by vernsanders on December 10, 2010

I could easily say “tis the season” and that would be enough. But this post is not about Christmas, except that I got an unexpected, and personally very moving, gift today. Let me explain…

It is the season, the time of writing reviews for the magazine, and it comes around every couple of months like clockwork. The next issue of Creator will focus on Lent and Easter, and we’ve decided that all the Select 20 anthem reviews will be about Easter titles (you can preview some of the reviews here, here, here, and here). So I’m going though the many piles of new releases from the publishers, and I open the latest mailing from ECS.

And what did my friend, ECS’s President, Robert Schuneman enclose in their packet? A beautiful and amazing little book by Carl B. Schmidt: The Story of Randall Thompson’s Alleluia Revisited: A Facsimile Edition with Commentary.

The Story of Randall Thompson's Alleluia Revisited

There are so many layers here. Bob and I both attended Stanford (Bob a few years before me), where we both studied with my doctoral professor, Harold Schmidt, who is Carl’s father. Harold has been gone many years, but he knew Thompson personally, and one of Thompson’s more famous works (Glory to God in the Highest…which, of course is a Christmas title…thus “tis the season”) is dedicated to Harold. When Bob and I see each other, no visit is complete without at least one Harold story…

This is one of those books that a serious choral director needs to have, or at least have access to. Carl is a musicologist, and a thorough one at that, so there is a lot of good stuff here, including Thompson’s own words about the tempo (almost everyone takes it too fast). Thompson suggested that quarter=60 would serve for his Lento marking, but I have a recording of him directing the piece at quarter=52! After hearing that recording I decided to try that tempo out on my chamber choir. When I gave the downbeat and they realized how slow it was going to go, everybody’s eyebrows went up. But here’s the amazing thing. The breathing became easier, and IT STAYED IN TUNE at the slow tempo, solving two notorious problems of the piece.

The other thing is that the book has a copy of the manuscript (along with an interesting story about how it was actually lost for 40 years). That means you can actually see what Thompson wrote on the (often upside down) manuscript paper…including his personal note about when the mss needed to be delivered, and the fact that Thompson only had one(!) rehearsal before the premiere performance (“please don’t crowd words or music”). Absolutely fascinating.

Finally, there is a copy of the original lithographic copy used for that performance (and presumably ever since).

Highly recommended.

Truly the best Christmas gift I have gotten in many a year.

Got an Alleluia story? Don’t believe in the slow tempo? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Ipod shuffle status: 2167 (And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda – Chor Leoni, from the album Songs of War and Peace…very moving song)  of 7875

Get my EBook The Choir in Modern Worship



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December 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm

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carl b. schmidt February 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm


How nice to find your comments by total accident. They mean a great deal! Drop me a line if you have a chance and let’s catch up.

Carl B. Schmidt

vernsanders February 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Nice to hear from you Carl…look for an email from me soon…and thanks for the great book!


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