Changing Seasons (for SATB choir and String Quartet)

Here is a modern classical composition I was recently commissioned to write for SATB choir and string quartet, premiered April 20, 2013.

It is based on the seasons of the year, with the choir and string quartet featured during the primary seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter, and the string quartet alone featured in the transitions between the seasons.  It is written in 8 short movements: I. Winter to Spring, II. Spring, III. Spring to Summer, IV. Summer, etc.

At times there are up to 10 independent lines happening simultaneously in what I call 'linear multi-tonality', each part/line functioning in its own unique mode or key.  In one instance the Sopranos and Basses are in C Dorian, the Altos in A Locrian, the Tenors in F Dorian, I Violin in F Locrian, II Violin in C Phrygian, Viola in Eb Whole-tone, and Cello in Eb Ionian/major.

I searched for existing poetic text to use, but felt uncomfortable with trying to fit musical ideas to those texts, so I chose to write my own libretto.  With a background of 25 year's experience as a music minister, having written hundreds of songs for worship, I felt comfortable creating the union between the almost folk-like melodies and the lyrics as a foundation for the work, in many places using 'word-painting' in the musical interpretation to complete the original melodic ideas.

"Changing Seasons" was given a favorable review at its premier by Ronald Bennett of the Odessa American:

The voice writing was interesting in its rhythmical intricacy, its intelligent use of singable ranges and its unusual juxtaposing of the texts between the vocal parts. At times the quartet was leading the chorale and other times the chorale seemed to be leading the quartet. The instrumental writing for the quartet was also idiomatic and showed the composers mastery of string writing.

The overall effect was one of buoyant energy that exuded from the singers and the quartet and left the audience thrilled with the work as witnessed by a spontaneous standing ovation.

We are fortunate to have such a talented composer in our midst!

(Libretto)

Changing Seasons

©2013 Lowell Hohstadt

I. Winter to Spring (Quartet)   

II. Spring                    

The springtime harshness

of ice and snow,

melting away to grasses

beneath the cold.

The bird’s small voices,

they seem so loud

against the forces

of many clouds

Bringing the rains of springtime,

bringing the rains that come never alone,

among the thunder and

wind blowing!

The snow is melting,

the streams, they flow,

bringing the waters

that grow and grow,

Bringing the strength

of rivers,

bringing the strength of a mighty expanse

flowing to oceans,

broad and bold.

The springtime harshness

cuts as a knife.

The call has come to awake,

to arise to new life!

III. Spring to Summer (Quartet)         

IV. Summer                

Heat, hot, work, sweat and

heat, hard work, blazing brightness!

Small breezes greet the fevered brow

like a kiss from

springtime past,

but now

Heat, hot work, sweat and

Blue sky,

as puffy clouds float by,

a shadow obscures the sun’s

Heat, hot, work, sweat and

heat, hard work,

blazing brightness

Wanes ever slowly to dusk,

lengthened shadows,

an ev’ning breeze,

one star, then two,

in time a multitude

looking down upon a

weary soul unchained

from responsibilities,

from the heat of day.

Morning dawns quickly,

bringing again the

Heat, hot, work, sweat and

heat, hard work, blazing

heat, hot, work, sweat and

heat, hard work, blazing

Bright!

V. Summer to Fall (Quartet)   

VI. Fall                       

Leaves turning colors

of red and yellow,

briskly cool air

across the faces.

Times of the harvest,

bountiful places,

memories come

from journeys gone by.

Melancholy feelings;

gladness mixed with sadness,

knowing the days are

shorter, darker.

Fresh gusts of wind

blow the leaves away,

hurrying down the path’s

winding way.

Spiraling, whispering

that the time has come

for the bareness

of the branches.

Past splendor,

leaves of grandeur

fallen to ground

amidst all the laughter:

Children playing

and trampling,

stomping, raking,

gathering piles.

Cold wind blowing,

changes coming,

days of past gone by,

Looking to end the journey.

Night is falling,

peace has come,

release from the day.

The time has come now,

resting from life now.

Peace has come.

Peace has won.

VII. Fall to Winter (Quartet)

VIII. Winter                

Here we are

no hope of summer,

endless days

without number.

Half awake,

half of slumber,

coldness, darkness,

nothing younger.

Days of sorrow,

days of pain

fade from mem’ry

once again.

Icy feelings

cloud the sky,

overshadow

days gone by.

Decrescendo,

then morendo,

away slips life

on sheets of ice.

Bring me life

of days gone by,

break the darkness

of the skies!

Burst the fetters

of this rest,

bring the shatter

of distress!

Awake! 

Arise!

Crack the ice

of sorrow’s lies.

Bring me springtime,

bring me rain!

Bring the sunshine

hope again!

New life comes,

new life happens

with a violence

of the change.

Changing seasons,

changing grace,

new life here

begins the race.

The springtime harshness

of life and growth

has overcome,
life has won:

Life has come!