Programme Notes

This evening’s concert of the ESOC Chorus is a programme of American choral works of the 20th century. The two pillars of the concert are Aaron Copland’s “Four Motets” and Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna”.

The two works are from the extreme ends of the century; the “Four Motets” were composed in 1921 and “Lux Aeterna” in 1997. Copland was a composition student in Paris at the time, studying with the French composer Nadia Boulanger. The harmonies are classical in nature but with strong and rapid harmonic changes of late romantic music. “Lux Aeterna”, on the other hand, is full of the rich harmonies of the mid to late 20th century, thick chords in close harmonies but constantly contrasted with unison simplicity. The opening themes in the organ and the chorus present the harmonic material of the piece which is constantly being reshaped throughout the rest of the work. Because of this, the piece has an almost minimalist effect.

The three other works in the concert are all arrangements of traditional American hymns from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Of interest here is the simplicity of the harmonies Copland chooses in contrast to the “Four Motets” from 30 years earlier. One hears the elements for which Copland is best known in these two arrangements. He takes a simple theme, adds occasional dissonances and changes in meter and in so doing gives it a “20th century touch”. But he leaves the substance of the music to speak for itself.