The Gift of Music

Music in My Mother’s House
Stuart Stotts, words and music
Arranged by J. David Moore
“This has long been a favorite piece of mine, reminding me of some of the tunes by The Weavers or Peter, Paul & Mary. It has the easy style of a folk song and tells the story of a family of women – sisters and mother all singing together at home – just the way I remember my early childhood. My mother taught me to play the piano, guitar and banjo and I know my life-long love of music came from her.


“There’s a wonderful piano interlude in the piece taken right from Scott Joplin’s Heliotrope Bouquet, and a choral interlude that helps us imagine mother and children sitting in a cozy living-room singing together.”
-Cricket Handler, Artistic Director


There were windchimes in the window, bells inside the clock
An organ in the corner, tunes in the music box
We sang while we were cooking, or working in the yard
We sang although our lives were really hard
There was music in my mother’s house
There was music all around
There was music in my mother’s house
And my heart still feels full with the sound
She taught us all piano, but my sister had the ear
She could play the harmony to any tune she’d hear
Now I don’t claim much talent, but I’ve always loved to play
And I guess I will until my dying day
Those days come back so clearly, although I’m far away
She gave me the kind of gift I love to give away
And when my mother died, and she’d sung her last song
We sat in the living room, singing all night long

Brian Holmes, Composer
Jane Kenyon, Poet


I got out of bed on two strong legs. (It might have been otherwise.)
I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe flawless peach. (It might have been otherwise.)
I took the dog uphill to the birch wood.  All morning I did the work I love.
At noon I lay down with my mate (It might have been otherwise.)
We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks.  (It might have been otherwise.)
I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls,
and planned another day just like this day.
But one day I know, it will be otherwise.


“The music is pretty and contemporary, with changing meters and an almost jaunty sound, until the end of the piece, when it becomes more somber.  The text is made more poignant by the knowledge that the poet died at the age of 47 of leukemia.


“As a footnote, the composer Brian Holmes and I were music students together at Pomona College and sang in choir and glee club many decades ago!  It is a pleasure to be conducting his piece, and we believe that he plans to attend this performance.”
-Artistic Director, Jill Anderson


Haidi Nani
Arrangement by Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble

From the tiny Republic of Moldova comes a Romanian lullaby. The melody is found in Dorothy Berliner Commin’s book,
Lullabies of the World, and the 3-part arrangement is from the women’s vocal ensemble, Kitka, based in Oakland, California, whose repertoire is inspired by the traditional songs and vocal techniques from Eastern Europe.  The melody has a rocking motion and one can imagine a mother singing to her child.


Come, hush-a-bye, hush, hush,
Come hush, with Mama,
Since Mama is rocking you.
And from the throat, she sings to you.
Hush, hush with Mama,

Since Mama is holding you close


In a Neighborhood in Los Angeles 
from Alarcón Madrigals, Book One
Roger Bourland, composer
Francisco X. Alarcón, poet


“I have always resonated with the joy and color in his [Alarcón] poetry. He prints his poetry with an English version on one side and Spanish on the other. And even though I don’t have an ounce of Latin blood, he makes me feel like one when I set his words.  I call Francisco my Mexican Buddha.”- Composer Roger Bourland


A prolific writer for adults and children, Francisco X. Alarcón was born in California and grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. Latino and gay identity, mythology, the Nahuatl language, Mesoamerican history and American culture are all portrayed in Alarcon’s writing.


There are 3 Alarcón Madrigal Books and all were commissioned by women’s ensemble groups. Cal State Fullerton commissioned the first one and Vox Femina, the other two. Composer Roger Bourland wrote the music for all three.


I learned Spanish from my grandma – mijito don’t cry she’d tell me don’t cry
On the mornings my parents would leave to work at the fish canneries
My grandma would chat with chairs…sing them old songs dance waltzes with them in the kitchen.


When she’d say niño barrigón she’d laugh,
With my grandma I learned to count clouds to point out in flower pots mint leaves.


My grandma wore moons on her dress, Mexico’s mountains deserts ocean in her eyes
I’d see them in her eyes….I’d see them in her braids…I’d touch them in her voice
Smell themOne day I was told: she went far away but still I feel her with me…whispering in my ear..mijito


 “A jaunty, rhythmic beginning introduces us to the scene, with a flowing middle section to describe ‘grandma;’ then a poignant ending, closing with a whispered ‘mijito’ – ‘my little son.'”
-Cricket Handler, Artistic Director

No More Kisses…Maybe




Take, o take those lips away
Amy Beach, Composer




Take, o take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn:
And those eyes, the break of day.
Lights that do mislead the morn!
But my kisses bring again, bring again,

Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain!


Mariana, in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure is suggesting that Angelo take his lips away, since he used them to break promises, and to take his eyes as well, because they also lie.  She asks that he return her kisses to her – a double meaning, of course, in that it means, on the one hand, that she wishes she’d not kissed him in the first place and, on the other, that she’d like to kiss him again.


Amy Beach was an American composer and pianist.  She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. As a child prodigy, she was able to sing forty songs accurately by age one; by age two she could improvise a counter-melody to any melody her mother sang; she taught herself to read at age three, and began composing simple waltzes at age five. Her song is from a set entitled Three Shakespeare Songs.  “Mrs. Beach’s setting is extremely passionate and aches with unrequited love.” -Jill Anderson, Artistic Director
It Was a Lover and His Lass
Ward Swingle, Composer


“World-renowned American jazz vocalist and musician Ward Swingle, who founded The Swingle Singers in France, composed this piece.  The text is from As You Like It, a favorite of audiences and another play filled with mistaken identities and mismatched lovers.  A page sings the song to Touchstone, the clown and his intended bride, Audrey in Act 5.


“This setting comes to us from Elektra Women’s Choir in Vancouver, Canada.  There’s no mistaking that ‘Swingle Singers’ sound with the altos crooning ‘doon..doo..doon..doo..doo..doo’ under ‘with a hey and a ho and a hey nonny no’. This is the closing number for our program which will feature several Canzona soloists in a jazzy style that’s sure to please.”
-Cricket Handler, Artistic Director

Words Make the Music



A Shakespeare Sequence
John Gardner, Composer


William Shakespeare  


“We bring you a charming collection of 8 short movements featuring settings of some of Shakespeare’s most beloved words.  Each movement creates a new atmosphere, from jaunty and angular to an off-beat waltz and a mysterious song of the sea.


“This tribute to the Bard will feature guest artist Susan Azaret Davies joining Canzona’s pianist Janis Johnson in an accompaniment composed for piano 4-hands.  You’ll hear the tolling of the ship’s bell from The Tempest, a jazzy, soulful piece from Measure for Measure, a setting of “Orpheus with his lute” from Henry VIII which includes a piano part that imitates a lute, and a rousing double-choir finish from As You Like It.”


-Cricket Handler, Artistic Director


The Gardner Sequence Songs:
It Was a Lover and His Lass
Who is Sylvia
O Mistress Mine
If music be the food of love, play on
Take, O take those lips away
Full fathom five
Orpheus with his lute
Under the greenwood tree

How to Woo a Young Maiden

In honor of the 400th anniversary of his death, Canzona explores a wide variety of contemporary and classical repertoire based on works by William Shakespeare.




How Sweet the Moonlight
Robert Young, Composer
You can take lessons from this: sit on a riverbank in the moonlight, and whisper about the music that comes from the stars!


“The text for this song comes from The Merchant of Venice, Act 5.  Lorenzo, who is wooing Shylock’s lovely young daughter, Jessica, is sitting with her on the bank of a river.  He evokes an idyllic image of harmony emanating from the heavenly bodies.  The lush harmonies in this four-part piece enhance the beauty of Shakespeare’s timeless poetry.”
-Jill Anderson, Artistic Director


(Modern Text)
“How beautiful the moonlight is shining on this bank! Let’s sit here and let the music fill our ears. Look at the stars, see how the floor of heaven is inlaid with small disks of bright gold.  Stars and planets move in such perfect harmony that some believe you can hear music in their movement.  If you believe this, even the smallest star sings like an angel in its motion.”


Ruth Huber and Dominick Argento, Composers

Many composers have taken Shakespeare’s beautiful words and set them to music. The Ensemble will sing one version of Winter and the second will be sung by a soprano soloist.

Each composer effectively sets the scene, contrasting the bitter cold of the season with the comforts found inside during the winter. ” In Huber’s composition, we can hear the wind blow, the parson cough, and see the woodcutter bear logs into the hall while the milk freezes in the pail. And yet inside, Joan keels (skims) the pot, stirring a steaming soup, crabapples hiss in the bowl, and through it all, we hear Tu-whit, tu-whoo passed through each voice part – a staring owl singing a merry note that comes back again and again through the night.” -Cricket Handler, Artistic Director.

“Argento’s rollicking and bombastic piano accompaniment makes Winter sound like a whirling windstorm, combining the owl’s cry with the lowly drone of ‘While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.'” – Jill Anderson, Artistic Director

Zion’s Walls

Zion's Walls

The original melody and words of Zion’s Walls is credited to John McCurry, compiler of the The Social Harp in 1855. This popular “shape-note” tune book from rural Georgia featured secular and spiritual songs for singing in schools, camp-meetings and revivals. American composer Aaron Copland included a setting of this jubilant piece in his second collection of Old American Songs from 1952, and our choral version was arranged by Glenn Koponen. “Come fathers and mothers, come sisters and brothers, come join us in singing the praises of Zion – we’ll shout and go round the walls of Zion!” The grand piano opening sounds like chiming bells, and with each repetition of the text, the piece grows to a dramatic finish.


Singing Bird for website

Songbird by Canadian composer Sarah Quarteis the light-hearted and playful story of eight little songbirds threading webs of gold, painting moonlit sighs, splashing in fountains, and singing to the wind. This charming piece opens our fall concert  to highlight our spring tour to Vancouver, Canada as part of the Tapestry International Choral Festival, and our marvelous Canzona Takes Flight quilt honoring that trip (more about the quilt soon.) There’s a touch of jazz in the rhythms – and a lilt in the melody!

Le Train du Ciel (Train from Heaven)

Train du Ciel

Le Train du Ciel (Train from Heaven) is one of the songs Kurt Weill wrote for Marie Galante, which opened at the Théâtre de Paris on December 22, 1934 to mixed reviews, and closed in the first week of January 1935. The choral number follows a scene in which Marie is caring for the dying Josiah, a kindly old black man who had worked on the Panama Canal during the 1880’s. As he expires, a group of seven old men enter and pray the rosary accompanied by a musical underscore. Finally, they sing “Le Train Du Ciel” as a requiem. “This music, for a baritone soloist and three-part male chorus must have made a tremendous dramatic impact and sonic reverberation in the theatre.” (John Mucci – Kurt Weill Foundation for Music Newsletter) Our own Kristina Horacek is featured as soloist with the choir in the intense, dramatic piece, one of the seven principal numbers from this work, which were published in a popular format songbook by Weill’s publisher in 1935. We guarantee chills!


Les Sirènes (The Sirens)

Les Sirenes bloulanger

This is Canzona’s season to portray les sirènes, the beautiful and dangerous mythological creatures who lured sailors to their deaths on the rocks. We just finished singing the Sirènes movement from Debussy’s Nocturnes with the SLO Symphony, and now we’re preparing Les Sirènes by Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) for Singtime in Paris. Possibly as a tribute to Debussy, who admired her work, the composer chose the opening motif of the harp part in his Nocturnes to create the extended pattern in the left hand of the piano. But unlike Debussy, whose sirens are heard as a distant, haunting sound, Boulanger’s are front and center, boasting of their deadly beauty themselves! Soprano Kristina Horacek is our soloist, singing of  “immortal sisters offered to the desires of your earthly hearts.”


Le Ruisseau


One of my favorite pieces on our concert, Le Ruisseau (The Stream) by Gabriel Fauré, was written in 1881 for Madame Pauline Roger who had a choir of young ladies. Fauré is beloved for his exquisite solo songs, and he created the sensual melody of this duet for sopranos and altos with perfect craftsmanship to express the theme of thwarted love. Chrystie Osborne is our featured soloist, singing the voice of the stream entreating the pensive flower to come away to the deep ocean! Alas, the flower avoids the stream’s humid kisses and the stream sadly continues on his way.