As the nation’s center for choral excellence, Westminster Choir College is renowned for performances of both classic and contemporary choral works. Two of Westminster’s choirs are carrying on that rich tradition this fall by commissioning and premiering works by two of the world’s leading composers of choral music – James Whitbourn and Jaakko Mäntyjärvi.
The Westminster Williamson Voices, conducted by James Jordan, will premiere Requiem Canticorum by James Whitbourn on Friday, November 5 at 8 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the Westminster campus. “Requiem canticorum is a work of commemoration,” writes the composer. “It is a group of Latin songs - which can loosely be called canticles - that form a piece to commemorate those who are dead and to comfort those who are bereaved.” The work is a companion to Whitbourn’s Son of God Mass, which the Westminster Symphonic Choir performed at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York.
James Whitbourn is a versatile composer with an international reputation for choral music and music for film, television and concert hall. After studying music at Oxford University, he began his career as a BBC producer. His compositional output has been influenced by that background and is admired for its direct connection with performers and audiences worldwide.
The Westminster Choir, conducted by Joe Miller, will premiere To a Locomotive in Winter by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi on Saturday, November 13 at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Pottstown, Pa. at 7:30 p.m. The work is a setting of Walt Whitman’s poem of the same title, which pays tribute to a steam engine traveling through a winter storm. The choir will also perform the work at Westminster Choir College on Sunday, November 14 at 3 p.m. and on its January concert tour of Florida.
Composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi describes himself as an eclectic traditionalist: eclectic in that he adopts influences from a number of styles and periods, fusing them into his own idiom; traditionalist in that his musical language is based on a traditional approach and uses the resources of modern music only sparingly. Because he is himself active in making music, his music is very practically oriented; he is a choral singer, and thus most of his works are for choir.
Both Whitbourn and Mäntyjärvi have been visiting artists at Westminster. They are featured in Westminster-to-Go podcasts that are available on the Westminster Choir College Web site and iTunes.