Program Notes: Stephen Paulus (1949 - 2014)

Stephen Paulus was a prolific American composer. He wrote over 600 works for chorus, opera, orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo voice, concert band, piano, and organ, and received premieres and performances throughout the world as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 2015. His musical style has been described by The New York Times as “lush and extravagant,” and critics from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Opera News, and many others have praised his work. The New Yorker described him as a "bright, lyrical inventor whose music pulsates with a driving, kinetic energy." Stephen Paulus died in October, 2014 from complications of a stroke, but his music continues to be frequently performed and described by critics as rugged, angular, lyrical, lean, rhythmically aggressive, original, often gorgeous, moving, and uniquely American.

Hymn for America

This quietly reverent hymn was commissioned by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 2004. It is both uplifting and nostalgic and was set to a text by Paulus’ long-time collaborator Michael Dennis Browne.

Pilgrims’ Hymn

"In April, 1997 I had a one-act opera called The Three Hermits (based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy) premiered at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, MN.  My friend and colleague, Kathy Romey, conductor of the Minnesota Chorale, saw one of the premiere performances and encouraged me to have the final chorus in the opera published as a separate work.  I thanked her for her interest and put off the task. She persisted and eventually I sort of grudgingly adapted and extracted a short choral work from the opera consisting of just the final chorus.  To date the work has sold over 160,000 copies and is the lead seller in our choral catalogue.  It has also been sung at the funeral services of both Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.  It pays to listen to your conductor friends!” - Stephen Paulus.

The Road Home

"In the Spring of 2001 I received a commission from the Dale Warland Singers to write a short "folk" type choral arrangement.  I had discovered a tune in a folk song book called "The Lone Wild Bird."  I fell in love with it, made a short recording and asked my good friend and colleague, Michael Dennis Browne to write new words for this tune. The tune is taken from The Southern Harmony Songbook of 1835.  It is pentatonic and that is part of its attraction.  Pentatonic scales have been extant for centuries and are prevalent in almost all musical cultures throughout the world.  They are universal.  Michael crafted three verses and gave it the title "The Road Home."  He writes so eloquently about "returning" and "coming home" after being lost or wandering. It is just more evidence that often the most powerful and beautiful message is often a simple one.” - Stephen Paulus.



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