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ClassicsOnline Home » CHATMAN: The Music of Stephen Chatman
Stephen Chatman, Professor of Composition at the University of British Columbia,
is one of Canada’s finest and most frequently performed composers. Born in 1950,
Stephen Chatman is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory and the University
of Michigan (DMA). He is the recipient of three BMI Awards, a Fulbright Grant,
an MB Rockefeller Fund grant, and the Charles Ives Scholarship from the U.S.
National Institute of Arts and Letters. He has received numerous commissions,
including works for the Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Windsor and Madison symphonies,
CBC Vancouver Orchestra, the Verdehr Trio (Michigan), SMCQ (Montreal), pianists
Jane Coop and Marc-André Hamelin, contralto Maureen Forrester, the Association
of Canadian Choral Conductors, and Vancouver’s Chor Leoni, Cantata Singers,
and Phoenix Chamber Choir. Chatman has had a long association with the Vancouver
Chamber Choir, which has sung almost all of his choral music over the years,
commissioning and premiering several works. In addition to this disc, Due
West, the choir has recorded a first volume of Chatman’s earlier choral
pieces under the title Due North on the Centrediscs label (Canadian Music
Centre). His works have been published by E.C. Schirmer, Jaymar, Boosey &
Hawkes, Waterloo, Frederick Harris, the Presser and Jobert, and recorded on
CRI, Centrediscs, and CBC Records. Chatman’s many published pedagogical piano
pieces and more than forty published choral works are widely performed. His
orchestral compositions have been performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Berlin
Radio Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and the symphonies of Sydney, Seoul,
San Francisco, St. Louis, Calgary, Detroit, Dallas, and Winnipeg, and the New
World Symphony. Chatman has lived in Vancouver since 1976.
Jon Washburn is the Conductor and Artistic Director of Canada’s outstanding
professional vocal ensemble, the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Well known internationally
for his mastery of choral technique and interpretation, Washburn travels widely
as guest conductor, lecturer, clinician and master teacher. In addition to Canada
and the United States, he has performed, taught and lectured in fifteen countries
on four continents. Washburn’s musical experience is wide-ranging and eclectic:
jazz bass player and band leader, viola da gamba and violone player, teacher
at the secondary, college and university levels, artist-in-residence, radio
host, music engraver, music librarian, record reviewer, chorusmaster, conductor
and artistic director. He is particularly known as a champion of new choral
repertoire, having commissioned and premiered over 130 new works by Canadian,
American and European composers (mostly with the Vancouver Chamber Choir), and
is himself an active composer, arranger, lyricist and editor. He has recorded
over 35 discs for several labels, including EMI/Virgin Classics, Grouse Records,
CBC Records, Naxos and Centrediscs (Canadian Music Centre).
Due West was commissioned for the Vancouver Chamber Choir
in 1997, with the assistance of the British Columbia Arts Council. This set
is similar to the earlier Due North in general character, but
here the texts, charming poems by lyricist Tara Wohlberg, ring specifically
western Canadian themes. Chatman uses simple but exquisite harmonies for Prairie
Lullaby and Sunset, and applies a humorous touch to the other three.
Thou Whose Harmony is the Music of the Spheres
This beautiful piece for mixed voices and oboe solo was composed in 1994
for the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Wisconsin. The lyrical obbligato
oboe part has an other-world feeling appropriate to the first line of the poem,
a theme that is also expressed by the poised and harmonious movement of the
Two Rossetti Songs
These two settings of evocative Christina Rossetti poems were commissioned
in 1999 by the Vancouver Chamber Choir with funds from the Canada Council. They
were premiered by the VCC in October 1999 on an all-Chatman concert/broadcast
at the University of British Columbia, just prior to the recording of this CD.
The first, Song and Music, has an undulating modal melody, often shadowed
or mirrored simultaneously in one or two additional parts, which seems to emulate
the flow and nuance of a mellifluous poetry-reader. Remember uses a simpler
style and texture to match the poet’s plaintive plea. There is a folk-like simplicity
to the melody, too, based on the rise and fall of the words.
Rose-cheek’d Laura, Come
Rose-cheek’d Laura, Come was written in 1998 for the University of
British Columbia Singers. The poem is by the Elizabethan/Jacobean English poet
and lute-song composer, Thomas Campion. In this piece Chatman’s style echoes
that of Campion himself: a simple homophonic, strophic approach which highlights
the words and gently nuances them with numerous suspensions and appoggiaturas.
Dryads are wood nymphs (or “nature-spirits”) who live in trees and forests.
They are long-lived but not immortal, according to Greek mythology, and are
fond of music and dancing. People who see or hear them become nympholept,
that is, filled with madness! This piece was composed for the Powell River Academy
Chamber Choir in 1998.
An Elizabethan Summer
An Elizabethan Summer was commissioned by Vancouver’s Music in the
Morning Concert series in 1989 for the Phoenix Chamber Choir. The texts are
Elizabethan: Shakespeare and Thomas Dekker, along with an anonymous balletto
text complete with fa-la for the third song. The style of the music also echoes
the English Renaissance, but is spiced with some harmonic surprises and thoroughly-modern
Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
This famous Shakespearean lyric (from As You Like It) is an excellent
example of Chatman’s characteristically fluent harmonic and melodic style. It
starts and ends with a dark but lovely tune; but that alternates with a “heigh-ho”
section which is much sprightlier, though still tinged with Shakespeare’s melancholy.
The whole piece is underpinned by a richly-appointed piano accompaniment. This
work was commissioned in 1991 by the Mount Royal Youth Choir in Calgary.
Five Canadian Folksongs
Having provided the Vancouver Chamber Choir with an excellent and popular
set of British Columbian folksongs in the early 1980’s, Chatman wrote these
cross-Canada folk settings in honour of the Choir’s 25th Anniversary
in 1996. There are five songs, depicting regional character and style from Quebec,
Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
The Lux Aeterna is one of the most beautiful passages from
the text of the Latin Requiem Mass, calling on the Lord to grant eternal light
and rest to the departed. Chatman’s setting was commissioned in 1999 by Kantorei
of Calgary, Alberta. Written for five vocal parts (SSATB), it starts with a
call-and-response idea, where one voice states a motive which is then echoed
or mirrored by the others. This leads to a gently contrapuntal middle section
which culminates in four softly beseeching calls of “Domine” before returning
to the call-and response texture.
Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest) is the
most jubilant section of the Latin Mass. Chatman’s setting is for double-choir,
as though two hosts of angels were gathered on opposite sides of heaven shouting
their praises back and forth. There is a short middle section of calmer exchange
and then a return to the antiphonal praising. It was written in 1997 for the
Jubilate Chamber Choir in Vancouver.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields, commissioned in 1998 for a Remembrance
Day concert by Chor Leoni of Vancouver, exists in several voicings: the original
TTBB version found here, another for SATB and a third for SA and piano. It is
a simple, hymn-like setting of the famous poem by the Canadian medical officer
John McCrae, who wrote it during the second Battle of Ypres during the First
In the Glow of the Moon
In the Glow of the Moon for women’s voices and piano was originally
composed to a different text in 1992 for the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus,
Toronto. In 1995, the composer asked Tara Wohlberg to write new lyrics, resulting
in the version heard on this CD.
Songs of a Prospector
Songs of a Prospector, composed in 1988 on a commission from
the Nova Scotia Music Educators’ Association, is a collection of five songs
with texts by George E. Winkler, an early British Columbia pioneer and miner.
Originally written for SAB chorus, Stephen Chatman produced an SATB version
in 1999 for this recording.
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CHATMAN: The Music of Stephen Chatman