking for Jan.  You can always check with me first, if you have questions...

See you Sunday!  1pm.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chamber Choir Texts and Translations (and general information about the music we're singing for our upcoming concert)

Chamber Choir in Concert on Sunday, Nov. 13 @ 3pm, Roberts Recital Hall

The UAHuntsville Chamber Choir has been working tirelessly on Paul Hindemith's (1895-1963) Six Chansons.  These pieces are, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful -- and most under-performed -- pieces in the repertoire.  It's a joy to teach them, and I'm delighted to share them with these young musicians.  Hindemith has such a clear vision about the text (in French, not his native German), and takes such care to treat it as delicately -- almost too delicately at times -- as possible.  Hitler declared his music "degenerate" and he was forced to flee Nazi Germany before the proverbial stuff hit the fan.  In my wildest dreams, I can't imagine how these chords progressions can be called "degenerate", but then again, I'm not a Nazi.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is one of the most well-known German poets of his time.  Yet curiously, a large part of his oeuvre is written in French, dedicated to his strong connection with the French-speaking portion of Switzerland.  All of his poetry is profound and lyrical -- extremely beautiful.  It's traditional in a Romantic sense -- creating beautiful images involving animals and seasons and other natural elements.  But also found in his work is a profound sense of solitude; his work reminds me that in the end, we all die alone, and that perhaps it's best to pay attention to the world around us because we are here for only a very short time.

Six Chansons, Paul Hindemith
(Poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke)

I. La Biche (The Doe)

O thou doe:
what vistas of secular forest appear in thine eyes reflected;
What confidence serene affected by transient shades of fear.
And it all is borne on thy bounding course, for so gracile art thou.
Nor comes aught to astound
the impassive profound unawareness of thy brow.

II. un Cygne (The Swan)

A swan moves over the water,
Surrounded by itself, like a gliding tableau.

Thus the beloved is sometimes
a moving space.

He draws near, duplicated like the swimming swan,
to our troubled soul ....

which adds the trembling image
of joy and doubt.

III. Puisque tout passe (Since all is Passing)

Since all is passing,
Let us make a passing melody.
The one that quenches our thirst
Will be right for us.

Let us sing what leaves us
With love and art;
Let us be quicker
Than the quick departure.

IV. Printemps (Spring)

O melody of the sap
that rises in the instruments
of all these trees,
accompany the song
of our too-short voices.

It is only for a few measures
that we follow
the manifold figurations
of your long abandon,
O abundant nature.

When it comes time for us to fall silent
others will carry on ...
But for now what can I do
to make my whole heart
a complement to you?

V. En Hiver (In Winter)

With the winter, Death, grisly guest
Through the doorway steals in
Both the young and the old to quest,
And he plays them his violin.

But when the Spring’s spades are beating
Frozen earth beneath blue sky,
The Death his way goes fleeting,
Lightly greeting passersby.

VI. Verger (Orchard)

The earth is nowhere so real a presence
As mid thy branches
O orchard blond
And nowhere so airy as here in the pleasance
Of lacy shadows on grassy pond.

There we encounter that which we quested,
That which sustains us and nourishes life
And with it the passage manifested
Of tenderness undying.

But at thy center the spring’s limpid waters,
Almost asleep in the fountain’s heart,
Of this strange contrast scarce have taught us
Since of them it is so truly part.

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) was born in the Netherlands, the son of an organist.  He had a very impressive career in northern Europe as a composer and organist, even in the land of the Calvinist Reformation which (that?) invariably swore off use of accompaniment in the Church.  Most don't know that he was known as the "maker of organists" and ultimately created what was known as the "German School" of organists.  His compositional style also influenced what eventually became the style of the late Renaissance/early German Baroque.  His compositions are highly complex; not surprisingly, he wrote a great deal for keyboard, but also wrote many pieces for a cappella voices.  In Laudate Dominum, we find the standard five-part motet (sacred composition) written for chorus, utilizing fugal texture and points of imitation.  As such, one doesn't need very much text:

Laudate Dominum, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
(Psalm 116 [117])

O praise the Lord, all ye nations;
Praise him, all ye peoples.

For his loving kindness
Has been bestowed upon us,

And the truth of the Lord
Endures forever.

Also, we'll be singing a "newer" work by Tarik O'Regan (b. 1978), a composer who will soon be in residence at UAHuntsville in February.  (Hooray!)  We'll be singing Threshold of Night on Sunday.  If you haven't heard it, I suggest you check it out...stunning piece.  More on O'Regan here.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Poem of the Day

I learned many new (and old) things at this weekend's National Collegiate Choral Organization's conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, but there a few things that have stuck with me:

1) Charlene Archibeque's Conducting Panel discussion;
2) Helmuth Rilling's rehearsal with the CSU's Chamber Choir (singing Bach's motets: Singet dem Herrn and Jesu, meine Freude); and
3) this poem, found in Lauridsen's Nocturnes, sung beautifully by the USC Chamber Singers, conducted by Jo-Michael Scheibe.

Watching them brought back fond memories of singing with such a sophisticated group, but more important was how this text caught me off guard.  I've sung these pieces before, but I either ignored the text or was too busy singing the notes to notice how unbelievably stunning this poem is.  It also made me realize once again -- as did Alice Parker's lovely speech about the power of vocal music -- how lucky we are to have two of the most sophisticated forms of communication as our primary vehicle through which we convey our emotions.

Soneto de la Noche

Cuando yo muero quiero tus manos en mis ojos:
When I die, I want your hands upon my eyes: 
quiero la luz y el trigo de tus manos amadas
I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands
pasar una vez más sobre mí su frescura:
to pass their freshness over me one more time 
sentir la suavidad que cambió mi destino.
I want to feel the gentleness that changed my destiny. 

Quiero que vivas mientras yo, dormido, te espero,
I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep,
quiero que tus oídos sigan oyendo el viento,
I want your ears to still hear the wind, 
que huelas el aroma del mar que amamos juntos
I want you to smell the scent of the sea we both loved, 
y que sigas pisando la arena que pisamos.
and to continue walking on the sand we walked on. 

Quiero que lo que amo siga vivo
I want all that I love to keep on living, 
y a ti te amé y canté sobre todas las cosas,
and you whom I loved and sang above all things 
por eso sigue tú floreciendo, florida,
To keep flowering into full bloom. 

para que alcances todo lo que mi amor te ordena,
so that you can touch all that my love provides you, 
para que se pasee mi sombra por tu pelo,
so that my shadow may pass over your hair, 
para que así conozcan la razón de mi canto.
so that all may know the reason for my song. 

- Pablo Neruda, trans. Nicholas Lauridsen

UAHuntsville Concert Choir goes to Birmingham

Hello, Concert Choir:

We will leave for Birmingham on THURSDAY, November 10 at 645am.  Please be in the parking lot of Roberts Hall at 645am.  Yes, 645am.  Say it with me: 645am.

Don't be late; you don't want the rest of your car to feel the wrath of Colwitz all because of YOU.  Plan on being early.  Set your alarm or have someone call you.  We will leave the parking lot promptly at 700am.

Also, please be sure you've checked your CONCERT ATTIRE today.  You need the following:


Tux Shoes
Black socks
Tux pants
Tux shirt
Cuff links and other manly things that go with tuxes
Tux jacket
A haircut
Black folder


Black, closed-toe shoes (that are relatively comfortable, yet stylish)
Black hose
Your choir dress: (ironed)

A silver necklace
Silver earrings
Please wear you hair up and wear make-up
Black choir folder and your music

See you at 845am in Birmingham at Canterbury Methodist:


Chamber Choir Attire

1) Attire: (be sure your attire is ironed and clean NOW...don't wait until Sunday morning.)

Men: please be sure you wear ALL black.  That means the following:

a) black DRESS pants (not khakis);
b) black tux or dress shoes (not casual shoes);
c) black socks;
d) black dress shirt (it must be a new, ironed, dress shirt...not a grayed out one from eighth grade that you can no longer button);
e) black blazer (dressy)...we want to look classy and professional.

We will LOAN you blue ties for the concert.  You are responsible for taking care of these. Do not lose them.  If you do, you will owe money.


a) black dress (must be of the formal the skirts)...if you want to wear pants, you'll have to model it for me prior and convince me that it's dressy enough for our concerts.  You can also wear a floor length skirt with dressy blouse/top.  No cotton, please.  Everything must flow and be of a "dressy" material that looks "black", not gray, etc.  Sleeves must be short sleeved or 3/4 length (no sleeveless or backless).  

***I like the look of having the women in "different" dresses, but I prefer all women wear a floor-length (quasi-formal) dress.  See what you can find.  *If you can't find it before Sunday, I'm fine with that, but know that this is the goal for AMEA.

Like this...


b) Closed-toe black shoes (I recommend a low heel...);
c) Black hose;
d) Silver jewelry (earrings and necklace)
e) Please wear your hair up (in a formal "up do"...does someone do hair well in the group?)...if you have short hair, be sure it's off your face;
f) You must wear make-up (blush and lipstick...mascara, as well...)

We will LOAN you a blue scarf for the concerts.  You are responsible for taking care of these.  Do not lose them.  If you do, you will owe money.

2) Black folder.  You MUST have a black folder by Tuesday's rehearsal.

3) We will continue to rehearse per the normal schedule after the concert because of AMEA.  LeAnna and Ann-Marie, please come to as many of these rehearsals as possible.

4) We WILL rehearse on Jan. 7 (Sat. prior to school starting) and all are required to attend, so please make arrangements to be on campus all day.  I'll buy lunch and snacks.

CONCERTS this weekend @UAHuntsville: Nov. 11 & 13

UAHuntsville is hosting its Fall Festival of Choirs.  We hope to see you there!

Friday, November 11: UAHuntsville Concert Choir with Grissom High School Concert Choir
730pm @Roberts Recital Hall
$10 General Admission/$5 for students with I.D.

Elizabeth Stephenson, conductor of Grissom HS Concert Choir

UAHuntsville Concert Choir at the Vatican; Italy, 2010

Sunday, November 13: UAHuntsville Chamber Choir
300pm @Roberts Recital Hall
$10 General Admission/$5 for students with I.D.

UAHuntsville Chamber Choir, 2011

The Launch of the NEW UAHuntsville Choir Blog

Hello, all:

Dr. Colwitz here.  Stay tuned to this blog for information updates for choir members, as well as information about our concerts, concert tours, auditions and all other pertinent information regarding the UAHuntsville Choirs.

This blog exists to support the choirs at UAHuntsville and to provide information to all who care about these wonderful ensembles and care to support them.

Please, bookmark this page and come back often.  We look forward to seeing you here.