Concert Programs

USC Thornton Chamber Singers concert program

April 17, 2024
8:00 p.m.

The USC Thornton Chamber Singers, USC Thornton’s longstanding choral ensemble, present an evening concert led by chair of the Choral & Sacred Music department, Tram Sparks. The concert will also feature the USC Gospel Choir led by Marcus Desir.
Recent Chamber Singers performances featured the works of Meredith Monk, William Byrd, Ko Matsushita, Joel Thompson, Johannes Brahms, Michel Richard de Lalande and Benjamin Britten.


Hold Fast to Dreams

Joel Thompson
(b. 1988)

Eternal Hope

Stacey V. Gibbs (b. 1962)
Richard Burchard (b. 1960)

The 23rd Psalm (dedicated to my mother)

Bobby McFerrin
(b. 1950)

Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229
Matthew Harikian, harpsichord
Ryan Baird, violone

Johann Sebastian Bach

Vox in Rama
Collin Boothby, conductor

Giaches de Wert

Hymn to St. Celia
Marielle Bradley, Hannah McDonnel, Ali Sandweiss Hodges, Daniel Leese, Carlos Ramirez, soloists
Collin Boothby, conductor

Benjamin Britten

“I Just Have To Say” from Three Copypastas
Theo Trevisan, conductor

Theo Trevisan
(b. 1999)

America Will Be!
Ashleigh Conner, Lily Lochhead, Hannah McDonnel, Julia Ruddy, Kaitlyn Son, Kathrina Welborn, soloists

Joel Thompson
(b. 1988)

Take What You Need
Daniel Leese, soloist

Reena Esmail
(b. 1983)

Come Thou, Almighty King
USC Gospel Choir & Band

Rev. Timothy Wright

The Lord is Blessing Me
USC Gospel Choir & Band

Rev. Larry Trotter (b. 1957)
arr. Wayne Bucknor

The Storm is Passing Over
USC Gospel Choir & Band
USC Thornton Chamber Singers

Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933)
arr. Barbara W. Baker

I Am Not Ashamed
USC Gospel Choir & Band
USC Thornton Chamber Singers
Stevie Mackey, soloist

Dawn Thomas (b. 1964)
arr. Carol Joy Cymbala

Composer Notes

Giaches de Wert
Very little is known about the beginning of Giaches de Wert’s (1535-1596) life. He, like many of the other Franco-Flemish composers in the 16th century, moved to Italy where his career flourished. His principal output came from his time as the maestro di cappella at the court of Mantua, which, soon after his death, would become the birthplace of opera with the performance of Claudio Monteverdi’s (1567-1643) L’Orfeo. De Wert’s life was not without trouble even though his professional position was stable. In 1570 it was found out that his wife Lucrezia had been having an affair with rival composer Agostino Bonvicino (d. 1576). She returned to Novarella, where they had previously lived, and became involved with Claudio, an illegitimate son of Count Francesco of Novellara. The two tried, unsuccessfully, to overthrow Count Francesco and Lucrezia died in prison in 1584. De Wert, in the same year, began an affair with Tarquinia Molza, which was seen as scandalous due to class issues of de Wert being a servant and Molza a member of aristocratic society.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Described by Nicolas Slonimsky as “the supreme arbiter and lawgiver of music,” Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) stands as one of the principal figures in western classical music. Born to a musical family in the small German town of Eisenach, Bach excelled in violin and keyboard lessons, eventually mastering both. His role as the Thomaskantor in Leipzig required him to oversee the robust music program at four Leipzig churches: the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas), Neue Kirche (New Church), Peterskirche (St. Peter), and Thomaskirche (St. Thomas). As if that weren’t enough, during the majority of his tenure, Bach managed to write a new cantata almost every week, provide music for civic functions, and teach at the nearby Thomasschule. A man dedicated to his faith, the vast majority of Bach’s works are sacred.
Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin (b.1950) is a 10-time GRAMMY award winning musician whose work has blurred the often rigid lines between jazz, popular, and classical music. Best known for his #1 hit single “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” McFerrin’s music synthesizes stylistic elements from many genres.
Reena Esmail
Indian-American composer Reena Esmail (b.1983) works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music and brings communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. She has written commissions for ensembles including the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and the Kronos Quartet, and her music has been featured on multiple Grammy-nominated albums, including The Singing Guitar by Conspirare, BRUITS by Imani Winds, and Healing Modes by Brooklyn Rider. Many of her choral works are published by Oxford University Press.
Esmail is the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2020-2025 Swan Family Artist in Residence and was Seattle Symphony’s 2020-21 Composer-in-Residence. She also holds awards and fellowships from United States Artists, the S&R Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Kennedy Center.
Theo Trevisan
Theo Trevisan (b. 1999) is a Los Angeles-based composer and bass-baritone from New Jersey. As a child, Theo sang at the American Boychoir School, performing in 30 states and South Korea. Theo studied composition, computer science, and consort singing at Princeton, and he is currently pursuing his Masters in Composition at USC, studying with Ted Hearne, Donald Crockett, and Andrew Norman. His music has been performed by many collaborators, including the International Contemporary Ensemble, TAK Ensemble, Mivos Quartet, Antioch Chamber Ensemble, DJ Sparr, David Friend, Matthew Gold, and Soo Yeon Lyuh. He currently sings with the choir of St James in the City, Tonality, Exilio, C3LA, and various USC groups.
Joel Thompson
Joel Thompson (b.1988) is an Atlanta-based composer, conductor, pianist, and educator, best known for the choral work, Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, which was premiered in November 2015 by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and Dr. Eugene Rogers and won the 2018 American Prize for Choral Composition. His works have been performed by esteemed ensembles such as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Master Chorale, Los Angeles Master Chorale, EXIGENCE, and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

Program Notes

Eternal Hope
Stacy Gibbs
Richard Buchard
Eternal Hope is a composition written jointly by the two composers Stacey Gibbs (b. 1962) and Richard Burchard (b. 1960) for the Mt. San Antonio College Chamber Singers for their performance at the 2017 ACDA National Conference in Minneapolis, MN. The work juxtaposes the typical styles of these two composers, beginning with a Latin motet-like section by Burchard, setting text from Romans 18:21. This is contrasted by Gibbs’s arrangement of the spiritual “How Long” in the B section, in English. The work builds in intensity, splitting into double choir and overlapping these contrasting styles. The work concludes with the spiritual being sung by the full choir.
-Kenneth Dommett
Vox in Rama
Giaches de Wert
Vox in Rama is a motet composed for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a minor feast day which recalls the tragedy of King Herod’s mandate to kill all baby boys under the age of two after he learned of the birth of Jesus. The text comes from Matthew 2:18 which recalls the Old Testament lesson of Jeremiah 31:15. Rachel, “weeping for her children,” represents all mothers who must have been stricken with grief. The chromaticism and expressive use of dissonance in de Wert’s setting highlights the message in this 5-voice work from his Il secondo libro de motetti a cinque voci.
-Collin Boothby
Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229
Johann Sebastian Bach
Komm, Jesu, komm is one of Bach’s six motets. Unlike most of Bach’s works and the other five motets, this piece is a setting of solely poetic, non-biblical text, penned by Paul Thymich (1656-1694). Scored for double choir, Komm, Jesu, komm is a virtuosic work which was presumably composed for a funeral. The form of the work is unusual for Bach with a concerto-like first movement, followed by an arioso which highly resembles a chorale. The interplay between choirs with the satisfying conclusion where the choirs join forces in four-part harmony have helped solidify the work as one of his most frequently performed motets.
-Collin Boothby
The 23rd Psalm (dedicated to my mother)
Bobby McFerrin
Growing up as a chorister in an Episcopal church, McFerrin likely had experiences with Anglican chant in his youth. His setting of the 23rd Psalm is in the form of a double chant, but distinct by the harmony being the same in both halves. Psalmody is important in McFerrin’s own spiritual life. “I thought I would be an Episcopalian priest and join a monastic order, live in the hills and live in quiet for the rest of my life… I still have monkish ways: I rise early, I like the quiet. I spend lots of time reading the Bible, meditating, praying and whatever — get prepared with whatever I’m going to meet that day.” This setting, which he dedicates to the memory of his mother, portrays God as feminine and casts a new light on the text which has been utilized by Jewish and Christian people for millennia.
-Collin Boothby
Hymn to St. Cecilia
Benjamin Britten
In May 1939, Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) departed with Peter Pears (1910-1986) for America in the wake of their poet friend W. H. Auden (1907-1973). The professional association between Auden and Britten dates back to 1936, but by 1942 the conservative musician had become alienated from Auden’s brand of bohemianism, and was beginning to find the poet’s penchant for verbal gymnastics no longer to his taste. Britten began to feel rootless and increasingly homesick, and in the spring of 1942, he and Pears decided to return home to England.
The departure from America coincided with Britten’s final severance from Auden’s influence, but just before he left he began work on a setting of Auden’s three poems, A Song to St. Cecilia, which were dedicated to him. The feast day celebrating the patron saint of music had long been important to Britten, especially because St. Cecilia Day, November 22, was also Britten’s birthday. He had long wanted to compose a setting on the topic, but in America was unable to complete the work. The voyage, however, proved therapeutic; his creative imagination began to work again and the Hymn to St. Cecilia was finished, as the score proclaims, ‘at sea.’ So was A Ceremony of Carols. In a sense, these two works represent an end and a new beginning. The Auden setting signifies the end of the appeal of tricksy rhyming and puts to rest charges of false sophistication and glib facility that had sometimes been leveled at Britten’s early work.
The Hymn to St. Cecilia is set for five-part unaccompanied chorus. The three poems, “In a garden shady,” “I cannot grow,” and “O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall” are linked by the litany:
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.
-Collin Boothby
“I Just Have To Say” from Three Copypastas
Theo Trevisan
Know Your Meme defines a copypasta as “any block of text that gets copied and pasted over and over again, typically disseminated by individuals through online discussion forums and social networking sites.” My Three Copypastas use different means of text repetition while both paying homage to and subverting traditional tropes in double choir writing. “I Just Have To Say” sets part of a copypasta from “A [Facebook] group where we all pretend to be boomers,” and it was written asking a question formed by years of singing double choir music: what if, in a double choir choir piece, the choirs hated each other and constantly undermined each other rather than supporting each other? Despite all my efforts, the choirs have a sort of toxic codependency.
-Theo Trevisan
America Will Be!
Joel Thompson
When I was a young child, I imagined that America was like living on Sesame Street in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood—a utopic land of opportunity and freedom. When I finally arrived at age ten, my dreams had mostly come true, but I also learned a somber lesson that not all principles are easy to put into practice. It was that friction between professed ideals and painful reality that Langston Hughes captured in his poem, “Let America Be America Again.” That friction is also the foundation of the piece commissioned by Shannon Lyles and the FHS Patriot Singers in Orlando, Florida. Freedom High School serves such a diverse community of immigrants that eleven languages were represented in Ms. Lyles’ top choir. As hateful and xenophobic rhetoric became prominent in national discourse, we worked together to capture the essence of the choir’s ethnic diversity and artistic unity. Emma Lazarus’ words, which are engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty, are a perfect foil to Hughes’ dark (but ultimately hopeful) sentiments. To add a personal touch to the piece, I also asked the members of the choir to complete three prompts—I hope…/I dream…/I sing…—which they would then translate and record so that I could get a sense of the rhythm of their respective languages. In the end, the piece aims to make plain how far we are from the ideals we’ve set for ourselves, but it also clings to the hope that we will one
day achieve them. I can’t think of anything more American than that.
—Joel Thompson
Take What You Need
Reena Esmail
Of the many performances of Take What You Need, very few of them have been in traditional concert halls. Most performances have taken place in jails, homeless shelters, support groups, schools, memorial services, places of worship — in places where people can gather to see and honor the humanity in one another.
Take What You Need was first written for Urban Voices Project, a choir made up of people who are experiencing or have recently experienced homelessness — so many of whom have trusted this piece with their own stories of loss and redemption, and who I am so honored to count among my dearest friends. But this piece is also meant to be a resource for musicians and communities to come together and build the lasting relationships that plant seeds for social change.
-Reena Esmail


Tram Sparks, Chair & Associate Professor of Practice
Cristian Grases, Professor
Emily Sung, Assistant Professor of Practice
Suzy Digby, Adjunct Professor
Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Adjunct Instructor in Early Music
Troy Quinn, Part-Time Lecturer in Conducting
Collin Boothby
Ann Chen
Ali Sandweiss Hodges
Michael Raleigh
Han-Ah Park
Duncan Tuomi
Shijia Ye
We are grateful to the following individuals who have made contributions to the USC Thornton Department of Choral & Sacred Music since July 1, 2017.
Anonymous, Charles Albers, Victor Apanovitch, Elizabeth Armour & Jonathan Lewis, Kristin & Larry Ball, Jane & Robin Blomquist, John Michael Boyle, Jennifer & Donald Brinegar, Robert E. Brooks, Kellie & Aaron Custino, Dr. Harold A. Daugherty Jr., Elizabeth Molly Flier, Joanne & Nathaniel Fryml, Ada Gates, Carol & Ilan Glasman, Lisa Hane & Hugh Rienhoff, Jazmine Harnishfeger-Brand, Dr. Todd J. Harper & Connie C. Kim, Lisa H. Harrington, Kathleen Hartley, Tamara & Mark Hatwan, Dr. Carl W. Haywood, Dr. Stephanie Henry, Margaret P. & Guilbert C. Hentschke, Barbara A. & Wayne Hirabayashi, Nancy & James Holland, Alvin Hughes, Debora Lee Huffman, Dr. Buddy Oscar James, Young Lee-Ko & Seungseop Ko, Dr. Yewon Lee & Daniel Lee, L’Etoile Apparel, Dr. Iris Sue Levine & Lesili Beard, Shou-Ping Liu, Hazel & James Lord, Dr. Marguerite Marsh, Joan Mattei, Dr. Stanley R. McDaniel, Patricia & John McIntyre, Dr. Donald B. & Mary C. Miller, Ann F. Mohrbacher, Shirley & John G. Morgan, Music Celebrations International (LLC), Kimberly & Douglas Nason, Mr. David Noble, Christine Marie Ofiesh, Peter & Masha Plotkin Memorial Foundation, Anthony H. Pasqua, Pawasut Piriyapongrat, Thomas B. Ringland, Kenneth D. Sanson Jr. Estate, Rose F. Sapia, Margaret & Christopher Saranec, Virginia Sato & Raymond Bates, Mary & Jo-Michael Scheibe, Nicole D. Singer, Virginia & Thomas Somerville, Christian D. Stendel, Toni & Nick Strimple, The Donald & Alice Noble Foundation, Town & Gown of USC, Leslie J. & Jeffrey B. Unger, Barbara & James Harold Vail, Emily Kuo Vong, Ken White & Allison White, Gregory Wait, John P. Wiscombe, Pamela & Donald “Jeff” Wright, Janice Lynn Wyma, Zena & Steve Yamamoto, Xu & Young Foundation, Ruth & David Yoder
Please contact the USC Thornton Office of Advancement at or (213) 740-6474 if you would like more information on how to contribute to the USC Thornton Department of Choral & Sacred Music.


Ryann Anderson, Noblesville, IN
Marielle Brady, Hillsborough, NJ
Ashleigh Conner, Bronx, NY
Kayla Kim, South Korea
Lily Lochhead, Palo Alto, CA
Victoria Lowe, Inglewood, CA
Hannah McDonnel, Eden Prairie, MN
Julia Ruddy, Lawrence, KS
Kathrina Welborn, Los Altos Hills, CA
Kaitlyn Son, Palo Alto, CA
Marisa Bradfield, Montebello, CA
Amelia Cruz, New Brunswick, NJ
Rosie Ding, Beijing, China
Elaine Kong, Hong Kong
Olivia Knowles, Newport Beach, CA
Han-Ah Park, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Ali Sandweiss Hodges, Ferndale, MI
Joshua Feldman, Denver, CO
Evan Fox, Phoenix, AZ
David Gorsage, Chino, CA
Jaxson Hill, Wylie, TX
Sawyer Lazar, Moorpark, CA
Daniel Leese, Malibu, CA
Derrick Pough Jr., Leesburg, VA
Andrew Powell, Billings, MT
Michael Raleigh, Boston, MA
Collin Boothby, Southworth, WA
Wae Hei (Ryan) Cheung, Hong Kong
Adrian Melendrez, Las Vegas, NV
Kenleonard Oparaji, Garland, TX
Carlos Ramirez, Chicago, IL
Theo Trevisan, Princeton, NJ
Duncan Tuomi, Portland, OR
Jason Yang, Palo Alto, CA
Adam White, Lenexa, KS

Margaux Blain, Pasadena, CA
Janelle Boyce, Toronto, ON, Canada
Ayanda Fuzane, Cherry Valley, CA
Mackenzie Jaimes, Portland, OR
Taylor Hill-Miles, Gainesville, FL
Karen Matranga, Platteville, CO
Abitha Nunis, Manteca, CA
Hayley Simpson, Alpharetta, GA
Anastasia Stozhuk, Glendale, CA
Anaiya Torres, Los Angeles, CA
Rhonda Bulwer, Los Angeles, CA
Jemima Chery, Queens, NY
Xavia Henric, Walnut Creek, CA
Kharee Hoggs, Indianapolis, IN
Kai Kaufman, Russell, KS
Madi Miller, Indianapolis, IN
Leah Seldon, Detroit, MI
Stephanie Thomas, Glendale, CA
Shanae Wise, Oceanside, CA
Rob Brown, New York, NY
Jereth Bulwer, Los Angeles, CA
Francisco Grant, Brooklyn, NY
Daniel Leese, Malibu, CA
Kaleb Stephens, Oklahoma City, OK
Daniel Voigt, Milwaukee, WI
Kelley Yearout, Cortez, CO
David Cerna, Anaheim, CA
Jahi Watson, piano
Samuel Reid, piano
Luke Nilan, guitar
Sam Rossi, drums