A  c a p p e l l a

Emendemus in melius - Sungji Hong
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The Lord is my Shepherd - Sungji Hong
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Audio Recording and Score

The ‘Psalm of the Shepherd’ (Psalm 23) represents God as a protector, provider and source of comfort for all human beings. It is a text which speaks about hope, care, compassion and the unconditional love of God. 

This a cappella piece is scored for mixed unaccompanied voices (SATB) and was composed during the spring of 2007 in Thessaloniki, Greece. The Lord is my Shepherd was commissioned by the Foundation for Universal Sacred Music and was first performed by The New York Virtuoso Singers under the direction of Harold Rosenbaum at the 4th Universalist Society in New York.

The Lord is my Shepherd is dedicated to my mother.

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Choir: The New York Virtuoso Singers
Conductor: Harold Rosenbaum 
Place: The 4th Universalist Society, New York/USA.
Date: 27 April 2008

 

Pater Noster

2004, 10 mins - for mixed voices (SATB)

Pater Noster - Sungji Hong
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This a cappella piece is scored for mixed unaccompanied voices (SABT). Pater Noster was commissioned by MATA Festival. The piece was received its first performance on 15 May 2004 by Vox Vocal Ensemble under the direction of George Steel at the St. Peter's Church in New York.

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Choir: Renaissance Voices & Con Spirito

Conductor: G. Kevin Dewey

Place: North Congregational Church, Farmington Hills (MI)/USA.

Date: 10 June 2007

 

Audio Recording and Score

Emendemus in melius opens with long melismatic phrases of ‘emendemus in melius’ (Let us atone for the sins). It moves to quiet choral implorations which of harmonies create a serene atmosphere. A dramatic climax leads the piece to the end for the words ‘libera nos’ (deliver us).

The work begins as a very personal, introspective "prayer", and progresses through a series of variations culminating in what can best be described as resounding exclamations of pure religious ecstasy. Emendemus in melius is in eight parts and the text is from the Tridentine Matins on the first Sunday of Lent.

 

The piece was received its first performance on 2 February 2005 by the Choir of the Temple Church under the direction of Stephen Layton.

Emendemus in melius was awarded to the First Prize at The Temple Music Composition Prize in 2004.

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Choir: The Choir of the Temple Church in London
Conductor: Stephen Layton
Place: The Temple Church, London/UK.
Date: 2 February 2005

 

Audio Recording and Score

 

The text of the piece is from an anonymous hymn of the 10th century. It is written for voices alone and is scored for three female voices. In the piece, polyphonic writing is often followed by homophony in various tempi and moods.

The duration of the piece is 4 minutes and 30 seconds. It was composed during the summer of 2015. O nata lux is written for trio Artemisia.


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Performed by: Dulciana Vocal Ensemble

Conductor: Eoghan Desmond

Place: Freemasons' Hall, Dublin/Ireland.

Date: 24 October 2016

 

O nata lux - Sungji Hong
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Audio Recording and Score

Kyrie  4 mins

Gloria  6 mins 

Credo  6 mins 

Sanctus  4 mins 

Agnus Dei  6 mins 

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Performed by: Trio Mediaeval

Stella Maris - ECM Record (1929 476 3021)

Recording producer: John Potter (Former Hilliard Ensemble Tenor)

Engineer: Peter Laenger

February 2005 at the monastery of Propstei St. Gerold in Austria

Hong’s CD release Stella Maris on the ECM New Series (ECM 1929), performed by the vocal ensemble Trio Mediaeval, received critical acclaim and reached the top ten on the Billboard Classical Chart and Itunes classics. Since it was released, her Missa Lumen de Lumine has been performed by Trio Mediaeval in over 60 cities around the world, at the Indianapolis Early Music Festival, Sommerlichen Musiktage Hitzacker Festival, Edinburgh Booking Dance Festival, Kirchenmusik wochen in Neuss, The Oslo Chamber Music Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival, the San Francisco International Arts Festival, the International Music Festival Bath, the Bergen International Festivalthe Festival International de Musiques Sacrées, Gernrode MDR Musiksommer, the David Oistfest Festival, the Ettiswil Festival, the Kuoroespoo International Choral Espoo Esbo Körfestival, the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, the Venice Music Festival, and others.

Trio Mediaeval’s sound world is fully authentic for Sungji Hong’s Mass Lumen de Lumine, written for the Trio. Lumen de Lumine creates exquisite sonorities by exploring different vocal tessituras and textures. The opening Kyrie is canonic and highly embellished, seeming to take its departure in texture and musical technique – if not musical style – from the many late mediaeval settings of the Mass Ordinary, where the shorter texts (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) are treated much more melismatically than the longer texts.

 

Hong’s Kyrie is imitative, beginning with a low tessitura that expands upwards to create a wide expanse of sound. It is mainly polyphonic – the texture operates in a linear way rather than in blocks of sound - but the voices come together homophonically in each of the three sections for the last syllables. Rhythmically, the “Lombard” or scotch-snap figure that characterizes this movement seems to link it back to the “ars subtilior” of the late fourteenth century, when composers revelled in exploring the new possibilities opened up by ever-more sophisticated notations; but we might also hear this intricacy as a reference to the rhythmic inflexions that we instinctively feel must once have been present but are now lost in our rather literal, present-day realizations of plainchant.

 

In the Gloria, the melodic lines are more chromatically inflected and the rhythms more subtly nuanced; the declamatory style at the opening soon becomes punctuated by enormous changes of tessitura and texture. These complex passages are set off (sometimes interrupted by) homophony in various tempi and moods. The opening is jubilant; the music seems to be moving forward to a glorious point in a three-octave passage at “omnipotens (almighty)”. Here, Sungji Hong sets a major 9th in a dramatic style to create a sense of open space, underlying the words “Tu solus Altissimus”. Emphasis is also created near the end of the Gloria, when the words “Jesu Christe’” are sung by a solo voice.

 

The Credo is primarily contrapuntal and unfolds quickly by introducing different parts of the text in each voice imitatively, recalling the 15th-century practice of “simultaneous” presentation of texts – useful in an age where intricate polyphonic writing was slowing down the singing of the Mass almost to a standstill. The “Et incarnates” section forms a striking contrast to the “Allegretto risoluto” opening and is set entirely as a very severe and slow solo.

 

In the Sanctus, subtle word painting at “Pleni sunt caeli et terra” stands out to the listener. Here, the space between heaven and earth is depicted by the two of the three voices singing at the limits of their ranges.

 

The Agnus Dei is in simple, rather static homophony that echoes the Gloria’s “Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis”: the voices are marked “bell-like” and sing in open-sounding harmonies. Although the texture occasionally opens out into imitation, the main impression is of space and a contemplative stillness. 

 

Hong’s music, complex and subtle, always remains accessible – partly because the ever-changing textures direct listeners so effectively towards what she really wants us to hear, and partly because she is constantly exploring different colours, images and timbres. She seems to have absorbed sound worlds not only from her native Korea but from her exploration in electroacoustic music with its special focus on timbre. 
 

Nicky Losseff

 

Hong’s CD release Stella Maris on the ECM New Series (ECM 1929), performed by the vocal ensemble Trio Mediaeval, received critical acclaim and reached the top ten on the Billboard Classical Chart and Itunes classics. Since it was released, her Missa Lumen de Lumine has been performed by Trio Mediaeval in over 60 cities around the world, at the Indianapolis Early Music Festival (2017: Indianapolis/USA), Sommerlichen Musiktage Hitzacker Festival (2016: Hitzacker/Germany), Edinburgh Booking Dance Festival (2012: Edinburgh/UK), Kirchenmusik wochen in Neuss (2011: Neuss/Germany), The Oslo Chamber Music Festival (2011: Oslo/Norway), the Boston Early Music Festival (2007: Boston/USA), the San Francisco International Arts Festival (2007: San Francisco/USA), the International Music Festival Bath (2007: Bath/UK), the Bergen International Festival (2007: Bergen/Norway), the Festival International de Musiques Sacrées (2006: Fribourg/Switzerland), Gernrode MDR Musiksommer (2006: Romanische Kirchen/Germany), the David Oistfest Festival (2006: Parnu/Estonia), the Ettiswil Festival (2006: Ettiswil/Switzerland), the Kuoroespoo International Choral Espoo Esbo Körfestival (2006: Espoo/Finland), the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival (2005: Oslo/Norway), the Venice Music Festival (2005: Venice/Italy), and others.

Sungji has been working with The BBC Singers [London/UK], The Choir of the Temple Church [director. Stephen Layton, London/UK], Dulciana Vocal Ensemble [director. Eoghan Desmond, Dublin/Ireland], Volti Chamber Choir [director. Robert Geary, CA/USA], Seattle Pro Musica [director. Karen P. Thomas, WA/USA], Renaissance Voices [director. G. Kevin Dewey, MI/USA], Con Spirito [director. G. Kevin Dewey, MI/USA], The New York Virtuoso Singers [director. Harold Rosenbaum, NY/USA], Vox Vocal Ensemble [director. George Steel, NY/USA], Lorelei Ensemble [director. Beth Willer, MA/USA], Trio Artemisia [IL/USA], Ensemble Vocal Omnia Cantore [Mexico city/Mexico], Seoul motet choir [director. Chiyong Park, Seoul/Korea], and Trio Mediaeval [Oslo/Norway].

List of Works   https://www.sungjihong.com/compositions

Noël Nouvelet

2017, 4 mins - for five female voices

The text of the piece is from a traditional French Christmas carol of the 15th century. It is written for voices alone and is scored for five female voices (SSAAA). The duration of the piece is 4 minutes, and it is characterized by a repeated short harmonic progression and ostinato melody on alto solo part.

It was composed during the summer of 2017. Noël Nouvelet is written for Dulciana Vocal Ensemble. It was first performed by Dulciana under the direction of Eoghan Desmond at the Sandford Parish Church in Dublin, Ireland on 4 December 2017.

 

© 2019 by Sungji Hong