The Brockport Singers

D. Donald Cervone, Conductor

I thank our older son, Gian Carlo, for developing this site and teaching me how to use it.

For many of the seventeen years I taught at SUNY College at Brockport one of the ensembles I conducted was The Brockport Singers. From time to time I will place on this site recordings from some of their concerts. Keep checking the site; I'm not very fast at doing all this.

The Singers began in a rather unusual way. Louis Hetler, the head of the Theater Department at SUNY Brockport asked if I could get some singers to perform Puritan psalms for his production of The Crucible. He said he'd add them to the cast later in his rehearsal process. I placed a notice in the college newspaper and was surprised at the number of students who were interested in doing this. I think at least some of them just really wanted to get on stage. As we neared the date of performances of the play, the director asked me if I could tape the singing instead of performing it live; I guess he decided that adding more people this late would be too much of a hassle. I apologized to my singers for their not going on stage and suggested that if any of them wanted to stay with me we would perform as a small group. I think about twelve agreed and later that spring we shared a program with Ian Hendersons's men's glee club at Morgan-Manning House. The next year we became a full-fledged ensemble, and eventually we regularly performed at least four concerts a year. The ensemble varied in size but usually was about 16-18. The largest group was 30. One year I had exactly the same number of singers in each section (five, I think); that was unusual and gave a slightly different sound from the mix of voices I had normally. Early on we sang through at least one piece new to the members of the group at each rehearsal, and throughout the ensemble's existence they always had to read a lot of unfamiliar music. Many former Singers have thanked me for making them learn to sight-read music and said it had helped them later on.

The Singers met for a fifty-minute rehearsal on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—at noon, if I remember correctly. In addition, many years I also met the women's and men's sections separately once a week to learn their parts—at least those who could work that into their schedules and, surprisingly, many could. So, everyone rehearsed three times a week, many four times, and I had five rehearsals. The Singers were not a select, auditioned ensemble, except that they selected themselves by agreeing to the extensive rehearsal schedule. I felt that as a state university it was our duty to give opportunity to as many students as possible, so I accepted whoever wanted to sing and developed a group from that. In the long run it worked out well.

The college had no good space for performing music. I decided to try the large lobby of the Fine Arts Building. My colleagues thought I was crazy because in it sound reverberated for a rather long time. The first program I was going to perform had a lot of Renaissance music which could live in such a space so I gave it a try; and it worked. Since it also was a very public and open space there always was the possibility, in fact, probability, of undesirable noises such as slamming doors, footsteps, and talking. In any case, we performed many concerts there and others in several churches in Brockport. I give the location of the performances in the notes to the recordings; you may notice some differences in the ambience of the sound in the various venues.

The recordings will be found under three categories: Christmas Music; Sacred Music; and Secular Music. Each piece will be listed with information in the following order:

title (Locus iste)
composer (Anton Bruckner)
date of performance, year, month, and day [72-12-11 = 11 December 1972].

I've chosen this order because I feel former Singers might remember the title of a piece without knowing the composer; placing the year first will make it easier for them to choose recordings from the years they were members of the ensemble. Several recordings, from different years, may be found of some pieces. At each listing you will find a place to listen to an mp3 and another from which you can download the recording.

Select a category of music, then click on the title of a work found in the recordings list below to listen to it and get more information.

I hope you will enjoy hearing these recordings even though the results are variable, especially as to recording quality. (My attempts to eliminate tape hiss and hum are not always successful.)

I usually listen to recordings with earphones, and you may find that most satisfying unless you can play your computer files through decent speakers. Good listening to all!

DDC

© Copyright, 2011, by D. Donald Cervone. All rights reserved.

Music files and written commentary may be freely downloaded, shared, and distributed so long as they are not altered in any way.

You may be interested in my other site: ddc.cervone.net which contains recordings of some of my compositions.

greatstag@verizon.net will reach me if you have any comments or questions.

Recording Info:

Come, Close the Curtains of Your Eyes (Margrethe Hokanson, 1893-1975) [75-5-4]

listen here:   
download the audio file [ mp3 - 1.6 MB ]

This recording of Come, Close the Curtains of Your Eyes, by Margrethe Hokanson (1893-1975), is from a concert presented in the Lobby of the Fine Arts Building at SUNY Brockport on 4 May1975. The first half of the program was a memorial to Mrs. Hokanson who had died on 25 April 1975. The second half I called On Stage Tonight!; it contained a number of pieces that could be connected to theatrical performances.

In the notes for that program I wrote:

"Mrs. Hokanson was the first major musical influence in my life and undoubtedly one of the most important. It is probably because of her that I am a musician, and certainly she was most important in my becoming the kind of musician I am. . . . she also was very important in my becoming the kind of person I am.

I began studying piano with Mrs. Hokanson while I was still in high school and continued that study for the two years I was at Allegheny College [before transferring to The Eastman School of Music], where she also taught me to play the organ. She was very helpful to me in my first attempts at composition and choral performance."

Her son, John, was a classmate of mine in high school and at Allegheny; he died of cancer only a short time after his mother did. They both had been dear friends of mine and my family for many years.

I began my work with Mrs. Hokanson shortly after she returned from a year in Europe, where she studied with the famous French organist, Marcel Dupré. She told me that she found the words for this song when a woman who worked for the New York Herald Tribune in Paris showed her some of her poems. Mrs. Hokanson was particularly taken with these words. She said she was sipping wine while sitting at an outdoor table of a Parisian café when she wrote this music. She was thinking of John, whom she was missing especially because it was Easter and she wasn't used to being away from him for holidays. (John was staying with relatives in Sweden while she was in Paris.)

Mrs. Hokanson composed or arranged many pieces, mainly for chorus or organ. She was a talented choral conductor; her Nordic Choral Ensemble, consisting of singers from Minnesota, her home state, were just beginning to become important on the national scene when the United States entrance into World War II depleted the ranks of her male voices.

Come, Close the Curtains of Your Eyes is one of my favorite pieces by her. We first performed it in May 1974 and it immediately became a hit with the singers.

The ensemble consists of five sopranos, six altos, four tenors, and four basses.

Recorded in concert, 4 May 1975, in the Lobby of the Fine Arts Building. SUNY Brockport.

© Copyright, 2011, by D. Donald Cervone. All rights reserved.
Music files and written commentary may be freely downloaded, shared, and distributed so long as they are not altered in any way.