Stephen Shewan: Parables of God and Man



Parables of God and Man


Music of Stephen Shewan


Volume Two








About the Composer


Stephen Shewan (b. 6 August 1962 in Warsaw, New York) teaches music and directs the bands at Williamsville East High School, near Buffalo, New York. He is a graduate of Roberts Wesleyan College and Ithaca College, and, as of this writing, is completing his DMA from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied composition with Samuel Adler.


He has composed music for numerous media, including orchestra, string quartet, chamber ensembles, symphonic band, brass ensemble, solo voice, choir and piano. Major works that have been previously recorded include the Magnificat, Feast of Carols, and String Quartet No. 1 heard on Albany Records (TROY149). His most recent work is Hymn for Spring for chorus and orchestra (1999), commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Erie County Music Educators Association in Buffalo.


With a strong appeal for professional and amateur groups alike, Shewan's works are both melodic and accessible, at times propelled by catchy rhythms flavored with jazz and pop idioms. In this regard, his music has an attraction similar to that of English composer John Rutter, albeit with a distinctly American accent. Other parallels may be drawn with the music of such diverse contemporary composers as Benjamin Britten, Daniel Pinkham and Randall Thompson, all of whom loved the human voice and wrote works of serious import which nevertheless earned enthusiastic public acceptance. Another parallel with the above mentioned composers is the frequent use of biblical texts as a basis for composition.


In Shewan's music we hear a fresh voice at work, demonstrating a talent for ingratiating melody, infectious rhythm, and a command of colorful instrumentation.


About the Music


The Elegy is an adaptation of the third movement of Shewan's String Quartet No. 1 (1992), an homage to Samuel Barber, one of Shewan's favorite American composers. The sad news emerging from Bosnia and the ongoing tragedy of the Balkan Wars prompted producer John Proffitt in 1994 to suggest the transcription heard on this disc. For it, Shewan added a string bass part to the original four instruments of the quartet plus divisi sections in the upper strings, creating a distinct and separate work for string orchestra.


The meditative work contains thematic material interpolated around three statements of a chorale reminiscent of Barber's style. Although much of it is somber, Elegy ends on a major chord exemplifying Shewan's spiritually optimistic faith. As a freestanding concert work, it carries the subtitle God shall wipe away all tears, a citation from the Book of Revelation (21:4):


God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;


There will be no more death, neither mourning nor sadness.


The piece is the composer's personal favorite of all his works. This version for full string orchestra was given its concert premiere at the University of Houston by the Moores School Chamber Orchestra under Steven Haff on 4 November 1998 and its nationwide broadcast premiere on Memorial Day, 1999, on National Public Radio's Performance Today.


Major melodic material of both Elegy and Prodigal Son are built upon the first, seventh, and fifth degree of the major diatonic scale. The Elegy melodic motive ascends, whereas the Prodigal line descends. Although this set is developed quite differently in the two works, there are melodic and harmonic similarities throughout, in addition to a parallel dramatic structure. Thus in this recording, Elegy functions as a prelude to the oratorio, a microcosm of the larger work's emotional gravitas, conflict and final resolution.


The Prodigal Son, composed in 1996, is a ten-movement oratorio for chorus, soloists and chamber orchestra written for the composer's father, Dr. Robert Shewan, and the Roberts Wesleyan College Chorale. The parable of the prodigal son, as adapted by the composer, is found in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke.


Originally, Shewan considered setting a number of parables in a single collection. “As I worked on Prodigal, I realized the emotional potential of the individual verses. Rather than do a cursory setting, I chose to give the audience an opportunity to contemplate individual passages.” As in traditional oratorio settings, the chorus serves as narrator, the soloists are the characters, and the orchestra propels the mood, playing themes indicative of the characters and their emotions.


The opening motive performed on the solo trumpet is transformed throughout the work creating structural unity. In the opening tableau, the descending motive represents the Father (“There was a man who had two sons.”). The peaceful scene is soon thwarted by the whining motive of the younger son, “Father give me the property that is mine.” He demands it three times successively up a minor third in the singsong manner of a spoiled child. The gracious father acquiesces and his calming motive recurs after the chorus sings, “The father divided his living between them.”


Exotic musical materials ensue as the younger son travels into a far country. The father's motive is inverted and accelerated. Violin glissandi dialogue in minor thirds with other instruments, which pound out the complaining younger son's theme, “Give me the property that is mine.” When he finally arrives, “he squanders his money” over a directionally-inverted version of the father's theme. Jazz harmonies and rhythms portray the younger son's unabashed pleasure as the voices and instruments gleefully toss the son's inheritance where they will “in loose living.”


A mournful oboe solo represents all that remains after the wild revelry. Unfortunately for the son, “a great famine arose in the country.” The choir bemoans his descent into poverty with slow chant-like material building to a dramatic exclamation, “No one gave him anything.” This is followed by a reprise of the solo oboe's lament. The movement is sparsely scored to reflect the intensity of his poverty and anguish. Near the end of the scene, the solo horn plays the father's theme in a sustained melancholy manner, prefiguring the now destitute son's realization that he must turn homeward.


In the aria, “Father, I have sinned against you,” the son expresses despair and decides to go home and beg for mercy. The climax of the movement, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” takes the tenor soloist to the top of his register, followed by a highly dissonant fortissimo chord reinforcing the pain that the son is feeling. This passage is a pitch inversion of the original father theme.


As the son is journeying home, the father sees him from a distance and “has compassion.” The word compassion is painted with a version of the father's original melodic motive. The choir and orchestra accelerate as the father runs out to greet his son. At one of the great emotional climaxes of the oratorio, the chorus and orchestra proclaim the “father motive” in a dramatic fortissimo as the father embraces his son. There follows a tender moment, as he kisses the son over a pianissimo unaccompanied choir, followed shortly by the same motive in the solo trumpet.


The son repeats his lament for his father, begging him to “treat him as a hired servant.” The father interrupts dramatically with the words, “My son!” followed by a recitative commanding the servants to adorn the son with the finest apparel, and prepare a feast to celebrate, “for my son was lost but now is found, he was dead but now is alive!”


The choir and orchestra perform a symphonic dance celebrating the return of the son. The “Celebrate” melody is loosely built on the same pitches as the father's theme. It is an exciting ritual full of syncopation, changing meters, drummers and exuberant dancers. The father interrupts the festivities twice to restate his delight over his son's return.


While the younger son was out wasting his inheritance, the older son, sung by a baritone, faithfully stayed home and worked for his father. As he is returning from the fields, he hears the merrymaking of “Celebrate!” and reflects upon his own faithfulness toward his father. He asks hopefully, “could this be for me?”


An elated servant, sung by a soprano, tells him of the younger son's triumphal return, and invites him to join the party. The dance like music becomes dark, mixing with the whining theme of the youngest son, only this time the ugliness is generated by the rage of the older son. He begins his aria with an angry reply, “No, I will not go.” In the aria directed toward his father, he contrasts his own faithfulness with the lavish lifestyle of the younger son. Twice the servant implores him to join the party but he continues to be full of rage and resentment. The music is full of dissonance, pounding timpani, and driving rhythms. Finally, he is emotionally spent, and like the younger son in the earlier passage, can only muster the words, “Father, father...”


The music becomes serene again as the forgiving father reassures his older son with the words, “My son, all that I have is yours, you are always with me.” The chorus repeats the words “always, always,” and the father theme is once again performed in the opening key by the solo trumpet, fading away into eternity.


It is the composer's belief that all three main characters in this universal parable represent each of us at various stages of our lives. At some point, most everyone is the reckless younger son, wasteful and selfish. Late twentieth century society is full of unforgiving “older sons” who have been both righteous and industrious, but have little tolerance and acceptance of others. Both of these contrasting lifestyles lead to alienation and despair. In the parable, it is only through the goodness of the father that either of them can find reconciliation and peace. And beyond the parable as related in Luke, we see God the Father as the true bringer of peace, his mercy and forgiveness offered to all humanity.


The Prodigal Son was premiered 16 March 1997 in the Batavia, New York, First Presbyterian Church, made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Genessee-Orleans Regional Arts Council.


Suite for Trumpet and Piano originates in a song Shewan wrote in 1995 for his wife, Ruth. Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (John 14:27) presents one of Shewan's most memorable melodies and quickly became one of the composer's most popular and often performed works.


A later transcription substituted a trumpet for the original soprano to create a new encore piece, The Peace (“Peace I give to you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Let not your heart be troubled or afraid.”), for the composer's brother, Paul. This was also well received, inspiring the composer to expand the lyrical movement into a full-fledged concert work by adding an opening Introit for solo trumpet, based on an ancient plainchant for Pentecost. Sandwiched within are themes that foreshadow the upcoming movements. Although the work is reverent, it remains free and full of spontaneity.


The final movement, Alleluia, is based upon a diminution of the last line of the slower second movement. As in many of Shewan's works, pop and jazz elements are mixed with contemporary media and, in this case, infused with a gospel-meeting “shout and stomp” vitality—in truth, a “joyful noise.” One of the most striking passages is a funky cadenza that asks the pianist to clap on beats two and four. This virtuoso work is dedicated to the composer's brother Paul, who for years has asked Steve to accompany the most difficult pieces with limited rehearsal time!


Suite for Trumpet and Piano was premiered 16 April 1999 in Rochester, New York.


King David's Dance was composed for the Williamsville East Wind Ensemble performance at the New York State Conference All-State in 1997. The inspiration comes from the second book of Samuel, chapter 7: “David went and brought up the ark of God to the city of David with rejoicing. And David danced before the Lord with all his might.”


The frenzied dance is an eclectic mix of contemporary, jazz and pop elements, including syncopated dance rhythms, melodic riffs, call and response, and a shout chorus. A two-bar introduction presents a motive that generates the majority of the material to follow. It is an up-tempo bop complete with ride cymbal and walking bass. The second section has a Stravinskyesque mechanical motive underpinning an exotic duet shared by the oboe and alto saxophone. This is followed by a saxophone riff that humorously keeps appearing even when it probably shouldn't.


Shewan pokes fun at the sax soloist who proudly knows a great lick and shares it with the audience one too many times. The dance picks up into a mambo before segueing into a shout chorus over a modified rock beat. The concluding section restates the opening motive softly, gradually building into a call and response between the brass and woodwinds, while the basses provide the walking bass, and the trombones play parallel “power chords” that are usually reserved for electric guitars or organs. Like the saxophone, they too seem to be somewhat self absorbed. The piece ends with a wild flourish.


King David's Dance was premiered 1 December 1997 in Kiamesha Lake, New York.


This recording concludes with three choral anthems, two of which are concert arrangements of existing hymn tunes.


Come, Risen Lord is a setting of the Eucharistic hymn Rosedale, by American composer Leo Sowerby, upon which Shewan crafts a framework of introduction and interludes for brass and organ, and an extended coda which adds the full chorus.


In Shewan's words, “The words of this hymn remind us that Christ promises to be present with us at the Lord's Supper; my augmented scoring and extension of the theme of the Risen Lord refocuses our attention on the Easter miracle itself.”


Awake My Soul; Morning Has Broken is based on the Gaelic folk tune Bunessan, which appears in many hymn collections with the text Morning Has Broken. It is scored for mixed chorus, woodwinds, trumpet and organ.


“The sprightly folksong nature of the original tune inspired me to combine my setting of Psalm 57 with the familiar words and melody,” said Shewan. “The Psalm text chides the listener to awaken and see the glorious rebirth in the dawning of a new day, a recurring reminder of the miracle of Creation. The instruments represent the sounds of morning: the trumpet sounds the wake-up call; the woodwinds and organ create the sounds of birds, wind, and the bustling activity of the early morning; and the high register and piercing timbres of the woodwinds best exemplify the day's new beginning.”


Psalm 98, Sing Unto the Lord a New Song, is among Shewan's earliest compositions, dating from winter, 1984. It is scored for mixed chorus, organ and solo trumpet.


“The work,” Shewan said, “is a hymn of praise to the Creator, who continually calls forth all manner of song from his Creation. I use three themes to enhance the concepts expressed in the Psalm. Each theme is first expressed separately, then together at the work's climax.”


About the Artists


The Roberts Wesleyan College Chorale, an ensemble noted for its unique choral sound, is the cultural ambassador of Roberts Wesleyan College, the distinguished liberal arts institution in the Christian tradition located in Rochester, New York. The Chorale performs regularly with the Rochester Philharmonic under such conductors as David Zinman, Isaiah Jackson, Enrique Diemecke, Darryl One, Mark Elder, Mitch Miller, Peter Bay and David Effron.


In 1986 the Chorale made its Carnegie Hall debut in a concert performance of Beethoven's Fidelio. Other major Chorale presentations include Puccini's Tosca (1993), Walton's Henry V (1994), Verdi's Requiem (1995), Bloch's Sacred Service (1997), and Puccini's Turandot (1998), all with the Rochester Philharmonic.


Ever mindful of the need to present choral music as a living, growing tradition, the Chorale maintains an active program of commissioning, performing and recording new music. In 1980, in the presence of the composer, the Chorale performed Psalm settings by Howard Hanson, which were later committed to compact disc (Albany Records, TROY129). With the Rochester Chamber Orchestra under David Fetler, the Chorale presented the world première of John LaMontaine's The Marshes of Glynn. In 1992, under the direction of the composer, the Chorale premièred Ever Since Babylon, Samuel Adler's cantata commemorating the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage to the New World and the simultaneous expulsion of the Jews from Spain. During their 1993 spring tour, the Chorale gave the first public performances of 1 Corinthians 13, written for the Chorale by Christopher Theofanidis (Albany Records, TROY158).


Other Chorale recordings include Mozart's Coronation Mass (Vox CD8164) with the Rochester Philharmonic under David Zinman; Choral Music of Anton Bruckner (Albany Records, TROY063); Music of Stephen Shewan, Vol. 1 (Albany Records, TROY149); I Hear America Singing!, featuring choral works of Roy Harris (Albany Records, TROY164), I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes, featuring choral works of Leo Sowerby (Albany Records, TROY238) and Music of Randall Thompson (TROY362). In addition, the Chorale has been featured in nationwide broadcasts over National Public Radio.


Since 1969 conductor Robert Shewan has directed the Roberts Wesleyan College chorale. He has also served as Chairman of the Fine Arts Division of the College. He has degrees from Mansfield State College, Ithaca College and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He is the author of several texts, including Singing and the Brain: a Handbook for Voice Teachers; is well known as a guest conductor at various choral festivals; and serves as a clinician and adjudicator.


Paul Shewan received a masters degree from the Eastman School of Music in performance where he studied with Charles Geyer. He performs with both the Buffalo and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestras. Shewan can be heard on several compact discs released on the Albany label. He presently teaches trumpet and conducts the Wind Ensemble at Roberts Wesleyan College.


At the University of Houston, the Moores School Symphony Orchestra (MSSO) is committed to musical excellence. Membership in the MSSO is open each semester to all graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Houston by audition.


During a typical season, the MSSO will perform ten to twelve concerts. Repertoire includes an expansive cross section of the standard literature, 20th century works, and new music, including music by Moores School faculty and student composers.


Franz Anton Krager has served as Director of Orchestras at the Moores School of Music since 1992. In addition, he is Director of Orchestral Studies and Resident Conductor for the Texas Music Festival and co-founder in 1996 of the Virtuosi of Houston.


Notes © 1999 by John Proffitt


The Prodigal Son




There was a man who had two sons,


And the youngest son said to his father,


“Father, give me the property that is mine.”


And the father divided his living between them.


Soon after, the youngest son gathered all he had,


and journeyed into a far country.




There he squandered his money in loose living.




When he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country,


And he began to be in want.


So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country,


Who sent him into the fields to feed swine.


He would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate,


But no one gave him anything.




“How many of my father's servants have bread enough to spare,


while I perish here with hunger?


I will arise and go to my father's house. And I will say to him,


Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.


I am no longer worthy to be called your son.


Treat me as your hired servant.”




He arose and went to his father's house,


While he was yet at a distance,


His father saw him and had compassion.


He ran to his son and embraced him and kissed him.




“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.


I am no longer worthy to be called your son.


Treat me as your hired servant.”


“My son! Quickly, bring the best robe and put it on him.


Put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet.


Prepare a feast and let us celebrate.


My son was lost, he was dead, but now is found, he is alive.”








“What is all this music and dancing? Could this be for me?


All these years I served my father faithfully.


Tell me what does this mean?”


“Your brother has come home, your father is rejoicing.


He has prepared a feast in honor of your brother.


Your father's waiting for you to join him.


Welcome home your brother. Celebrate!”




“No, I will not go!


Father, all these years I served you, never disobeying your command.


Yet you never prepared a feast for me in my honor. No, I will not go!


When this son of yours came home, this son who squandered your money,


This son who devoured your living on prostitutes.


For this son, my brother, you prepared this lavish celebration.


All these years, father!”




“My son, you are always with me, all I have is yours.


When your brother came home,


It was good to rejoice and to celebrate.


For he was lost, he was dead, but now is found, he is alive.


He has come home.”




Come, Risen Lord


Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest;


Nay, let us be thy guests, the feast is thine.


Thyself at thine own board make manifest


In thine own sacrament of bread and wine.


We meet as in that upper room they met,


Thou at the table, blessing, yet dost stand:


“This is my body” so thou givest yet,


Faith still receives the cup as from thy hand.


One body, we; one body who partake;


One Church united in communion blest.


One Name we bear, one bread of life we break,


With all thy saints on earth and saints at rest.


One with each other, Lord, for one in thee,


Who art one saviour and one living head.


Then open thou our eyes that we may see;


Be known to us in breaking of the bread.


Come, risen Lord.




Awake, My Soul/Morning Has Broken


Awake my soul, awake O harp and lyre,


For I will awaken the dawn.


Morning has broken, like the first morning,


Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.


Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,


Praise for them springing fresh from the Word.


Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven,


Like the first dewfall on the first grass.


Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,


Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.


Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning,


Born of the one light Eden saw play.


Praise with elation, praise every morning,


God's recreation of the new day.


Awake my soul, for morning has broken.






Psalm 98


Sing unto the Lord a new song,


For He has done marvelous things.


Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,


Make a joyful noise all the earth,


Break forth into joyous song.


Let the sea roar, let the hills sing for joy.


He will judge the world with righteousness,


And his people with equity. Amen.






Cover Art: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. Return of the Prodigal Son, 1668-1669. Oil on canvas, 265 x 205 cm. Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. Scala/Art Resource, New York


Cover Design: Bates Miyamoto Design Service


Photo of Mr. Shewan by Glenn Childs, Buffalo, New York






Parables of God and Man


Music of Stephen Shewan,


Volume Two






[1] Elegy for String Orchestra


God shall wipe away all tears (9:12)


Strings of the Moores School Symphony Orchestra,


University of Houston


Franz Anton Krager, conductor


The Prodigal Son (31:07)


[2] There was a man (4:52)


[3] He squandered his money (2:00)


[4] No one gave him anything (2:35)


[5] Father, I have sinned (2:57)


[6] He arose and went to his father (2:16)


[7] My son was lost, but now is found (2:30)


[8] Celebrate! (3:10)


[9] What is all this music and dancing? (2:35)


[10] I will not go! (2:48)


[11] You are always with me (5:26)


David Klopp, tenor • Jeffery Wilson, baritone


Alexander Burgess, bass • Judith Coen, soprano


Roberts Wesleyan Chorale &Chamber Orchestra


Stephen Shewan, conductor


Suite for Trumpet and Piano (12:30)


[12] Introit, Let all the world keep Silence (3:45)


[13] The Peace, Let not your heart be troubled (4:29)


[14] Alleluia, Make a joyful noise unto the Lord (4:53)


Paul Shewan, trumpet • Stephen Shewan, piano


[15] King David's Dance,


And David danced before God with all his might (3:56)


Roberts Wesleyan Wind Ensemble • Paul Shewan, conductor


[16] Come, Risen Lord (Leo Sowerby, arr. Shewan) (5:43)


Do this always in remembrance of me


Roberts Wesleyan Chorale &Brass Ensemble


James Bobb, organ • Robert Shewan, conductor


[17] Awake My Soul/Morning Has Broken,


And God said, Let there be light! (5:04)


Roberts Wesleyan Chorale


Paul Shewan, trumpet • Woodwind Quintet • Kevin Clarke, organ


Robert Shewan, conductor


[18] Psalm 98, Sing unto the Lord a new song (4:08)


Roberts Wesleyan Chorale


Paul Shewan, trumpet • Anne Honeywell, organ


Robert Shewan, conductor






TOTAL TIME, including pauses: 72:16


A Digital Master Recording


Produced and engineered by John Proffitt