The Transient Glory series presents new choral works by some of America’s most engaging contemporary composers, specially written to celebrate the art of children’s choirs and the transient but glorious nature of young singing voices. The works, which were all commissioned for a concert performance series by the Young People’s Chorus of New York, promise to make a significant addition to the repertoire for children’s and youth choruses.
The Composer writes:
I first had the idea for this piece as a college student, while watching a video on Ancient Egypt. The mysteries of antiquity had captured my imagination as a child, yet I had often found history a very dull subject in school. The insipid presentation of history in textbooks and lectures often ruined the magic of the visual renderings of pyramids, temples, and marble sculptures maimed and smoothed to an off-white pallor by an unfathomable amount of time.
My recent fortune of being commissioned by the Young People’s Chorus of New York rejuvenated my desire to portray my own imaginings and feelings about antiquity from a young person’s perspective. I began with the writings of the Dutch historian Johann Huizinga (1872-1945) regarding contemporary ideas about ancient history:
“No exact knowledge of historical details avails without the vision of the smiling eyes, long turned to dust, which at one time were infinitely more important than the written word that remains. Only a stray glimmer now reminds us of the passionate significance of these cultural forms… We see only the dead form of the thing, the cultural significance of the custom has disappeared with the passion animating those to whom these forms were the realization of a dream of beauty.”
– J. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages
From this statement, I went on to write my own poetry from the point of view of a child studying ancient artifacts for the first time, exploring the resulting emotions of excitement, curiosity, boredom, frustration, and, ultimately, a realization that one’s imagination is the most powerful tool for attempting to understand and appreciate what fragments remain from the past.
I would like to thank the New York Young People’s Chorus for their astounding musicality, enthusiasm, and spirit. I especially thank Francisco Núñez for giving me the opportunity to compose for such a talented and wonderful group of people. I am also indebted to J. Mark Stambaugh and Nils Vigeland for all they have done for me, and to my family for their love and support.
– Jenny Olivia Johnson
New York, December 2002
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