Battle Hymns

by David Lang

The Chorus joined the Collegiate Chorale, under the direction of Maestro James Bagwell, at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for the New York premiere of David Lang’s Battle Hymns, a moving collection of choral songs about war, developed from repurposed Civil War texts by Stephen Foster, Abraham Lincoln and Major Sullivan Ballou.

Throughout, the music is carried by the clear, bell-like children’s voices and the choir’s sopranos and altos…Mr. Bagwell drew an assured performance from the singers, who dealt admirably with the work’s challenges… The last movement, ‘beautiful dreamer,’ after Foster, was gorgeous and mesmerizing, with the girls singing from a mezzanine behind the audience, while the chorale provided a humming drone crosshatched with whispered reiterations of the word ‘beautiful.’

The New York Times

Mr. Lang may be known as one of the most eclectic of composers, but at his best, his originality, his understanding of audience feeling, and his mastery of vocal sentiments must be experienced… it was the children who brought back the purity. Or in this case the lovely Manhattan Girls Chorus, again coming through the aisles onto the stage, slower and slower, repeating the Foster words from “Beautiful Dreamer”, turning each syllable into its own meaning… We had a round of applause for conductor Bagwell, for the composer, for the brilliant artistic director of the Manhattan Girls Chorus, Michelle Oesterle, and the show was over.