Randall Thompson

Randall Thompson

Randall Thompson achieved extraordinary success not only as the nation’s pre-eminent composer of choral music, but also as a highly-respected educator who was instrumental in establishing the great choral masterpieces as standard repertoire for our college and university choruses. Although his family was musical, young Thompson was not encouraged to take up music as a profession. But as a student at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, where his father was an English teacher, he was engaged as a school organist.

When he entered Harvard University in the fall of 1916, Thompson tried out for the Harvard Glee Club and was rejected by its conductor “Doc” (Archibald T.) Davison; Thompson’s conclusion: “My life has been an attempt to strike back!” Doc taught him counterpoint, the history of choral music, and took time outside of class to criticize his early efforts in composing choral music. But the greatest impact that Davison had on him was the man’s taste, his cultivation of the choral legato, and his adoration of the great choral literature.
In 1922 Thompson won the Damrosch Fellowship to study at the American Academy in Rome. Here he began what turned out to be a lifelong friendship with the Italian people, their music and their language. He also started writing the first of his significant musical compositions: the five Odes of Horace, set for chorus and completed in 1924.

On his return to the United States, Thompson lived in Greenwich Village, taking on various musical jobs, including that of composing songs and music for The Straw Hat and Grand Street Follies of 1926, a witty highbrow revue.
A year later, he married Margaret Quayle Whitney of Philadelphia, who proved to be the ideal companion and sustainer of his ambitions. Her warm intelligence and unaffected charm complemented his reserve and apparent austerity of manner, just as her humor tempered his wit. Their four children made the household at once boisterous and musical, though music was not the sole topic of conversation for which their hospitality was notable.

That same year, 1927, Thompson was appointed assistant professor of music, organist and choir director at Wellesley College, and from then on his academic and directorial career followed a natural course. He was lecturer at Harvard, guest conductor of the Dessoff and Madrigal choirs, and the Juilliard chorus in New York, and professor of music successively at Berkeley, the University of Virginia, Princeton, and Harvard.
In one interval he was two years director of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where included among his students and assistants were Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein. (With the latter he continued to maintain a close personal and professional friendship and was often a source of guidance for the younger composer and conductor.) But Thompson disliked the administrative work that robbed him of time for composing.

Between 1932 and 1935 Thompson was the chief architect of a survey which ultimately revolutionized the teaching and performance of music on America’s campuses. The results of this published study (College Music, 1935) provided the impetus which started the upward march toward professional competence. If today our college choirs are singing Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer or Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, instead of Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum, it is largely because of Thompson’s masterly handling of a delicate investigation.


Schola Cantorum of Oxford: The Peaceable Kingdom

The Peaceable Kingdom
Say Ye To The Righteous
Woe Unto Them
The Noise Of A Multitude
Howl Ye
The Paper Reeds By The Brooks
But These Are They That Forsake The Lord
Have Ye Not Known?
Ye Shall Have A Song
The Last Invocation
Mass of the Holy Spirit
Benedictus & Hosanna
Agnus Dei
Fare Well

For the past half century, the music of Randall Thompson has remained a staple in the choral repertoire. These delightful works are marked by skillful craftsmanship, a pervasive singability and uncommon beauty. This new recording features Thompson’s The Peaceable Kingdom, based upon texts from the book of Isaiah, as well as his Mass, The Last Invocation and Fare Well. Also included is one of Thompson’s most popular works, his Alleluia, written at the request of Serge Koussevitsky and premiered in July 1940, and today a beloved and time-honored contribution to the choral repertoire. The informative booklet notes are by one of Thompson’s most constant admirers, the fellow-American composer Morten Lauridsen.

8951 CD $19.95

American Repertory Singers: Ye Shall Have a Song

The Peaceable Kingdowm
Say Ye to the Righteous
Woe Unto Them
The Noise of a Multitude
Howl Ye
The Paper Reeds by the Brooks
But These Are They
Have Ye Not Known?
Ye Shall Have a Song
The Best of Rooms
Odes of Horace
O fons Bandusiae
Vitas hinnuleo
Montium Custos
Felices ter
The Last Invocation

Since Randall Thompson (1899-1984), perhaps America's most famous composer of choral music, it is significant that at last a retrospective selection of this music has been recorded. "Ye Shall Have A Song" is a collection of works dating from 1922 to 1970, when the bulk of his choruses had already been written. Starting with his early masterpiece, the 8 movements of "The Peaceable Kingdom," ("Say Ye to the Righteous," "Woe Unto Them," "'The Noise of a Multitude," "Howl Ye," "The Paper Reeds by the Brooks," "But These Are They," "Have Ye Not Known" and the title tune), the CD progresses to "Bittersweet" of 1970, representing his last style. "The Best of Rooms," "Alleluia," and four "Odes of Horace" are followed by the oldest composition, 1922's "The Last Invocation." The Singers make these difficult-to-perform, eclectic and sublimely beautiful pieces sound effortless. A worthy retrospective of the works of an American master!

7516 CD $15.98

Choral Arts Northwest: The Light Of Stars

The Best of Rooms (Robert Herrick)
Two Herbert Settings (George Herbert):
- Antiphon
- Bitter-sweet
The Last Invocation (Walt Whitman)
Odes of Horace:
- Montium custos (book 3, 22)
- Vitas hinnuleo (book 1, 23)
- O fons Bandusiae (book 3, 13)
- Felices ter (final verse of book 1, 13)
- The Light of the Stars (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
- The Passenger (Mark Anthony DeWolfse Howe)
- Two Worlds (Edmund Waller)
- Siciliano (Philip H. Rhinelander)
- The Happy Shore (Edmund Spenser)

30-strong, mixed-voice, Seattle-based Choral Arts (formerly Choral Arts Northwest), founded by artistic director Richard Sparks, is one of the outstanding chamber choirs in the United States. Focusing primarily on romantic and contemporary music, the choir's repertoire has ranged from Renaissance music to contemporary Swedish works. Randall Thompson achieved iconic status for choral works like "Frostiana" and the hugely popular anthem "Alleluia" in the middle part of the 20th century. Included here are 14 pieces, some favorites: the world premiere recordings of "Antiphon" and "Five Love Songs," "The Last Invocation" (based on words by Walt Whitman), the previously mentioned "Alleluia," "Vitas hinnuleo," and the title tune (based on words by Longfellow). Some light accompaniment. Beautiful, romantic music performed by one of America's finest choirs!

7039 CD $15.98

Harvard University Choir: Amy Beach and Randall Thompson

The Eternal Dove
Lord of All Being, Op. 146
The Best of Rooms
Help Us, O God! Op. 50
Choose Something Like A Star
Peace I Leave With You
Felices Ter
Evening Hymn, Op. 125 No. 2
Nunc Dimittis
Te Deum

Both Amy Beach, America's first important woman composer, and Randall Thompson, one of the most elegant individualists of American music, had links to Harvard University. Largely self-taught, Mrs. Beach's physician husband was a lecturer in anatomy at Harvard; Thompson was a student and eventually a professor there. A successful concert soloist in the circle of Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mrs. Beach stopped touring with her marriage to Beach in 1885, but continued composing, including her Gaelic Symphony, the first by an American woman. Her many and varied works show a fluent and passionate romanticism. Thompson, a professor at California University in 1931, director of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1939 and professor at Harvard in 1948, was best known in his lifetime as a composer of choral music, but he produced an opera and several fine instrumental works, including 3 symphonies. One of America's oldest college choruses, founded in 1834, the 41-strong, mixed HUC performs 12 amazing works by the two composers, mostly Christian choral works. Our favorites are the a cappella pieces "The Eternal Dove," "The Best of Rooms," "Felices Ter" and "Alleluia," all by Thompson, and "Help Us O God!, Op. 50" and "Peace I Leave With You" by Beach. The organ-accompanied songs, including "Choose Something Like a Star," "Evening Hymn, Op. 125 No.2," "Te Deum" and "Jubilate" are equally lovely. The Choir sings these intricate, little-known masterworks with a spirited grace and perfection. Truly lovely!

6922 CD $15.98

Camerata Singers: Works of Randall Thompson & Libby Larsen

Mass of the Holy Spirit:
-Agnus Dei
Sweet and Sour Nursery Rhymes:
-There Was A Little Girl
-Little Boy Blue
-Try, Try Again
Glory to God in the Highest
Fare Well
Bind Me
Adrift! A Little Boat Adrift!
The lark in the Morn

The Stony Brook (NY) Camerata Singers have sung at prestigious music festivals such as the Utrecht Early Music Festival and the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival in California. Their 30 mixed voices represent a cross-section of Stony Brook University, and they sing music from all periods, early to modern. While the major works of Randall Thompson (1899-1984) and Libby Larsen (b. 1950) are well-known, this CD offers a unique opportunity to hear some of their smaller works for unaccompanied chorus, and to compare these two American composers separated by half a century. 16 songs: first Thompson's "Antiphon" (1970), then 7 movements of "Mass of the Holy Spirit" (1955), followed by three striking "Sweet and Sour Nursery Rhymes" by Larsen, "There Was a Little Girl", "Little Boy Blue" and "Try, Try Again" (all 3 accompanied by French Horn). Then two by Thompson, "Glory to God in the Highest" (1958) and "Fare Well" (1973) are followed by the complex, dissonant "Bind Me, I Can Still Sing" and "Adrift! A Little Boat Adrift!" by Larsen, and the final cut is Thompson's "The Lark in the Morn" (1938). An interesting contrast of two composers, both brilliant, each with a totally different focus.

7532 CD $15.98

Published a cappella choral works

A Cappella Compositions for Mixed Voices

The Gate of Heaven
The Eternal Dove
Fare Well

Since that day in 1940, 'Alleluia' this classic of classics has become one of the nation’s most-often performed choral works. Rare is the church, school, community, or professional choir that has not sung it. The masterful construction and simplicity of text (Alleluia, Amen) make the Alleluia suitable for almost any choir for almost any occasion. 'The Gate of Heaven' Composed for the dedication of the Jessie Ball duPont Chapel, Hollins College, Virginia, 1959. It is particularly suitable for the dedication of religious buildings. The Eternal Dove was composed in 1968 to honor Harvard University Professor G. Wallace Woodworth. It is closely related to the composer’s Mass of the Holy Spirit of which Dr. Woodworth gave the first complete performance. 'Fare Well' was written for performance by the combined high scholl choirs of Calhoun, Kennedy, and Mepham, New York, in 1973. The three-stanza poem by Walter De La Mare (1873-1956) closes with, “Look thy last on all things lovely, / Every hour. Let no night / Seal thy sense in deathly slumber / Till to delight / Thou have paid thy utmost blessing; Since that all things wouldst praise / Beauty took from those who loved them / In other days.” 'Bitter Sweet' was first performed by the choir of the Church of the Incarnation, New York City, on Oct. 25, 1970, under the direction of Thomas Dunn, who first called Thompson's attention to George Herbert's poignant and profoundly religious poem.

9245 SONGBOOK $12.95

Peaceable Kingdom

Say ye to the righteous
Woe unto them
The noise of the multitude
Howl ye
The paper reeds by the brook
But these are they that forsake the Lord
Have ye not known?
Ye shall have a song


A sequence of sacred choruses on texts from the prophecy of Isaiah. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Douglas Moore (Chairman of the Music Department of Columbia University) wrote to Thompson in 1936, saying, "...I want to go on record in writing' as believing that you have written the best modern choral work I have heard. It is good from every point of view. Technical treatment of the voices, understanding and expression of the text, and actual musical content which is fresh and beautiful." His sentiments have been echoed by choral conductors ever since. The Peaceable Kingdom has become established as a masterpiece of unaccompanied choral writing.

9138 SONGBOOK $10.95

Mass of the Holy Spirit

Kyrie (SATB)
Credo (SATB)
Sanctus (SSAATTBB)
Benedictus (SATB)
Hosanna (SATB)
Agnus Dei (SATB)

This communion service, though appropriate for any season of the Church year, was designed especially for use at Whitsuntide. It can also serve very effectively as concert repertoire, either in its entirety or excerpted.
The movements are in English (except for the Kyrie).

9244 SONGBOOK $17.95

A Cappella Compositions for Women's Voices

The Gate of Heaven
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
Pueri Hebraeorum


Five choral works by one of the master's of 20th century American choral music. Randall Thompson’s Alleluia. Since 1940, this classic of classics has become one of the nation’s most-often performed choral works. Rare is the church, school, community, or professional choir that has not sung it. The masterful construction and simplicity of text (Alleluia, Amen) make the Alleluia suitable for almost any choir for almost any occasion. "The Gate of Heaven" was composed for the dedication of the Jessie Ball duPont Chapel, Hollins College, Virginia, 1959. It is particularly suitable for the dedication of religious buildings. "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" In response to a complaint from his students about having to use Latin texts, Dr. Thompson composed this motet at the blackboard for his class in modal counterpoint. The text is the familiar bedtime prayer from The New England Primer. "Pueri Hebraeorum" was composed in 1928 for the Wellesley College Choir, when the enrollment grew to twice the size the chancel could accommodate. The choirs sang back and forth from opposite ends of the chapel. Jacob Handl's Haec Dies had suggested the pattern for eight-part chorus. The voice parts may be doubled by two quartets of similar instruments. The text is in Latin. Particularly suitable for Palm Sunday. "Rosemary", the name of Thampson's daughter, was commission by the Women's University Glee Club of New York and is based on a cycle of American verse. Any one of these compositions would make an interesting and rewarding addition to a women's choir repertoire.

9163 SHEET MUSIC $14.95

A Choral Legacy

Writing For Amateur Chorus
On Contrapuntal Technique
The Story Of Alleluia
Notes On A Requiem
Randall Thompson and The Music Of The Past
Psalm And Gospel Settings
Five Love Songs
List Of Choral Works
Index Of Choral Works

Reprinted from the American Choral Review, this special issue was compiled to honor the composer on his 75th birthday. Contains critical essays by James Haar, Elliot Forbes, and Alfred Mann, and extended notes by Dr. Thompson. Dates of composition and first performances also included. A rich source for studies of his music and for the writing of program notes.

9139 BOOK $16.95

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