The universe is full of duality. Space and time. Light and dark. Life and death. Heaven and Hell. Residents of this complex world, we know it all too well. As Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities (1859), “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Dickens’ timeless words ring true in our time as much as they must have in his. They reflect the often cruel juxtaposition of triumph and suffering in human life. I know it well. Grief has taken up residence in my body, yet my weeks are full of joy and beauty. Alas and Alleluia!

The body of repertoire that is our ancient art of choral music mirrors the complexity of the human condition. No compositional device matches the polarities of life better than writing for double choir. Double choir textures offer a rich array of contrasts and a sonic representation of duality: mind-body, human-divine, young-old, joy-despair, imperfection-perfectness.


Heinrich Schütz certainly understood complexity. He was a German but studied composition extensively in Italy. For 3 years (1609-12) he lived in Venice to study the poly choral style with Giovanni Gabrieli at St. Mark’s Basilica, and then he returned as Kapellmeister for the Elector of Saxony in Dresden, a city known for its grand architecture and dedication to the arts, earning it the nickname “Florence on the Elbe.” Jauchzet dem Herren, alle Welt, SWV 36 is part of the Psalmen Davids (Psalms of David), a collection of double choir or polychoral works with 8 – 20 “voices”. The listener can hear the joy in the rhythmic antiphony, despite the fact he was writing one year into what became known as the 30 Years War, which wrought havoc on the region of Europe in his lifetime. Joy and pain, both can at once be true.

RAJASEKAR (program note provided by the composer)

In “The Souls of Black Folk”, seminal sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois coined the term

“double consciousness” – the feelings of conflict and pain arising from reconciling how you see yourself with the way the world sees you. Du Bois was referring to how black individuals have been perceived by white supremacist societies, but his words also struck a chord with me: my life is centered around the challenge and beauty of navigating my dualities as an Indian-American, and as a Carnatic (South Indian classical) and Western classical musician.

In conversations with brilliant and insightful young adults, I came to understand how all of us, in some way, experience fragmented identity – whether it is reconciling faith and sexuality, different languages spoken at home versus school, or balancing a rural background with city living. We all have parts of ourselves that don’t quite fit together. Just as the composition moves through bitonality – with the soloists in one key, style, and time signature, and the choir in another – it might sometimes feel like these parts compete with each other, pulling us in different directions. But ultimately, we find peace when we acknowledge their coexistence. This is how the work ends: with every key and every voice contributing equally to a dialogue of sound.

While I was writing this piece in the summer of 2020, at my home in Minnesota, I was struck by how the youth of today were reshaping the world to be one that acknowledges and celebrates every person wholly. Generation Z has been charged with enacting the change we need, which is a tremendous responsibility. It is also the opportunity to rebuild: to acknowledge the past’s ills, and to hold the world to doing better in the future. I am so inspired by their commitment, their respect for each other, and their capacity for dreaming big and executing – and so, just as they celebrate each person on their own terms, this piece celebrates them.

Today’s performance is the North American premiere.


Orlando-based composer Keith Lay was so taken by the poem by Portland poet William Stafford, he knew he had to set it to music. The poem depicts a flock of migrating geese on their thousand-mile journey and difficulty through a winter storm. Some geese make it, and some sadly fall along the way. The composer’s deep interest in nature called him to anthropomorphize the animals, acknowledging their inner-emotional life as something we can recognize like our own as we live through the storms of life. The center of the choir (about one third of the singers) is conceived as a flock of geese in triangle-formation. There are four soloists who each move to the front of the formation when it is their time to lead, just as geese take turns leading the aerodynamic shape of the flock. Set for double choir and an unusual instrumentation (flute, oboe, clarinet in A, horn, bassoon, euphonium, and contrabassoon), the composer’s unique compositional style and harmonic language is at once colorful and interesting while remaining tonal and pleasing to the ear. One additional aspect of the piece is the sound of flapping wings, created like a Hollywood foley artist. Our percussionist has created the sound using a pair of gardening gloves beating against bubble wrap!

This is a world premiere performance.


The heart of the program is the iconic Mass for Double Choir by Frank Martin (1890-1974). A Swiss composer, Martin incorporated a mix of German and French influences in his music. In 1932 he became interested in the 12-tone technique of Arnold Schönberg, of which he incorporated certain elements into his own musical language, creating a synthesis of the chromatic and twelve-tone techniques, without however abandoning the sense of tonality.

He wrote a number of oratorios and large works for chorus and orchestra but only two unaccompanied choral works, including this Mass, considered by some to be the greatest a cappella choral work of the 20th-Century. Martin worked on it for 4 years then put it away never intending it to be performed. Martin once called it a “youthful sin” that was “unworthy of the Lord.”

In 1970, he wrote for a concert program:

“I have never presented it to the Association of Swiss Musicians so that it might be performed at one of its annual festivals, and in fact, I did not wish that it be performed, fearing that it would be judged from a completely aesthetic point of view. I looked at it then as a matter between God and me….the expression of religious sentiments, it seemed to me, ought to remain secret and have nothing to do with public opinion. For this reason, this composition stayed in a drawer for forty years, although formally appearing on the list of my works….

“[E]ven though I employed rather vast means, this is music of a completely inward expression. Since this period, my musical language has evolved considerably; there are many things in this work which I would no longer be able to write; there are blunders which I would no longer make (I would make others, who doesn’t make some?). But there are also some musical elements which are very much a part of me…

“Let us wish that one might still find conviction, youth, and some beauty in this mass which is almost a half-century old.”

In the mid-70’s, when the work was being recorded in Sweden, he was sent a tape for review. His reaction: “That was actually better than I thought.”

The mystical quality of the music evokes the past with melodies that seem to be derived from chant but with ‘modern’ harmonies.

“It was written back in 1922, well before Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms made it fashionable for French-speaking composers to strike a monkish pose. It sounds like a Renaissance mass lost in time, aware nonetheless of long centuries passing and new horrors unfolding.”  –Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise (New York: Fourth Estate Press, 2008)

Kyrie: chant-shaped melodies streaming into one another to form a river of pleading… 

Gloria: fugues to make a German smile, but harmonies so sensuous that Martin could only be thinking of France… 

Credo: some of Martin’s favorite music; re-used the music at “Et incarnatus est” in his Christmas Oratorio… 

Sanctus: mystical holiness, rapturous Hosanna’s, note Martin’s intricate setting of the single word “Benedictus”… 

Agnus Dei: a gently jagged rhythm, sad-sweet harmonies, and the arching melodies make this concluding plea for mercy one of the most touching moments of the work.


Composer William Harris (1883-1973) was a prominent figure in British choral music during the early to mid-20th century. Known for his intricate choral compositions, Harris made a lasting impact on the Anglican choral tradition. His music is characterized by lush harmonies, rich textures, and a deep understanding of vocal timbres. Harris’s choral works, such as his anthems and services, have been widely performed and admired for their timeless beauty and ability to evoke a sense of spiritual transcendence.

One of William Harris’s most celebrated compositions is the anthem Faire is the Heaven, a setting of Edmund Spenser’s poetry. This piece is a quintessential representation of his choral style, renowned for its profound emotional depth, and it is often performed in Anglican church services and in concert settings. The double choir voicing allows for a stunning antiphonal choir of angels, as we rise heavenward. We encounter more and more beauty as we rise until at last we are face to face with God, so stunning as we are unable to express the “endless perfectness”. May we all eventually cross the sacred veil with such perfect beauty, love, and the peace that passes all understanding. Alas and Alleluia!


Take What You Need is more than just a piece of music. It is a warm, safe, equitable space, where musicians and community can connect with one another, where stories can come forward, and where the foundations of a relationship can be built and nurtured.

Of the many performances of Take What You Need, very few of them have been in traditional concert halls. Most performances have taken place in jails, homeless shelters, support groups, schools, memorial services, places of worship — in places where people can gather to see and honor the humanity in one another.

Take What You Need was first written for Urban Voices Project, a choir made up of people who are experiencing or have recently experienced homelessness — so many of whom have trusted this piece with their own stories of loss and redemption. But this piece is also meant to be a resource for musicians and communities to come together and build the lasting relationships that plant seeds for social change.


Thank you for joining us as this music for double choir invited us to consider the dualities and complexities of life. I am struck by how even though we sometimes refer to double choir music as cori spezzati (“split choirs”); the two choirs always come together as one at some point(s) in the work. Choral music, my dear friends, holds a power that reaches deep into the recesses of our souls. It is an art form that unites us, uplifts us, and transcends the ordinary, forging connections that defy time and space. When we come together as one, our voices entwined in harmonious melodies, we become a force that can move mountains and touch hearts with an intangible grace.

In our fast-paced world, where distractions abound and individual pursuits often take precedence, it is the gift of choral music that reminds us of the power of community. It teaches us the value of collaboration, empathy, and the beautiful symphony that can be achieved when we set aside our differences and embrace a collective purpose. Voices, when blended in perfect harmony, have the ability to resonate beyond the confines of our rehearsal and performance spaces, echoing through the corridors of our lives and reverberating within the hearts of those who listen.

The world needs the resounding beauty of choral music now more than ever. In times of uncertainty, it serves as a beacon of hope, a reminder of the enduring spirit that resides within each of us. It has the power to heal, to inspire, and to bring solace to troubled hearts. I feel so fortunate to live a life in music and to share it with our community and our world. Thank you for being part of our musical journey.

–Andrew Minear

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


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