ETERNAL LIFESacred Songs and Arias
Stephen Adams, Olive Dungan, Gabriel Fauré, César Franck, Charles Gounod, Moses Hogan, Hall Johnson, Albert Hay Malotte, Felix Mendelssohn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert
AMY PFRIMMER, soprano
Dreux Montegut, piano
"There can never be a doubt that Amy Pfrimmer feels what she is singing. The American soprano brings a deep well of fervour to the repertoire on 'Eternal Life'... Pfrimmer delivers [these songs] with passion, lucudity and respect."
Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone [September 2017]
“Amy Pfrimmer and Dreux Montegut perform all the material with involvement and, as appropriate, enthusiasm, and the disc should be one that churchgoers, church choirs and anyone moved by old-time religion – as defined in multiple ways – will find suitably uplifting.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [May 2017]
“This collection of religious works has an uplifting appeal with a glance of modern antebellum charm since singer (Amy Pfrimmer) and pianist (Dreux Montegut) hail from America’s Deep South. Both accomplished artists’ roots are firmly entrenched within New Orleans’ St. Louis Cathedral Basilica. Thus, the pairing makes for a solid case of voice combining with instrument... [interpretations capture] her faith, both in tone and dynamics. Additionally, there’s a sense of unadulterated equilibrium with Dreux Montegut at the helm on piano. The draw is straightforward, erudite and comforting. His framework houses Ms. Pfrimmer’s voice, giving us continuous pockets of ethereal thought and solace. Acoustically, MSR Classics captures this music beautifully. This is a great constant under the company’s banner. An impressive display for those who enjoy delving into ecclesiastical moments.”
Christie Grimstad, ConcertoNet [May 2017]
PROGRAM NOTESO sing unto the Lord a new song; for He hath done marvelous things: His right hand, and His holy arm, hath gotten Him the victory. [Psalm 98:1]
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: Come before His presence with singing. [Psalm 100:1-2]
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. [Ephesians 5:19]
These scripture verses are just a few examples of passages found throughout the Bible - especially in the Psalms - that demonstrate how people of faith are taught to come before the Lord, singing, praising and honoring Him. The composers represented in this collection give us works of praise, thanksgiving, encouragement, prayer and reflection, in a broad spectrum of the best-loved and often performed sacred songs and arias from the soprano repertoire. Various styles, periods and purposes are represented, with particular attention given to presenting a mixture of genres, language and subject material. It is appropriate that the program begins with Olive Dungan’s Eternal Life, which sets to music the famous Prayer for Peace attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. The prayer asks God to show us how to be people of peace and reconciliation, sure in the knowledge that through Him we will have eternal life.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn and Albert Hay Malotte contribute familiar oratorio arias and songs inspired by Biblical texts. Mendelssohn was moved to compose an oratorio based on the story of Elijah, from the Book of Isaiah, after he conducted the 1829 revival of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The opening aria of Elijah’s second part is Hear Ye, Israel, which he composed with the voice of famous opera soprano Jenny Lind in mind. Mozart drew his scriptural text and inspiration for the soaring Laudate Dominum from the Book of Psalms, while the text of Malotte’s compelling and effective setting of The Lord’s Prayer is derived from the Pater Noster (Our Father), found in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. Using musical structure he found effective in his film scores and early career playing organ for silent movies, Malotte sent the vocal line ever higher, building the piece to its climax with the text, “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, amen.” The inspirational texts chosen by Mendelssohn, Mozart and Malotte are poignant and reflective.
Though not a direct quotation from the Gospel of Luke, the Hail Mary prayer is derived from the Archangel Gabriel’s message to the Virgin Mary that she will be the Mother of Jesus (Luke 1:28). Franz Schubert actually recycled his famous Ave Maria melody, adding the Marian prayer to what was originally a secular song entitled Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellens Third Song from Schubert’s setting of Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lady of the Lake). Notably, the original secular song text also begins with the words Ave Maria as Ellen prays to the Virgin for her help. In reusing his original melody, Schubert consequently produced one of the most familiar and recognizable sacred songs of all time.
In Charles Gounod’s Ave Maria, the composer imposes an inspired original melody with the text over J.S. Bach’s Piano Prelude No.1 in C major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, his celebrated and influential teaching manual of preludes and fugues. Also from Gounod, this disc includes his O, Divine Redeemer, a most special prayer of repentance. The title of the work in the original French, Repentir, means Repentance. It is striking that Gounod composed this song of repentance only a few months before his death.
In the French tradition, Gabriel Fauré’s simple and elegant setting of the Stéphan Bordèse poem En prière (In Prayer) crafts a moment of quiet, sincere prayer and private devotion. Likewise, César Franck’s noble Panis Angelicus (Bread of Angels) taps St. Thomas Aquinas’ hymn Sacris solemniis written for the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), providing reverence for the Host and sacrament of Holy Communion.
Composing under the alias Stephen Adams, baritone soloist Michael Maybrick used original poetry by Frederick Weatherly (best known, perhaps, as the lyricist ofDanny Boy) as the text for The Holy City. Weatherly’s words combined with Adams’ musical scene shifts create a memorable refrain, “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Lift up your gates and sing, hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to your King!” It is spirited and rousing, painting an intensely dramatic scene of renewed hope and rejoicing.
For Pfrimmer and Montegut, two artists from the American “South”, traditional spirituals have served as a constant companion and inspiration. The emotion, rhythmic energy, spirit and vitality of Hall Johnson’s His Name So Sweet and Ride On, King Jesus! hit their mark as effectively as the prayerful sincerity of Moses Hogan’s reverent and expressive He’s Got the Whole World and Give Me Jesus. These joyful songs represent earnest faith, offer blessed assurance, spontaneity, renewal of the spirit and the peace of salvation.
Known for dramatic and vocal versatility, soprano Amy Pfrimmer has sung professionally across the United States, Canada and Europe. Notable operatic engagements include Opéra de Montréal, New Orleans Opera, Bulgarian State Opera Stara Zagora, Florida Grand Opera, Mississippi Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Virginia Opera, Mozart Festival Opera and Ohio Light Opera in such roles as the Merry Widow, Violetta, Mimì, Musetta, Cio-Cio San, Nedda, Rosalinda, Pamina and Freia. She has appeared in the concert setting, performing with the Illinois Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Alabama Symphony, Memphis Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and with the London Symphony Orchestra and Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz. Recent concert works include Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Poulenc’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, J.S. Bach’s Wachet Auf, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and Beethoven’s Choral Symphony. She collaborated frequently with the late Dave Brubeck in his Mass, To Hope! A Celebration and La Fiesta de la Posada. A frequent award-winner, Pfrimmer received a fellowship from Louisiana Division of the Arts, a study grant from the Metropolitan Opera’s Education Fund, Florida Grand Opera’s Gilbert Artist of the Year, and an Emerging Leader Award from the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). Early in her career, she attracted considerable attention as a national finalist and regional winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions. A dedicated teacher, Pfrimmer has served as voice area coordinator and has directed the concert vocal series of Tulane University since 2007 and was appointed the Lillian Gerson Watsky Professor in Voice there in 2012. She makes frequent guest artist appearances, is sought after as a contest adjudicator and has conducted numerous university and young artist program master classes, notably at the Brevard Music Center and National Classical Singer Conference. Pfrimmer is a principal cantor at New Orleans’ St. Louis Cathedral Basilica. An alumnus of the distinguished young artist programs of the Florida Grand Opera, Virginia Opera and Chautauqua Opera, Pfrimmer received her Master of Music degree from Loyola University of New Orleans, and her Bachelor of Music from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Her teachers have included Martina Arroyo, Mary Henderson Buckley, Philip Frohnmayer, Sandra Kungle, Arthur Levy and Patricia O’Neill.
Tenor and pianist Dreux Montegut has served as the Director of Music at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica since 1996, where he directs the St. Louis Cathedral Choir and Concert Choir. He has been a Loyola University faculty member since 1994. His extensive work with young male voices has become a specialty, making him a sought after instructor in the field. Montegut is a member of several professional music organizations including National Association of Teachers of Singing, American Choral Directors Association (ADCA) and National Association for Music Education, formerly Music Educators National Conference (MENC). Montegut has served on the faculties of Tulane University and Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology, and has served as Assistant Chorus Master with the New Orleans Opera and a director with New Orleans Children’s Chorus. He maintains an active private studio, with students going on to prestigious graduate programs and apprenticeships with the Ryan Opera Center, Merola Opera Program, Santa Fe Opera, Central City Opera, Wolf Trap Opera and Chautauqua Opera. Several of Montegut’s students have won notable competitions, including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Orpheus National Vocal Competition, and have made significant debuts with the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, La Scala, Chicago Lyric Opera, Central City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Dallas Opera, New Orleans Opera and on Broadway. During his years at the Eastman School of Music, Montegut studied with mezzo-soprano Marcia Baldwin and coached with Kenneth Merrill and Robert Spillman. Other notable teachers include Philip Frohnmayer, Florence and Michael Presti and Robert Grayson.
PROGRAMOlive Dungan (1903-1997)
ETERNAL LIFE – A Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi (1949)
César Franck (1822-1890)
PANIS ANGELICUS (1872)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
LAUDATE DOMINUM (from Vesperae Solennes De Confessore, 1780)
Charles Gounod (1818-1893) | Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
AVE MARIA (1853)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
EN PRIÈRE (1890)
Charles Gounod (1818-1893) | Arranged for piano by Émile Paladilhe (1844-1926)
O DIVINE REDEEMER (1893)
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
HEAR YE, ISRAEL! (from Elijah, 1846)
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
AVE MARIA (1825)
Albert Hay Malotte (1895-1964)
THE LORD’S PRAYER (1935)
Stephen Adams [alias of Michael Maybrick] (1841-1913)
THE HOLY CITY (1892)
Traditional Spiritual | Arranged by Moses Hogan (1957-2003)
HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS (2000)
Traditional Spiritual | Arranged by Hall Johnson (1888-1970)
HIS NAME SO SWEET (1934)
Traditional Spiritual | Arranged by Hall Johnson
RIDE ON, KING JESUS! (from Son of Man, 1951)
Traditional Spiritual | Arranged by Moses Hogan
GIVE ME JESUS (2000)