Program notes for Fall concert

Program Ponderings: Sing, Wearing the Sky

We’re sharing the notes for our upcoming concert! A special thank you to Leah G. Weinberg, PhD, for writing notes for this concert.

View the full program and buy tickets here.

Sing, Wearing the Sky by Jake Runestad

Commissioned by the American Choral Directors Association and Music Educators Association of Minnesota for the 2014 Minnesota All-State Women’s Chorus conducted by Mary Kay Geston, Sing, Wearing the Sky (2014) transports us from 21st-century California to 14th-century India. Runestad writes, “Lalla, a 14th-century Sufi-mystic poet from the Kashmir region of India, believed strongly in the development of the self while reaching enlightenment. The metaphor of dancing while feeling free or naked exemplifies the beauty of empowerment and self-worth. This work uses influences of Classical Indian music and other vocal effects to allow Lalla’s message to come to life.”

At the beginning of the work, a drone on the notes D and A in the vocal and piano parts recreates the effect of a Sa-Pa (Indian musical syllables equivalent to the Western Do-Sol) drone on the seven-stringed tanpura. As the sopranos give voice to the phrase “Meditate within eternity,” ornamental turns recall another distinctive element of Indian classical music, gamaka. The word means “ornamented note” in Sanskrit and is a feature that is built into Indian modes (ragas), unlike unadorned Western scales. Finally, as the work nears its conclusion, listen for sliding glissandi reminiscent of Indian vocal techniques. Runestad’s title, drawn from the Sufi text, cuts lyrically to the heart of Lalla’s simple but powerful message: “Dance Lalla, with nothing on but air. / Sing, Lalla, wearing the sky.”