The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: American composer Stephen Paulus dies at 65. The Festival Choir of Madison performed many world premieres by him and will perform the All-Night Vigil by Tchaikovsky this coming Saturday night. | October 27, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

Last week brought sad news.

The prolific American composer Stephen Paulus, who lived and worked in St. Paul, Minnesota, died last week at 65. He died of complications from a stroke he suffered last year, according to his son.

Stephen Paulus 1

Paulus was probably best known to Madison-area residents for the many works and several compositions that the Festival Choir of Madison commissioned and performed.

And talk about timing.

The Festival Choir of Madison (below) will open its new season by performing the All-Night Vigil of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky –- NOT the more famous work with the same name by Sergei Rachmaninoff –- on this coming Saturday night, November 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Day Drive, on Madison’s near west side.

Festival Choir of Madison 2013

One wonders if the group will dedicate the performance to the memory of Paulus, whose music proved both modern and accessible, and often seemed Midwestern in that Aaron Copland kind of way.

Written nearly 35 years before the more famous Vespers by Sergei Rachmaninoff, the All-Night Vigil by Tchaikovsky (below) was written in an attempt to ensure that church music in Russia retained a uniquely Russian flavor. (You can hear a sample of the Tchaikovsky work in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

young tchaikovsky

The work, containing settings from three “overnight” canonical hours (Vespers, Matins and First Hour), is a beautiful representation of the Russian liturgical repertoire.

A pre-concert lecture begins at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15 for the general public; $12 for seniors; and $9 for students.

Here is a link with information and reservations:

http://festivalchoirmadison.org/Season1415/tickets.htm

And here is more about Stephen Paulus (below), whom The Ear interviewed many years ago when he was working for The Capital Times. He was the model of a cordial and gracious artist who cared deeply about the public’s ability to appreciate his work.

Stephen Paulus 2

Here is an obituary that appeared in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/22/arts/music/stephen-paulus-classical-composer-rich-in-lyricism-dies-at-65.html?_r=0

And here is a story that appeared on Minneapolis Public Radio, which, like Wisconsin Public Radio, emphasizes classical music when many affiliates of NPR (National Public Radio) are increasingly turning to talk radio.

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/10/20/stephen-paulus-a-musical-life

 

 

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4 Comments »

  1. Hi Jake Thought I sent this weeks ago. Found it in Drafts! Thanks so much for the CU coverage too. Bev

    Dear Jake,

    It was a sad day for me last Sunday to hear of Steve’s death. We’d been friends since 1985 when I arranged a mini-internship with the Minnesota Orchestra, and he was the composer in residence. Over the years I commissioned him to write a closing group for the Radcliffe Choral Society (women’s choir), did the east coast premiere of his work Voices, which was premiered by the Minnesota ORchestra and Chorus, and worked with him on several other projects. He came to the UW when we reprised Voices with the UW Symphony and Choral Union. He was an encouraging, funny, warm person, private in feelings, but gracious and committed to the well-beinig of others in the field, and to others for whom his writing had special meaning. I performed his famous “Pilgrim’s Hymn” on tour with the UW COncert Choir at Notre Dame and Chartres a few years ago. Perhaps we’ll bring that back to our Nov. 16 concert. Beverly Taylor

    Comment by Beverly Taylor — November 30, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

  2. Dear Jake,

    It was a sad day for me last Sunday to hear of Steve’s death. We’d been friends since 1985 when I arranged a mini-internship with the Minnesota Orchestra, and he was the composer in residence.

    Over the years I commissioned him to write a closing group for the Radcliffe Choral Society (women’s choir), did the East Coast premiere of his work Voices, which was premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra and Chorus, and worked with him on several other projects. He came to the UW when we reprised Voices with the UW Symphony and Choral Union.

    He was an encouraging, funny, warm person, private in feelings, but gracious and committed to the well-beinig of others in the field, and to others for whom his writing had special meaning. I performed his famous “Pilgrim’s Hymn” on tour with the UW COncert Choir at Notre Dame and Chartres a few years ago.

    Perhaps we’ll bring that back to our Nov. 16 concert.

    Beverly Taylor,
    Director of Choral Activities at the UW-Madison School of Music

    Comment by Beverly Taylor — October 27, 2014 @ 12:15 am

    • Dear Beverly,
      I am sorry for your loss, and for music’s.
      Thank you for all the updates, including the Paulus works done or pending at the UW-Madison School of Music.
      It adds a lot to the record of Paulus and his relations to Madison.
      Please keep me posted as you program and perform more of his works.
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      All my best to you,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 27, 2014 @ 7:10 am


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