A spatial choral piece for five SATB choirs, a cappella
by Dan Locklair
For Amber Waves is a spatial choral composition for five SATB choirs, a cappella. Its text is the first stanza of the well-known 1905 poem, America the Beautiful, by the New England poet, Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929).
A minimum of twenty singers (one singer per part) is required for the performance of this 4 1/2-minute composition. The choirs should be placed around the audience and stage in such a way that the sound fully surrounds the performance space as much as possible. Since all performance spaces are unique and choir sizes will vary, the exact placement of the singers is left up to the conductor's discretion. It is suggested that the very brief soprano solo that ends the piece be performed from a unique location away from the choirs (so as to project a hunting, distant sound). It is only in this solo that a suggestion of Samuel Ward's famous tune long associated with this text, MATERNA, is heard.
For Amber Waves was composed in December of 1992 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and bears the following inscription: "Dedicated to the Hope of Peace and Harmony 1993". It received its World Premiere by Philip Brunelle's Plymouth Music Series in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 5 February 1994. Since then, numerous outstanding and brilliantly received performances of For Amber Waves have occurred, including ones by the Paul Hill Chorale (Washington), the Vocal Arts Ensemble (Cincinnati), the Bel Canto Company (Greensboro), the Ithaca College Choir (Ithaca) and the choral ensembles of the Eastman School of Music (Rochester).
Reviewing For Amber Waves in the May 1999 issue of Choral Journal, John Buehler wrote: "This piece, reminiscent in some ways of the well-known forty-voice Tallis motet, Spem in alium, is a sound study."
Though scored for five choirs, the parts of For Amber Waves are not difficult and are accessible to a wide range of choral ensembles. For Amber Waves's deeply evocative and floating quality of sound offers a unique way for choral ensembles and audiences alike to celebrate, in a fresh way, Katherine Lee Bates's reflections on America.
For Amber Waves, published in 1997 by Boosey & Hawkes (OCTB6991), is available for purchase through music dealers everywhere.
For Amber Waves has been recorded by The Choral Art Society of Portland, Maine, Robert Russell, Artistic Director, as part of the DAN LOCKLAIR: CHORAL MUSIC CD on Gasparo (GSCD-306 - distributed by Albany Music). Visit Gasparo's website at http://www.gasparo.com/.