September 17: Commemoration of Hildegard of Bingen


 

On September 17, the church commemorates the life and witness of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1197). This first concert of the 2017-2018 series remembers Hildegard for her musical compositions and writings.

Who was Hildegard von Bingen?

Hildegard was a multigifted 12th Century Benedictine Abbess who lived and worked in the Rhineland, centered around Bingen, Germany.  She is the earliest composer in Western music to be identified as the composer of a complete body of works, including the first morality play (Ordo virtutem) and over seventy chants (sequences, antiphons, responsories and hymns).  She also wrote three theological books of visions and their interpretations, two books on medieval medicine, and over three volumes of letters to popes, other nuns, bishops, archbishops, and rulers including the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa.  And she built two monasteries on opposite sides of the Rhine.  Nearly one thousand years later, she has been canonized (10 May 2012) and named a Doctor of the Church (7 October 2012) by Pope Benedict XVI.

She is fascinating, inspiring and unique. Her music is chant and it is intended to be used in worship, specifically in the Divine Office, the prayer discipline of monasteries since the time of Benedict of Nursia (480-547).  The forms of chant she uses are those of her time; antiphons, sequences, responsories and hymns.

She crafts melodic patterns which recur and which are varied, and she indulges in considerable ‘tone painting’, something that was not part of Gregorian practice.  Her ranges and registers reach the extreme, sometimes spanning nearly or over two octaves.  She does not follow the rules; she expands them to fit the needs of the texts – which are also her own.  And the result is stunningly beautiful and deeply moving.

What is this music?

These Eight Contemplations are not Hildegard’s music, nor are they attempts to create something new based upon Hildegard’s music.  They are responses to Hildegard’s messages – interior, wordless responses to the heart and message of a nine hundred year old nun who was embraced by God, now carried exquisitely on the breath of Teresa Grawunder into our world and lives.

The texts chosen reflect the Nicene creed, a statement of belief:  O eterne Deus (God), O Pastor animarum (Son), O ignis spiritus paracliti (portrayed in 2.73 as the Holy Spirit present at the beginning of creation),  Nunc gaudeant (the Church), O vos Angeli (the heavenly host, represented in A Prayer for Jacob), Sed diabolus (represented as Offertorium, unconditional love and repeated forgiveness), O virtus Sapientiae  (Holy Wisdom, which has been from the beginning), and ending with Laus Trinitati, in praise of life.

 

Teresa Grawunder earned her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Flute Performance from the University of Houston, as a student of Byron Hester. Her professional career began in 1976, playing flute in the Houston Ballet Orchestra, first in the position of second flute/piccolo, and then as principal flute(1980-84). She also played principal flute with Theater Under the Stars, American Pops Orchestra (formerly Houston Pops), and toured with Texas Opera Theater.  In the late 1980’s she began to focus more on solo playing and began exploring free improvisation. She joined Texas Institute for Arts in Education, whose mission was to promote creativity in public schools. It proved to be a fertile ground for her, and affiliations with fellow Teaching Artists led to collaborative performances with artists in various media, including dance and film. In 2004 she released a CD of solo improvisations entitled Mysterium. Chamber music has been an important focus throughout her career. In 1995 she joined soprano Patti Spain and cellist Steve Estes in founding “MOSAIC”, a mixed chamber ensemble with the mission of rediscovering and performing beautiful but rarely heard repertoire with unusual combinations of voice and instruments. They were featured regularly on the Channing Concert Series at the First Unitarian Church in Houston.

For many years she has enjoyed premiering the flute pieces of her friend and colleague, Ann Gebuhr. In 2012, they recorded Gebuhr’s Eight Contemplations on Texts by Hildegard for flute, alto flute, and percussion instruments. In 2013 they performed the work at Johanneskirche in Munich and Thomaskirche in Leipzig.

 

Ann K. Gebuhr is an alumna of Indiana University (B.M. in Piano Performance and MM. and Ph.D. in Music Theory).  A university professor of music theory and composition for many years, she has also established a national and international presence as a composer. Her music has been performed by symphonies including the Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Filharmonie George Enescu (Bucharest), Louisville Orchestra, and the Evergreen Chamber Orchestra. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and the first woman to be awarded the Creative Artist Award in Composition by the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County.  Bonhoeffer, her second opera, received its world premiere in May 2000.  In 2002 she was awarded a Scholar in Residence Fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation for a residency at the Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy.  In 2003 her orchestral work, Voyage d’ Anima, won the Louisville Orchestra competition, and 2005 brought a commission from the Foundation for Universal Sacred MusicHer Mass for Peace was premiered in Houston and the Concerto for Violin in Konstanz, Romania in May and June 2006.  Friedenskantate (Soprano, SATB, 2 Flutes,Oboe, Strings) was commissioned by the Houston-Leipzig Sister City Association for the dedication of the ‘Friedensfenster’ at Thomaskirche, Leipzig and performed there in October 2009.  A book, Hildegard! was published by Total Recall Press in 2012, and a compact disc, Eight Contemplations on Texts by Hildegard was released on the Impression Arts label in September 2012.  Her music is published by MMB Music, Thomas House, Bassoon Heritage Edition, Impression Arts, and the Indiana Music Center.

Also on this program are movements from The Hildegard Organ Cycle by Frank Ferko (b. 1950) played by Cantor Mark Mummert. (www.markmummert.com)

 

Frank Ferko (b. 1950, Barberton, Ohio) began piano study at the age of nine in Barberton, Ohio with Grace Baughman and in high school he studied with Richard Shirey, a member of the music faculty at the University of Akron. He began work as a church organist at the age of 14, and two years later he began to conduct a small church choir. At 18 he entered Valparaiso University and received a Bachelor of Music degree in piano and organ performance from Valparaiso in 1972. He received the Master of Music degree in music theory (with a minor in organ performance) from Syracuse University one year later. He holds a doctorate in music composition from Northwestern University. His teachers have included Richard Wienhorst (composition), Philip Gehring and Will O. Headlee (organ), Newman Powell (piano and music history) and Howard Boatwright (theory). For nearly three decades he held the post of director of music at various churches in the Midwest, primarily in the Chicago area. Mr. Ferko holds memberships in Pi Kappa Lambda, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and Music Library Association