Choir to sing Robert Frost poems in ‘Frostiana’

February 5, 2011 — by Deborah Soung

The Saratoga, Lynbook and Homestead High School choirs will join forces Feb. 10 with the Saratoga orchestra to perform the masterpiece “Frostiana” in the McAfee Center.

“Frostiana,” composed by Randall Thompson in the late 1950s, is the product of great friendship between Thompson and poet Robert Frost. Thompson composed seven movements in the 25-minute-long orchestral suite, with each movement using a poem written by Frost as its lyrics.

The concert is divided into two parts: first, each school’s choir will sing two songs and the orchestra will perform one song and second, all choirs will join together to sing “Frostiana” together.

Orchestra teacher Michael Boitz will conduct the orchestra, and each school’s choir will be conducted by its respective choir teacher: Crystol Isola for Lynbrook, Jeff Morton for Homestead and Jim Yowell for Saratoga. For “Frostiana,” all of the choir teachers will conduct a movement or two.

While students sing “Frostiana,” a slide show arranged by Yowell will play across the wall behind the singers. The slide show depicts artwork and photographs which correspond to the lyrics of the song.

“We did [a slide show] for a piece called ‘The Armed Man’ several years ago,” Yowell said. “It helped enhance the music and the words because the audience can see slides cast up against the back wall behind the singers.”

The entire “Frostiana” suite is not performed very often by high school choirs since it has so many movements.

Most schools choose to sing one or two movements with a piano accompanist, but the Saratoga choir has the chance to perform the entire suite since it has other choirs in the area to perform with and an orchestra for accompaniment, said to Yowell.

“I chose [Frostiana] because we have a wonderful orchestra. We have a great orchestra director here, we have great singers here, and they love to do challenging things,” said Yowell.

More schools stepped up to the challenge than usual this year—though the school choir does a collaboration annually, they usually consist of just two choirs instead of three, according to Yowell.

“I usually just invite one other school, so this is the biggest [collaboration] we’ve had so far,” Yowell said.

However, the suite proved an successful choice, with its inspiring lyrics and tunes.

“I have favorite moments in all of [the movements] because they’re very inspiring, very thoughtful and reflective,” Yowell said. “They make you think a little more, and the composer made such a great setting for each poem so that he really puts you in the mood right away.”

Yowell gives the example of the final movement, “Choose Something Like a Star.”

“That poem is like a reflection, a metaphor,” Yowell said. “You choose your higher aspirations about yourself—you choose something like a star. You reach out and you grab it as opposed to being always so sad, glum and negative.”

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