How Do I Love Thee?, the Premiere

SSAA with piano or string quartet, 7′. Poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Commissioned by the Pennsylvania Girlchoir, Vincent Metallo, music director, for its Tenth Anniversary. Premiered 1 June 2014, the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.

PAgirlchoirlogo

I can’t say enough about the Pennsylvania Girlchoir, their premiere of my How Do I Love Thee?, their tenth season-ending concert yesterday, and the work of Vincent Metallo.

Five years ago they performed, with mezzo-soprano Suzanne Duplantis, my Two Laudate Psalms, and they were fantastic then. I can hardly believe it, but they have grown even better since, although, with some graduating seniors having been founding members, that’s quite a legacy to draw on. PG consists of five age-based choirs, with girls from ages seven through 17. Conductors Maureen Haley and Zerrin Agabigum Martin directed the younger of the groups, and Music Director Vincent Metallo, the oldest one.

The concert was brilliant, and never lagged. Different groups sang singly and in various combinations. The oldest, “Motet” choir sang in English, Latin, Hungarian, and Czech; that set included a rich Kodály piece and was inspired.

My setting of the famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem came right before the end (my program notes are here). The two oldest choirs, Motet and Trouvères, sang it with luscious sound and elegant diction and control. Katie O’Mara, off for Westminster Choir College in the fall, sang the short solo gorgeously. I could not have been happier with the breadth of sound and emotion. Vincent’s conducting is wonderful: apt and moving without being showy, and getting so much out of the singers by very efficient means.

And they’re taking it on their tour of Italy!

The Pennsylvania Girlchoir is a group to watch, with a strong organization, active parental backing, and inspired leadership. I’m so happy and honored that PG asked me for How Do I Love Thee?, their 10th anniversary piece.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith;
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
“Sonnet 43,” Sonnets from the Portuguese, 1845

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