Heavenly Home: Three American Songs was premiered by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in May 2010 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, conducted by Grant Gershon. The following month, the La Verne Church of the Brethren Sanctuary Choir took the piece on their first international tour to Hungary, the homeland of their conductor, Nike St. Clair. A chamber accompaniment for Heavenly Home was written for Michael Ostrzyga and the University of Cologne Chamber Choir for their American tour in spring 2017, and was premiered in the Bay Area with the Albany Consort. This version (which includes recorder) was re-worked for full string orchestra, and was premiered by Steven Kronauer and Artes Vocales of Los Angeles in June 2017. A TTBB version of “Unclouded Day” was also written in 2017, commissioned by Brook Carter Larson and the Orpheus Male Chorus of Phoenix.
“Unclouded Day” is the bright, first movement of Heavenly Home. A straight-forward first verse and chorus are followed by two verses in which traditional bluegrass vocal stylings combine with counterpoint and fugue in a crescendo of excitement that peaks in the roof-raising phrase “in the city that is made of gold.” An unbeatable concert opener or closer.
“Angel Band,” the second movement and emotional heart of Heavenly Home, is an eight-part a cappella setting of the beloved William Bradbury tune (set to Jefferson Hascal’s text in 1862.) Simple, soaring descants, countermelodies, and rich harmonic textures give symphonic breadth to this arrangement that encompasses the full four-octave range of the “choral instrument.” Women’s and men’s choruses take turns at the first two verses before combining forces on the grand final verse.
“Hallelujah,” the final movement of Heavenly Home, is a six-part a cappella setting of a beloved Sacred Harp tune. Extensive composed material is used as interlude and accompaniment throughout, with “hallelujah’s” leaping, plunging, and circling to the lilting 6/8 rhythms. The austere Sacred Harp harmonization is used with only slight modifications on each refrain, providing homophonic contrast to the mostly polyphonic verses.
NOTE: based on performance experience, conductors may wish to reverse the order of Heavenly Home, beginning with “Hallelujah” and closing with “Unclouded Day.”