Choral Suite from A NEW EAARTH

 for SATB Chorus and Piano

Written: 2012
Duration: 14'
Instrumentation: SATB chorus and piano
Commissioned by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Association in conjunction with a three-year Music Alive residency; funded by New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras.
World PremiereVermont Youth Orchestra and ChorusJeffrey Domoto, conductor, Bill McKibben, narrator, May 4 & 6, 2012.
PublisherBill Holab Music

Note: Choral Suite from A New Eaarth consists of the choral movements from the orchestral work re-scored for SATB choir and piano. The choral suite may be performed as a stand-alone work. A New Eaarth for orchestra, chorus and narrator is also available.

PROGRAM NOTE

Although I have lived in cities most of my life, I do not think of myself as a city person and have always felt more connected to the outdoors rather than to asphalt and tall buildings. Many of my works are inspired by nature, and I am deeply concerned about environmental issues, particularly climate change.

Of the many excellent books on the environment, one of the best and the one that moves me most is Eaarth by Bill McKibben, a famed author, educator and environmentalist. McKibben’s assertion is that we have waited too long, and that massive climate change is not only unavoidable, but already underway. He states that we may as well call this new planet Eaarth, because it is still recognizable, but fundamentally different. I feel strongly that he is correct, and wanted to express this in a musical way. A work for orchestra, chorus and narrator seemed like the ideal vehicle for reflecting on this critical issue.

Choral Suite from A New Eaarth consists of the four choral movements from A New Eaarth for orchestra, but with piano rather than orchestra. I designed these movements so they could be performed as a stand-alone suite, and in fact, for the purpose of rehearsals, I composed the choir and piano versions first, and then orchestrated them so they could be integrated into the whole orchestral work.

The suite includes texts by Wendell Berry, James Joyce, Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Wordsworth. The poems, at least as part of the entire orchestral version, allude to the four ancient classical elements—earth, air, fire and water—a theme that permeates many of my other works.

A New Eaarth was commissioned by the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association through a Music Alive! residency grant from New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras.

[A New Eaarth] proved a grand statement about the dangers of climate change... the 30-minute work decries the current situation yet offers hope... The score employed myriad musical effects—including a substantial percussion section—that illustrated the libretto. More than that, with the chorus, it was an amazingly colorful tone poem... the music was beautifully crafted. There was immense power in parts, pathos in others. The VYO and Chorus clearly enjoyed every second of it, performing with passion and skill.
— Review of World Premiere, Jim Lowe, Times Argus
[A New Eaarth] is quite powerful—it gets at the essential scientific truth of the moment, the sudden and violent flux of the physical world as the 10,000 years of the calm Holocene comes resoundingly to an end. A very inspiring piece, and people left ready to take action...
— Bill McKibben, Interviewed in League of American Orchestra's SymphonyNow Magazine
I’ll be honest... I didn’t see how it would all work: narration of not just glum but (I mis-assumed) fairly technical language, plus youth chorus, which I knew would limit your harmonic options, and orchestra, all on a shortened rehearsal schedule. But it was awesome! The recitativo style choruses made a beautiful and effective link between all the other elements. You wrote beautifully for the group—challenging but stuff that they could really get. The final chorus rhythm is both beautiful and catchy—it’s an ear-worm, but in a good way—which is not only great in itself but great in an ending, leaving it in your mind after the piece is over. The audience seemed really moved. I heard the people around me, who were parents and boosters and obviously not going to dump all over the piece no matter what, but they were clearly pleasantly surprised and impressed.
— David Feurzeig, Associate Professor of Composition, University of Vermont