Homeward Bound (2013)
- Media Types CD; MP3; Digital Download
- TracksTrack TitleTrack Time
- Terfel, MTC, OTS
- Abilene Music Inc.
- Terfel, MTC, OTS
- Alfred Music Publishing
- MTC, OTS
- Oxford University Press
Homeward Bound is an inspiring, heartwarming collaboration between Bryn Terfel and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square featuring repertoire with a decidedly Americana feel while also reflecting the shared Welsh heritage of Terfel and the Choir. The recording spans material ranging from British and American folk and popular songs to hymns, spirituals and classical pieces. New interpretations of favorites such as “What a Wonderful World,” “Shenandoah,” “Home on the Range,” and “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In,” among others, make for a moving and uplifting musical journey which ultimately reinforces the legacy of these classic songs, under the direction of music director Mack Wilberg.
Track notes for Homeward Bound
Featuring Bryn Terfel and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
with the Orchestra at Temple Square
1.What a Wonderful World
“What A Wonderful World” was written in 1967 by record producer Bob Thiele and Juilliard-trained songwriter George David Weiss, and was then famously recorded by Louis Armstrong. Thiele and Weiss intended the song as an optimistic antidote to the political, military, and social challenges the United States faced in the late 1960s. But even though it found an appreciative audience in the US, it was originally much more popular in Great Britain, where it reached the top of the pop charts and was the biggest-selling single of 1968. Mack Wilberg, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Music Director, wrote this arrangement of “What a Wonderful World” especially for this recording with Bryn Terfel.
Marta Keen, a Las Vegas-based music educator, librarian, singer, songwriter, and devoted mother, has produced many children’s songs, musicals, and choral works since she began composing in 1982. In 1991, Keen published “Homeward Bound,” a heartfelt folk-like song for which she wrote both the words and music. It quickly became one of the most performed contemporary choral works of our time, a poignant illumination of the emotional pull toward home after leaving to seek one’s calling in the world. This evocative arrangement by Mack Wilberg features a haunting penny-whistle solo that summons deep feelings of yearning and belonging.
3.Bound for the Promised Land
“Bound for the Promised Land” has appeared in every American Methodist hymnal since 1808 and was a favorite in 19th-century American camp meetings. It was also included in William Walker’s Southern Harmony, a formative collection of American folk hymns. The words were written by the London-based Baptist preacher Samuel Stennett, and were published in England in 1787. But the tune is a genuine American folk tune that bears a strong resemblance to an early 19th-century dance melody. Mack Wilberg’s arrangement keeps this vigorous, determined tune in a minor key, though in some 19th-century hymnals it also appears in major keys.
4. Faith’s Call
The young Welsh choral composer and songwriter Paul Mealor has enjoyed recent successes on several fronts. Mealor’s setting of Ubi caritas et amor, commissioned by Prince William for his wedding to Catherine Middleton in April 2011, was performed before a television audience estimated at hundreds of millions. And his song “Wherever You Are,” recorded by the amateur Military Wives Choir, was the UK’s top Christmas pop single in 2011. Mealor was subsequently voted Britain’s “favorite living composer” in 2012 by the listeners of the Classic FM radio station in London. Commissioned especially for this recording, “Faith’s Call”, or “Galwad Ffydd” in the Welsh language, speaks directly to the experiences of John Parry, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s first music director (who was born only a few miles from Mealor’s home town in North Wales), and the 19th-century Welsh pioneers who heeded a holy beckoning as they traveled from one land to another. An echo of the Welsh National Anthem—“Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”—near the song’s conclusion sounds a note of profound poignancy. And yet the final refrain of “Yes, here I am!” is universal in its affirmation of courage and triumph.
5. Shall We Gather at the River
On a sweltering summer day in July of 1864, the American poet and gospel songwriter Robert Lowry, pastor at the Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, was musing on the imagery of the apocalypse when he experienced an especially intense spiritual vision. “Brightest of all were the throne,” Lowry recalled, “the heavenly river, and the gathering of the saints.” Lowry began to wonder why, it seemed, past hymn-writers had so frequently emphasized the “river of death” but not the pure, crystalline river of life that flowed from the throne of God. As he pondered, the words and music of the hymn “Shall We Gather at the River” formed concurrently in his mind. This arrangement by Ryan Murphy, Associate Music Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, also features the Norwegian singer Sissel, who is a dear friend of both Bryn Terfel and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
6. How Great Thou Art
While preaching in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, English missionaries Reverend and Mrs. Hine came to love a charming song they heard there about the hand of God in nature, set to an old Swedish folk melody. Reverend Hine’s English version, “How Great Thou Art,” was inspired by both the song’s original lyrics (penned by Swedish author Carl Boberg) and the stirring vistas of the Carpathian Mountains, and it has been regarded in America for the past fifty years as one of the most popular songs of worship. Mack Wilberg’s new arrangement of “How Great Thou Art” highlights the worshipful attitude of the pastoral setting, while speaking ecumenically to the grandeur of the divine.
7. Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah
“Cwm Rhondda,” one of the most beloved Welsh hymn tunes, was named for a valley in South Wales where the tune’s composer, John Hughes, was employed as an organist in the early 20th century. This tune has been associated with a number of hymn texts over the decades, including “God of Grace and God of Glory” and William Williams’s 18th-century hymn “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” Indeed, Williams’s text, in its English-language version, was sung at the first performance of Hughes’s tune, with Hughes himself at the organ. But Williams’s original Welsh text is usually sung to another tune, and the “Cwm Rhondda” melody, when sung in Welsh, is more frequently paired with a different text altogether, “Wele’n sefyll rhwng y myrtwydd” (“Lo, Between the Myrtles Standing”) by the 18th-century Methodist poet Ann Griffiths. These texts are united, however, by a shared petition for God’s guidance through the journeys of mortality. Mack Wilberg’s fervent arrangement includes verses drawn from both the English and Welsh lyrics traditionally associated with this tune.
8. Blow the Wind Southerly
“Blow the Wind Southerly” is a traditional English folksong from the Northumbria region near Scotland that expresses a longing for the wind to aid the return of a departed lover. In triple meter, the song’s lilting melody mimics the rise and fall of the winds that are addressed directly in the lyrics, winds that are even sweeter when they carry a ship homeward. The song’s popularity can be traced largely to a recording made in 1949 by famed British contralto Kathleen Ferrier. Mack Wilberg’s arrangement, written especially for Bryn Terfel, employs a light orchestration that combines dancing rhythms in the woodwinds and swelling strings to represent the “bonnie breezes” and rolling sea.
A folk song dating at least to the early 19th century, "Shenandoah" was especially popular among the flatboatmen of the Missouri and Mississippi river valleys, and gained further popularity as a sea shanty or work song later in the century. Though versions of the lyrics vary widely, as numerous 19th-century sailors, travelers, and traders created their own stories of nostalgia and yearning, the central imagery of the Missouri river, travels westward, and longing for a home unite all the variants. In Mack Wilberg’s arrangement, revised for this recording, the flowing accompaniment emphasizes the continuity of the river as a symbol both of distance from home and of a connection to loved ones left behind.
10. Ave verum corpus
Welsh composer Karl Jenkins spent much of his early performance career in jazz and progressive rock bands, but was classically-trained, and holds a doctorate in music from the University of Wales. In the 1980s he shifted his focus toward composing music for advertising and media (most notably with his Vivaldi-like theme for a well-known diamond company campaign) and then into more extended composition with his ongoing crossover project, Adiemus. A gifted melodist with an ear for unusual combinations of timbre, Jenkins is currently the most-performed living composer in the world.
He wrote his setting of the traditional “Ave verum” text in 2004 especially for Bryn Terfel, who recorded it as a baritone duet on his Simple Gifts album. Jenkins later arranged it for soloists and chorus, incorporating it into his stylistically diverse Stabat Mater of 2008. On this recording, Terfel is joined by his friend and Utah native, the mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford, who has performed with Terfel on the operatic stage in New York.
11.The Dying Soldier
A 19th-century folk song from the American Civil War period, “The Dying Solider” was popularized through a 1928 recording by Kentucky minister and folk-music legend Buell Kazee. The lyrics speak of a faith in redemption, forgiveness of sins, and being received into heaven. But that assurance is tempered by the dying soldier’s longing to see his wife and little children once more. That tenderness of expression is captured perfectly here in Mack Wilberg’s hauntingly restrained arrangement.
12.Battle Hymn of the Republic
Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a text she wrote in 1861 for the Massachusetts Infantry, faded into relative obscurity after the end of the American Civil War. She had penned it on the suggestion that it could be sung to the popular Civil War tune known as “John Brown’s Body,” although the tune itself, originally a camp-meeting song, was originally collected and published before the war by William Steffe. The song was revived during World War II by radio host Fred Waring, and in 1944 Peter J. Wilhousky published a concert arrangement of the work. It was for their performance of Wilhousky’s arrangement that Choir director Richard P. Condie and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir received a 1959 Grammy Award.
13. Deep River
Harry T. Burleigh, the pioneering African-American singer/composer, published “Deep River” in 1916. It was the first (and would prove to be the most popular) of Burleigh’s published vocal arrangements. But the sources for “Deep River” reach back into the tradition of spirituals and plantation songs that Burleigh learned from his grandfather, an escaped slave. Invoking common biblical metaphors of freedom, deliverance, and salvation, such as “crossing over” the River Jordan into the peaceful “campground” of the “Promised Land,” this song speaks both of emancipation from physical captivity and an assurance of spiritual relief. Burleigh himself regarded these songs as “prayers” that proclaim “a religious security as old as creation, older than hope, deeper than grief, more tender than tears.”
14. When the Saints Go Marching In
The origins of the popular gospel song “When the Saints go Marching In” are clouded in obscurity, but it most likely began as a hymn in the late 19th century, emerging in the New Orleans area at around the same time as Dixieland jazz. A favorite at “jazz” funerals, it would be played as a dirge to accompany the casket to the cemetery, then again in a more upbeat version on the way back. It was recorded in both sacred and secular versions by several groups through the 1920s, but it was Louis Armstrong’s 1938 recording that ensured this song’s national popularity. Although written as a serious gospel hymn, it soon gained popularity as a “hot” or upbeat instrumental, and has since been recorded by numerous artists in a wide variety of musical styles. This arrangement is by Emmy-award winning composer Sam Cardon.
15. Home on the Range
The words for “Home on the Range” were written by a Kansas doctor, Brewster Higley, in 1872, and were then set to music by Higley’s friend, the carpenter and musician Daniel Kelley. Officially the state song of Kansas, “Home on the Range” has become something of an unofficial anthem of the entire American West, with its images of pristine open plains, relaxed wildlife, and Eden-like serenity. Bryn Terfel has frequently performed “Home on the Range” in concert and recitals as a tribute to the mid-century American baritone John Charles Thomas, who (like Terfel) essayed a wide variety of musical styles in his performances, from opera to ballads and folksongs, and almost singlehandedly made “Home on the Range” a classic. Terfel specifically requested that Mack Wilberg give “Home on the Range” a “new set of clothes” for this album. The result is Wilberg’s unusually serene arrangement, accentuating the idyllic imagery of the lyrics.
16. Libera me, from Requiem
French composer Gabriel Fauré was a gentle man whose personality was mirrored in a musical style marked by elegant reserve, subtlety, and sensitivity to text and emotion. It’s not surprising, then, that when Fauré chose to write a Requiem in the late 1880s, he avoided the quasi-operatic settings of his contemporaries and composed an unpretentious Requiem that he claimed was “as gentle as I am myself.” After the work’s premiere, Fauré made some changes, including the addition of a “Libera me” movement with baritone solo that he had composed independently in 1877. In this movement, the mood of the Requiem turns darker with a mention of the dies irae (Day of Judgment) in the text, and musical evocations of “flaming fire,” but avoids descending fully into the fear and dread that Fauré consciously avoided in this work.
17. Lascia ch’io pianga, from Rinaldo
Although German-born, George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) became famous primarily through his English oratorios and Italian operas. But the irony of a native German-speaking composer writing opera in Italian specifically for London audiences also reveals the cosmopolitan nature of Handel’s compositional style—he was master at combining various national musical traits into an artistic expression that has stood the test of time. Handel wrote the opera Rinaldo in 1711 for his first visit to London. A Crusade story set in Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, Rinaldo blends history, mythology, sorcery, and Christian mysticism in a drama that (like so many baroque operas) employs lavish visual spectacle and musical splendor to tell a story about love and redemption. “Lascia ch’io pianga,” the most famous aria from Rinaldo, began as an instrumental dance interlude in Handel’s 1705 German-language opera Almira, and was then recycled two years later into an aria in one of his Italian oratorios before it appeared again in Rinaldo. In this opera it is sung by Almirena, Rinaldo’s beloved, who has been kidnapped by the sorceress Armida. The sarabande rhythm derived from the music’s first use in a dance scene serves double duty here as the sighing phrases in each measure denote weeping and sorrow. Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of this soprano aria for bass-baritone and choir serves to highlight the universality of its message: a longing for liberty and freedom from suffering.
18.Give Me My Song
The music for “Give Me My Song” was composed by Benny Andersson, formerly of the Swedish pop group ABBA, and was originally conceived for the soundtrack to the 2000 Swedish movie Sånger från andra våningen (“Songs from the Second Floor”). The lyrics are by Ylva Eggehorn, one of Sweden’s principal contemporary Christian poets. This song (which is actually two songs combined: “Saknadens Rum” and the chorale-like “Kärlekens tid”) then took on its own life as an independent work, performed in concert and on recording by Andersson’s own orchestra, BAO. Its second half, “Kärlekens tid” (or “Seasons of Love”), has since been frequently performed as a contemporary hymn in church services across Scandinavia. In this performance, Bryn Terfel is joined by his friend the Norwegian soprano Sissel, who was also a guest artist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in its 2006 Christmas Concert.