Songs in the Key of Life


Dancing with Creation


“I am deeply honored that Ralph Hughes and the Sacramento Master Singers commissioned me to compose a work to open tonight’s concerts based upon the cycle of life. I chose the subject of the miracle of birth to celebrate our newly born first grandchild. My goal was to compose music that a child might dance to, and chose wooden temple blocks and xylophone to help portray this sound. The choir’s opening fanfare gives thanks to God for the birth of this child into the world. The piano plays short, child-like bursts of energy and fast arpeggios to sound like an infant rapidly moving their tongue. If one listens closely, they might also ‘hear’ sprinklings of ‘stardust’ and bird sounds. Frequent use of canons (exact imitation of phrases) sound like children playing. ‘Hearts together beating’ was inspired by the nurse presenting my grandchild to me in the birthing room who asked that I open up my shirt for skin-to-skin contact. These two heartbeats created the underpinning of the next text – We feel our hearts explode with love! – in a playful manner. I chose to use words from Psalm 150, ‘Praise him with the sound of timbrel and dance,’ to set up the final section that explodes into dancing with creation. This is a joyous round dance in celebration at the birth and the rhythm of life.” – Ron Kean

We thank you God, we thank you for this child, we honor your creation. 

We celebrate on bended knee the miracle of life and breath. 

We embrace this child with arms open wide, hearts together beating. 

We feel our hearts explode with love, embrace the newborn baby. 

For you we sing. 

I thought that this could never be, I can’t believe my eyes. 

The planets, the stars, the sun, and moon rejoice, and sing, la la la… 

In all the places you may go, walk the path of goodness. 

For you I sing. 

We thank you God, we thank you for this child, we honor your creation. 

Sing praise to God! praise Him with sounding trumpets, timbrel, and dance, 

Dancing with creation.

Jaakko Kulta


Jaakko Kulta is a Finnish version of the popular children’s canon, Frère Jacques, and should not be confused with the currently active, Finnish hip hop/rap artist, Jaakko Kulta. What’s interesting in this arrangement is Panula’s take on the deceptively simple and familiar round, and how he weaves it into a complex interplay of variable repetition as the melody shifts from one voice line to another. The piece moves from the relatively straightforward repetition of the “Are you sleeping” theme, that many of us remember from childhood, to the complex, descending harmonies of the ending.

Jaakko kulta,
Darling Jaakko 

Herää jo! Wake up now 

Da pa da pa da pa da pa, (scat singing) 

Ding, dong, ding, dong. Bells ringing

It Takes a Village


The text, taken from a popular West African proverb, emphasizes the importance of family relationships, parental care, self-sacrificing concern for others, sharing, and even hospitality. Szymko’s goal was to “… embody the cultural concept behind this proverb—that it is truly all the individual parts linked and working together that create and support the whole.”

It takes a whole village to raise our children. 

It takes a whole village to raise one child. 

We all ev’ry one must share the burden. 

We all ev’ry one will share the joy.

The Circle Game


Mitchell, is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, painter who was born in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, in 1943. Born Roberta Joan Anderson, Joni Mitchell, as she later called herself, gravitated towards music from an early age. By the 1970s she was highly regarded as one of the best songwriters of that time. Her third album, Ladies of the Canyon, featured the already familiar song The Circle Game (it was well known because Buffy Sainte Marie had recorded it in 1970). Ben Bram was commissioned to craft this arrangement by the Sacramento Master Singers, who gave its premiere performance in May 2014. The song describes a rite of passage from childhood to young adulthood, and concludes with a 20-year-old dreaming of his life to come.


Yesterday a child came out to wonder  

Caught a dragonfly inside a jar  

Fearful when the sky was full of thunder  

And tearful at the falling of a star


And the seasons they go round and round

And the painted ponies go up and down

We’re captive on the carousel of time 

We can’t return we can only look 

Behind from where we came 

And go round and round and round 

In the circle game


Then the child moved ten times round the seasons 

Skated over ten clear frozen streams 

Words like when you’re older must appease him 

And promises of someday make his dreams 


Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now 

Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town

And they tell him take your time it won’t be long now 

Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down 


So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty 

Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true 

There’ll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty 

Before the last revolving year is through

Hymn of Acxiom


Acxiom Corporation is the name of an actual, high-powered database broker founded in 1969 as Demographics, Inc. Within 40 years, it was mining data from the online and offline activities of more than 500 million consumers worldwide. Extensive data files are commonly sold to companies that have products to sell and that want to target their ads with startling precision. Composer Vienna Teng found inspiration for this song while she was pursuing an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. A colleague working with Acxiom data at the time was shocked at the amount of information that the company knew about her and her husband – but also impressed.


Somebody hears you. You know that inside. 

Someone is learning the colours of all your moods, 

Say just the right thing and show that you’re understood. 

Here you’re known. 

Leave your life open. You don’t have to hide. 

Someone is gathering every crumb you drop. 

These mindless decisions and moments you long forgot. 

Keep them all. 


Let our formulas find your soul. 

We will divine your artesian source in your mind, 

Marshal feed and force, 

Our machines will design you a perfect love. 

Better still, a perfect lust. 

O how glorious: a brand-new need is born. 


Now we possess you. You’ll own that in time. 

Now we will build you an endlessly upward world, 

Reach in your pocket, embrace you for all you’re worth. 


Is that wrong? Isn’t this what you want? 



When I Fall in Love


Heyman (lyrics) and Young (music) wrote When I Fall in Love for the film One Minute to Zero in 1952. Its first hit version was released later that year, sung by Doris Day. Since then, it has been covered by more than 100 artists, in many different musical styles. Nat King Cole recorded it in 1956, and his daughter Natalie Cole joined him in an electronic duet which won Grammys in 1996 for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals and Best Instrumental Arrangement with Accompanying Vocal(s). A version by Celine Dion and Clive Griffin was included in the soundtrack for Sleepless in Seattle in 1993.


When I fall in love it will be forever, or I’ll never fall in love. 

In a restless world like this is, love is ended before it’s begun. 

And too many moonlight kisses seem to cool in the warmth of the sun.


When I give my heart it will be completely, or I’ll never give my heart. 

And the moment I can feel that you feel that way too, 

Is when I fall in love with you. 

Let My Love Be Heard


Composer Jake Runestad wrote in 2015: “I am honored that this piece, Let My Love Be Heard, has helped to provide hope in the darkness of our world.” Runestad explained, “Though originally written for Choral Arts Northwest, this work has taken on new life in light of the atrocities in Paris and Lebanon. Jonathan Talberg, the conductor of the choir at California State Long Beach, let his singers in a performance during the memorial vigil for Nohemi Gonzalez, a member of the CSULD choir who was killed in the Paris attacks the day after the vigil, the choir was supposed to be rehearsing holiday music; however, Talberg felt that was not appropriate and wanted time for the singers to grieve this loss. So, at the beginning of rehearsal, he passed out a new piece of music, Let My Love Be Heard, rehearsed it, and then recorded it. It was posted on SoundCloud, and shared in memory of Nohemi and as a plea for peace. Their musical offering is a powerful outpouring of grief, but also a glimmer of light.” – Jake Runestad


Angels, where you soar And as grief once more 

Up to God’s own light, Mounts to heaven and sings, 

Take my own lost bird Let my love be heard 

On your hearts tonight; Whispering in your wings.

I Get a Kick Out of You


Porter wrote I Get a Kick Out of You in 1934 for the musical Anything Goes. The song was performed by Ethel Merman, and Porter loved her brassy voice so much that he went on to feature her in five musicals. It has been covered by too many performers to count, even in popular culture—a Sesame Street parody features Ethel Mermaid singing about her favorite letter in I Get a Kick Out of U, and cult classic movie Blazing Saddles features Cleavon Little singing it to railroad workers.


I get no kick from champagne, 

Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all, 

So tell me, why should it be true? 

Could it be, would it be, should it be true? 

That I get a kick out of you? 

Some get a kick from cocaine. 

Well, I don’t ‘cause, 

I’m sure that if I took even one sniff, 

That would bore me terrifically, too, 

Terribly, horribly, awfully, 

So instead, I get a kick out of you. 

I get a kick ev’ry time I see you 

Standing there before me. 

I get a kick though it’s clear to me 

You obviously don’t adore me. 

I get no kick in a plane and I won’t fly, 

Flying too high with some guy in the sky 

Is my idea of nothing to do. 

‘Cause I get a kick out of you! 

I get a kick though it’s clear to me 

You obviously, totally, thoroughly 

Want to ignore me! 

I get a kick, oh, yes, I get a kick

‘Cause I get a kick out of you!

Graduate on Time


The Longest Time, the fourth of seven singles released from Billy Joel’s 1983 album An Innocent Man, was written in doo-wop style. This album was an homage to American Popular music styles from the 1950s and 60s, and featured other hits including Tell Her About It, Uptown Girl, and Keeping the Faith. Like many of its doo-wop predecessors, The Longest Time features prominent vocal harmonies supported by the sparse instrumentation of just a bass guitar and snare drum. The vivacious and playful vocals in this song make it a favorite cover for vocal groups and choirs alike. 

Dr. Hughes heard a men’s group from the University of Michigan do a graduation spoof on this song back in the 1990s, and he decided to arrange it himself.


Went to see the Dean of FAA.

“Can you help me graduate in May?

I’ve finished year four. I just can’t take much more. 

I really want to graduate on time.”


“Let’s talk credits,” the Dean, he said to me.

“Have you passed your French proficiency?”

Your grades are so low. We’ll give you one more go,

I’m sorry there’s no way you’ll graduate on time.”


I knelt down and pleaded with the Dean.

How could anybody be so mean?

“I took the classes. Even though I didn’t pass,

A waiver’s all I need to graduate on time.”


But he said, “Don’t worry, my son, you’re at ARC,

You know we’re number one.

Had you been a Spartan or a Buck

You know your school would suck,

But you’d probably have a 4.0”


“How much further can I go on?

I could be here for the next eon.

There’s much more physics;

It’s enough to make sick.

I really, really want to graduate on time!”


“You don’t meet the standards,” said the Dean.

“Your best test score is way below the mean.

You said you wanted much to leave this place.”

(So he laughed right in my face

And he threw me out the door.)


“I’ll be here for at least a few more years,

Down at the U. Pub drinking a few beers.

I’ll take my chances, using up my Dad’s finances.

I’ll guess I’ll never graduate on time!”

Uniamo in Amore (Let Us Unite in Love)


This lush and romantic song was inspired “in love and gratitude” by composer Kevin Memley’s wife, Melody. He also intended for it to show off the voices of three graduating seniors when it was composed for the Clovis East High School Timberwolf Chorus in 2009.


Io sono la danza. I am the dance.

Voi siete la canzone. You are the song.

Voi siete la danza. You are the dance.

Io sono la canzone. I am the song.

Uniamo in amore. Let us join in love.

Tu sei il mio tutto! You are my all in all.

Vi do il mio cuore. I give you my heart.

Siamo nati per amare. We were born to love. 

Non vi e altra. There is no other.

Uniamo in amore. Let us join in love. 

Danza con me in dolce estasi. Dance with me in sweet ecstasy. 

Io sono con voi vivo. When I am with you, I feel alive. 

Voglio cantare a cielo. I will sing you to heaven. 

Senza di voi io sono perso. Without you I am lost.


100 Years


Made popular over a decade ago by pop group Five For Fighting, this song is a celebration of a life well-lived. The lyrics exemplify the roller coaster of one’s lifetime. At times it’s amazing and at times it’s difficult, but all roads lead to one destination.


I’m fifteen for a moment, 

Caught in between ten and twenty 

And I’m just dreaming, 

Counting the ways to where you are. 


Fifteen, there’s still time for you. 

Time to buy and time to lose. 

Fifteen, there’s never a wish better than this 

When you only got a hundred years to live. 


I’m thirty-three for a moment, 

I’m still the man, but you see I’m a they; 

A kid on the way, 

A fam’ly on my mind. 


I’m forty-five for a moment, 

The sea is high 

And I’m heading into a crisis, 

Chasing the years of my life. 

Fifteen, there’s still time for you. 

Time to buy, and time to lose yourself 

Within a morning star 


Half time goes by, suddenly you’re wise. 

Another blink of the eye, sixty-seven is gone. 

The sun is getting high, we’re moving on… 


I’m ninety-nine for a moment. 

I’m dying for just another moment 

And I’m just dreaming, 

Counting the ways to where you are. 


Fifteen, there’s still time for you. 

Twenty-two, I feel her too. 

Thirty-three, you’re on your way. 

Ev’ry day’s a new day 

When you only got a hundred years to live. 

Only in Sleep


With simple poetry and melody, Ešenvalds brings to life a nostalgic dream of childhood. This bittersweet reverie on the passage of time is expressed through a fresh, bright melody, dreamlike harmonization, and passionate descants. Regular rhythm and phrasing bring a sense of familiarity, while ever-changing harmonies and voicings provide wonder and uncertainty.


Only in sleep I see their faces, 

Children I played with when I was a child, 

Louise comes back 

with her brown hair braided, 

Annie with ringlets warm and wild. 

Only in sleep Time is forgotten: 

What may have come to them, 

who can know? 

Yet we played last night as long ago, 

And the dollhouse stood 

at the turn of the stair. 

The years had not sharpened 

their smooth round faces, 

I met their eyes and found them mild. 

Do they, too, dream of me, I wonder, 

And for them am I, too, a child? 

Alzheimer’s Stories


A challenging three-part work for chorus, soloists, and chamber ensemble, Alzheimer’s Stories compassionately weaves together the experiences of actual people whose lives have been touched by the devasting disease. The oratorio was originally commissioned by a member of the Susquehanna Valley Chorale whose mother and father had died from Alzheimer’s. Since its Pennsylvania premiere in 2009, Alzheimer’s Stories has been widely celebrated for increasing awareness of the disease, and especially for shining a light on the miraculous, scientifically proven ability of music to both stimulate and soothe those summer from it. 

Part I: The Numbers, presents a historical and diagnostic look at the disease. Part II: The Stories, ties together anecdotes of particular Alzheimer’s patients. Part III: For the Caregivers, offers up music as a key to connecting, at least temporarily, with those whose memories and very selves are fading away: “…Keep faith. They sense what they cannot show. Love and music are the last to go. Sing anything.”


Part I: The Numbers 

Here are the numbers: 1901. 1906. 1911. 

1901: patient diagnosed, age 51. 

1906: patient died, age 55. 

1911: condition named. 

Here are the numbers: 1901, 2009. 

1901: one patient diagnosed. 

2009: five million two hundred thousand. Twenty-six million worldwide. 

1901: Mrs. Auguste Deter, age 51, enters the Mental Asylum of Frankfurt am Main. Her symptoms are unusual. 

1902: loss of memory; 

1903: delusions, anger; 

1904: Paranoia. 

1906: She dies, age 55. 

Her doctor is Alois Alzheimer. 

From one to twenty-six million worldwide. 

2050: one hundred six million people worldwide; one in eighty-five people worldwide

1901: Dr. Alzheimer’s question: 

Baritone: What is your name? 

Mezzo: Auguste. 

Chorus: Question: 

Baritone: What is your husband’s name? 

Mezzo: Auguste, I think. Auguste. 

Baritone: How long have you been here? 

Mezzo: I have lost myself. Ich hab mich verloren. 

Baritone: What are your children’s names? 

Mezzo: My children? 

Baritone: Their names. 

Mezzo: My children? Auguste, I think. 

At first, a memory lapse. Jumbling words or names; A moderate cognitive decline. You’re not sure where you are, the day, the week, the year; Forgetting simple things Like keys or coats or everyday objects, And then the street you live on… and soon, those you live with. 

Here are the numbers. 1901. 1906. 2009. The numbers. 

Baritone: Question: What is your name? 

Mezzo: Auguste. 

Mezzo & Chorus:  Ich hab mich verloren. 

Baritone: How long have you been here? 

Mezzo: Auguste, I think.

Part II: The Stories 

I am seeing my dad on an overturned milk crate staring at nuts and bolts from an RV wheel. He has taken it apart, the kind of thing he could do in his sleep, but now he sits staring, like he’s never seen it before. But now he sits staring.

This is my story.

I am riding with my mom back home from the A&P. We’re chatting away, enjoying the day, and then we sail through a stop sign, we’re up on the sidewalk, flying past our neighbor’s house. She had blacked out. I thought we would die. 

I say, “Mom, you can’t drive now.” “I drive as well as ever.”

“Pop, you can’t live alone.” “You’re not putting me in one of those homes.”

This is my story.

Time forgotten, time remembered; images lost and name return. Place forgotten, place remembered; names have vanished, images held.

I run to my grandparents, right at the door, and I hug my grampa first. And he turns to my grandma and says, “Who on earth is this?”

Time forgotten, time remembered; images lost and names return. Place forgotten, place remembered; names have vanished, images held.

* * *

Mezzo: Are we on the boat to Panama?

Are we on the boat to Panama?

Are we on the boat, are we on the boat, are we on the boat to Panama?

Chorus: Mom, you’re in a nursing home.

Mezzo: Daddy’s taking us to Panama.

Daddy’s taking us to Panama.

Daddy’s taking us, Daddy’s taking us, Daddy’s taking us to Panama. We run down the boat’s long hallways, Mary chasing after me. We pull on every doorknob and swing

off all the handrails.

Chorus: The handrails help you walk.

The handrails help the patients walk.

Baritone:  (Interrupting)

Speaking of boats…!

When I was in the Navy

oh! we raised some hell!

Chorus: Yes, Dad.

Baritone: In any port, the order was: be back on board at midnight, standing on your feet.

Chorus: Uh huh.

Baritone: If you were late or showed up drunk, or had “I ‘n I”* ‘til you smelled like a skunk, then KP, swab the deck, hit the rack, you’ll never go back on shore again – oh! We raised some hell.”

Speaking of boats…!

Chorus: Here we go.

Baritone: Have I told you about the Navy oh! we raised some hell!

Chorus: Yes, you raised some hell!

Baritone: In any port, the order was to be back on board at midnight…

Chorus: (Muttering quietly, having heard the story many times)

… back on board…

Baritone; …standing on your feet.

Chorus: That’s right!

Baritone: If you were late…

Chorus: If you were late, or showed up drunk…

Baritone: Or showed up drunk,

Chorus: Or had “I ‘n I”

Baritone: “I ‘n I”

Chorus: ‘Til you smelled like a skunk,

Baritone: Smelled like a skunk then

Baritone & Chorus: KP, swab the deck, hit the rack you’ll never go back on shore again – oh! We raised some…

Baritone: (a memory) …raised some hell.

* Intoxication and intercourse (naval slang)

* * *

Chorus: My Dad said, please sing. Sing anything. He talks to the pictures on his desk. 

Chorus: She dresses for church four days early. 

Sing anything: It’s Only Make-Believe; April Showers

Mezzo: Are we on the boat to Panama? 

Baritone: I can’t remember the names of my shipmates. 

Chorus: My Dad said, please sing. Sing anything. 

A tiny woman tied into a wheelchair. 

Pink makeup, rosy lipstick. 

Next thing you know, 

she’s up and cha-cha-cha-ing. Panama… 

Sing anything. 

This is my story. This is how pieces of a life were lost. These are the pieces of a life recalled. This is my story. Love and compassion repair every loss, one by one, time and again.

* * *

Mezzo: Look at this photograph! Oh, I remember this! I’m in an evening gown, descending a gleaming circular stair. Circular stair…

Part III: For the Caregivers 

Chorus & Soloists: Find those you love in the dark and light. 

(It was brief, but she knew me; she looked at me and knew me.) 

Help them through the days and nights. 

(As he died, his arm lifted and his fingers looked like dancing.) 

Keep faith. They sense what they cannot show. 

Love and music are the last things to go. Sing anything. 

Find those you love in the dark and light. 

(At the end she still remembered the pearls my father gave her.) 

Help them through the days and nights. 

(As she lay unconscious, I would whisper that I loved her.) 

Love and compassion repair every loss, one by one, time and again. 

Keep faith. Sing anything. Keep faith. Sing anything. 

Love and music are the last things to go. Sing. 

Find those you love in the dark and light. 

Help them through the days and nights. 

Keep faith. They sense what they cannot show. 

Love and music are the last things to go. 

Sing anything! Sing!

Come to Me, My Love


Dello Joio was a prominent American composer active for over half a century, and was the winner of both a Pulitzer and Emmy for his work. His treatment of Rossetti’s poem, Echo, is a haunting arrangement that laments a lover lost too soon to death. Much of 19th century poet Rossetti’s work was of a melancholic character and that quality is definitely on display in Echo.


Come to me in the night, 

Come to me in the silence of the dark’ning night. 

Come to me, come in the speaking silence of a dream; 

With soft and rounded cheeks and eyes as bright, 

As sunlight on a stream; 

O! Come back in tears, 

My love of finished years, 

In dreams too bittersweet, too sweet, 

Of Paradise where souls of love abide and meet. 

Come back, my love; come back to me.

Yet come to me in dreams that I may live my life again. 

A mem’ry of those thirsty longing eyes, those eyes so bright. 

Come that I may give, 

Pulse for pulse, breath for breath; 

Speak low, lean low, 

O! Come in silent dreams, my love; 

And whisper low, as long ago.

Fly to Paradise


Whitacre is a renowned American composer, conductor, and speaker. He received a 2007 Grammy® nomination for Best Choral Performance for Cloudburst and Other Choral Works, and won the 2012 Grammy for Best Choral Performance for his album Light and Gold. In March 2016, he was appointed as Los Angeles Master Chorale’s first artist-in-residence at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. 

This work was adapted from his musical termed Paradise Lost for the 4th incarnation of his virtual choir (VC), a global, user-generated choir that brings singers together from around the world through the use of digital technology. Starting with 185 singers for his first Virtual Choir, his 4th VC grew to 5,905 singers representing 101 countries, simultaneously singing Fly to Paradise.


And all she ever thinks about 

Is being any other place than this, 

‘Cause she remembers having wings 

But she’s forgotten what it’s like 

To feel a paradise of bliss. 

And all I want to do is fly, 

just fly, to paradise! 

And all she ever thinks about 

Is memories of soaring through the sky, 

‘Cause she remembers having wings 

But she’s forgotten 

What it feels like to 

And all she ever thinks about 

Is being any other place than this, 

‘Cause she remembers having wings 

But she’s forgotten what it’s like 

To feel a paradise of bliss. 

And all I want to do is fly, 

just fly, to paradise! 

And all she ever thinks about 

Is memories of soaring through the sky, 

‘Cause she remembers having wings 

But she’s forgotten 

What it feels like to fly.