Home – Program Notes

Portara Ensemble Presents


Sunday, June 3, 4pm
Glencliff United Methodist Church

Jason Shelton, Artistic Director
Patrick Dunnevant, Assistant Director
Kelsi Fulton, accompanist

Featuring Epiphany Dance Partners
Lisa Spradley, Artistic Director

I. A Place for Us All

Locus Iste

Austrian composer Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) set this traditional Latin text for the dedication of a chapel in the cathedral at Linz. The text is a gradual (liturgical hymn) which draws imagery from the story of Jacob’s ladder and Moses and the burning bush.

Locus iste a Deo factus est,
inaestimabile sacramentum,
irreprehensibilis est.
This place was made by God,
a priceless sacrament;
it is without reproach.


Featuring Epiphany Dance Partners
Lisa Spradley, Artistic Director
Roxanne Crew * Allison Hardee * Summer Shack * Ashli Spencer
Choreography developed with guest artist Laurel Desmarais


This iconic song comes from the 1957 musical West Side Story, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The arrangement for chorus was written by Robert Edgerton, emeritus professor of music at Winthrop University, South Carolina.

There’s a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us

There’s a time for us,
Some day a time for us,
Time together with time to spare,
Time to look, time to care,
Some day,
We’ll find a new way of living,
We’ll find a way of forgiving

Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there
Some day,

II. A Place for Us All

Journey Home

Note from composer Abbie Betinis (b. 1980):

This piece was commissioned by the Minnesota Chorale as part of an amazing and innovative series called “Bridges.” In 2007, they partnered with Habitat for Humanity to create a concert called “Sing Me a Home.” They commissioned five composers to work directly with high school lyricists on a new piece celebrating specific Habitat for Humanity families in their school. I worked with poet Erik Halverson (then a student at Como Park High School) to develop this text about a family who emigrated from Mexico to Erik’s school in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

One of the greatest joys for me about this piece’s premiere was meeting the family who inspired it. Sitting next to me in the church pews, the Mexican family’s 3-year-old son clutched a small photo album documenting the building of his house, and though he didn’t say a word, grinned at me and silently pointed to himself in every picture… as if saying “I was there!” Such joy, such pride.

Un lugar… un hogar… nuestro hogar.
Un lugar que podemos llamar el nuestro, hacer el nuestro.
Un lugar para vivir, crecer, y ser.
Un pedazo de lo nuestro que compartimos con el mundo.
Un trozo de nuestros corazónes que traemos a la comunidad.
Un mundo de consuelo, y un mundo de calma.
Un mundo… de amor.
A place… a home… our home.
A place we can call our own, make our own.
A place to live, grow, and be.
A piece of us we share with the world.
A piece of our hearts we bring to the community.
A world of comfort, and a world of calm.
A world… of love.
A place, a place to live,
a place to grow, and be.
A place, a place to hope,
a place to dream,
and love…
An end, an end to a journey,
but still we’re just beginning:
a place with you,
a place to start anew.
A home, (Un hogar)
a home is our own, (nuestro propio hogar)
yet so much more, (y mucho más)
a world… (un mundo) a world, (Un mundo)
a world we’ll learn, (aprenderemos)
a world we’ll bring, (lo traeremos)
and share… (para compartir)
A world of comfort, of calm,
the hope of our family,
a place of love,
of wonder from above…

A place, a place we’ll grow,
a place we’ll learn,
and share.
A place to call our own,
to make our own…

Our home.


Elias Salazar, narrator
Elaine Bailey-Fryd, Greg Gunther, and Vanessa Jackson, soloists

City Called Heaven

This traditional spiritual was arranged by Josephine Poelinitz (b. 1944), who recently retired as a vocal music specialist with the Chicago Public Schools.

Versatile countertenor and Tennessee native Patrick Dailey has earned awards and honors from the NAACP ACT-SO, Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition, and the National Classical Singer Magazine University Vocal Competition. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music-Vocal Performance from Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD and the Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the Boston University. Patrick is a member of the voice faculty at TSU.

David Huntsinger is a pianist, composer, songwriter, and arranger who moved from his native California to Nashville, TN, in 1976. David has worked with huge variety of artists as both a session and touring pianist. He has also written a number of children’s musicals, as well as produced many albums of his own original works and arrangements.

I am a poor pilgrim,
a poor pilgrim of sorrow
I’m left in this wide world,
this wide world alone
Ain’t got no hope,
got no hope for tomorrow
Trying to make it,
make heaven my home

Sometimes I’m tossed and
I’m driven, Lord
Sometimes I just don’t know
which way to turn.
But I heard of a city,
a city called heaven
Trying to make it,
make heaven my home

III. A Dream of Home

i remember (WORLD PREMIERE)

Philadelphia-based composer Cortlandt Matthews (b. 1992) wrote this piece specifically for this concert, and he asked member of Portara Ensemble to write their own reflections on their earliest memories of home. The piece is set in a straightforward style, with chant-like renderings of the lyrics by a quartet of soloists while the choir supports their narrative with a dreamy, aleatoric accompaniment.

I remember standing at the front door, watching for daddy to come home from work. I would squeal with delight when I saw him walking up the front steps. This is one of my earliest memories.

I was twenty-two. I remember flying back to Nashville when I lived in Chicago. Having been an Air Force kid, I never had strong associations of any particular place being “home.” But on this occasion, as I saw the hills around Nashville from the air, I had that feeling of coming home for the first time.

I remember sitting with my Grandfather on a picnic table in his backyard talking to the birds while we fed them. I remember feeling safe and loved. I was 5 years old.

I remember being cooped up in my house on bed rest after breaking my leg. Though I usually enjoyed my time at home, I felt like I was under lockdown. One evening, I was finally allowed to have one friend over, and he helped me escape for an evening of freedom. I crutched down the stairs and out the front door, slamming it loudly as I left. I remember feeling rebellious and triumphant. I was 16 years old.

I was 36. I remember bringing my son home for the first time. I remember my joy and my fear.

I remember coming home from high school. As I came in the door of the kitchen my mother would be there, and I would hug her and we would dance around the kitchen together.

I remember the day my mother died. I was 39. I remember feeling unmoored… my first home – was gone.

I remember being 9 years old. we moved out of the first house I lived in. I gave it a hug and kiss as we left.

I remember as a child living with my parents on the University of Utah campus when my father was getting his PhD in chemistry. We lived in the married housing on campus which were converted army barracks, a very humble two-room shack with heat only in the front section. My brother and I had bunk beds in the rear unheated room standing against the outside wall. I had the top bunk with my mattress next to the window. The window was the type that tilted out so in the cold Utah winters I would lay there in my bed with the moon shining down and everything still and quiet, as a snow-covered night does, and reach out and grab a sparkling icicle hanging from the edge of the roof, then snap one off for my brother below. I remember us laying there together. We were crunching and munching in the cold moonlight, warm as we could get under our blankets with frost trying to gain a toehold on our happy faces. I thought to myself how rich I was to have such a luxury… I knew no other boys anywhere in the world were able to eat icicles in their bed.

Notes from the composer:

In an online survey, I invited the members of Portara Ensemble to share memories that come to mind when reflecting on home. i remember is a setting of these responses. To return the kindness of sharing these deeply personal moments with me, I wanted to share one myself. I remember the ending to a particular fight I had gotten into with my brother. Up until I started high school, I would go camping on the beach with my parents and younger brother just about every weekend of the summer. I don’t remember which summer this happened, or even how this fight began. I have a funny feeling it started with a disagreement about the logistics of sharing the space in our wing on the camper, a tent about the size of a full bed and tall enough for us to sit down in. We didn’t realize at the time, but since we had left the reading light on, our parents were privy to our conflict playing out in canvas silhouette from their seats around the campfire. When we heard my mother yell, “What’s going on in there?!” we locked eyes, both understanding how absurdly this had escalated, and silently agreed to immediately reply, “nothing!” and went back to reading.

Cassandra Bailey-Langjahr, Kevin Foster, Emily Packard, and Jordan Simpkins, soloists

Wayfaring Stranger

Michael Engelhardt’s arrangement of this traditional American folk/gospel song which can be traced to the early 19th century but whose original author is unknown. Engelhardt takes the Sacred Harp-style song and mashes it up with electronic percussion/bass track, resulting in something he calls “choralectronica.”

I am a poor wayfaring stranger
I’m journeying through this world of woe
But there’s no sickness, toil nor danger
In that fair land to which I go

I’m going there to see my father
I’m going there no more to roam
I only going over Jordan
I only just going over home

I know dark clouds will gather round me
I know my way is rough and steep
But beauteous fields lie just before me
Where God’s redeemed their vigils keep

I’m going home to see my mother
She said she’d meet me when I come
I’m only going over Jordan
I’m only going over home

Libera nos (Set us free)

Ben Kuttler, Mo Coombs, Eric Wiuff, soloists

IV. Refuge


Music by Jocelyn Hagen (b. 1980). Note from lyricist Marisha Chamberlain:

In a nation increasingly, wonderfully diverse, the need to belong takes on a new poignancy. Humans are social creatures. We need to belong. Alfred Adler, Freud’s rebel disciple, tells us that the drive to belong is as essential to survival as any other drive, and may be the primary drive.

The lyrics for this anthem were written expressly for young voices. As kids grow up, the challenge of finding friends and love becomes especially fierce. Kids must go forth and make new homes. This requires reaching out to others, and risking rejection. So much risk, so much trial and error. The quest to find a place to belong also requires the young person to decide what they believe. What does it mean to have something in common? On what basis will I belong? Hate binds people into belonging. But, very fortunately, so does love.

Home is home no longer.
(When) I’m grown and gone,
Where will I belong?

Could I belong with you?
Could I shelter and share bread with you?
Could we belong?

The house is sold.
The family scatters.
Sisters, brothers far away.

Could you belong with me?
Would you shelter and share bread with me?
Could we belong?

Our country boils with anger.
Bullets fly, friendships shatter.
Life is short. But life, it matters.

Come, you belong with me.
We’ll shelter and share bread together.
We belong.


The text for this piece comes from Celtic Daily Prayer, a collection prayers and readings from the Northumbria Community, an ecumenical monastic community in England. The words are of collective authorship, having evolved from a Pakistani Christian hymn. The word “saranam” is a Tamil word meaning “refuge.” Portara Artistic Director Jason Shelton set the prayer to music just a few months ago, and today’s performance is the concert premiere of the piece.

Receive our thanks for night and day,
for food and shelter, rest and play.
Be here our guest, and with us stay,
saranam, saranam, saranam.

For this small earth of sea and land,
for this small space on which we stand,
for those we touch with heart and hand,
saranam, saranam, saranam.

In the midst of foes I cry to Thee,
from the ends of the earth, wherever I may be,
My strength in helplessness, oh, answer me!
saranam, saranam, saranam.

For those who’ve gone, for those who stay,
for those to come, following the Way,
be guest and guide both night and day,
saranam, saranam, saranam.

V. The Dream Awakens

Notes from composer Jake Runestad (b. 1986):

My sister was an English teacher at the Minnesota International Middle School in Minneapolis which provides a safe and inclusive environment for East African immigrant students to learn (many of whom are Somali). Most of these students came to the USA to escape the violent civil war that has plagued Somalia since 1991. Seeking a better life for their children, these students’ parents risked their lives to come to the USA – a valiant act of love. I wanted to tell their story through music and so I asked my sister to have her students write poems about their experiences leaving their home and coming to the USA. I received over 100 poems that contain passion, pride, emotion, and vivid stories of the sights and sounds that these young people have experienced. I sifted through these texts and found the powerful words of 14-year-old Warda Mohamed that became the backbone of the composition. Using Warda’s poem and two Somali proverbs, “We Can Mend the Sky” is a musical depiction of one’s journey as an immigrant and an affirmation of hope as we all embrace the diversity around us.

In my dream I saw a world free of violence
a world filled with love
Now awake in this world
I beg, let my dream come true.

Naftu orod bay kugu aamintaa. (To save your life, run with all your might.)

If we come together, we can mend a crack in the sky.

Mary Scheib and Elizabeth Miller, soloists
Colleen Phelps, percussion

VI. Where You Belong

The Road Home

Note from composer Stephen Paulus (1949-2014)

In the Spring of 2001 I received a commission from the Dale Warland Singers to write a short “folk” type choral arrangement.  I had discovered a tune in a folk song book called “The Lone Wild Bird.”  I fell in love with it, made a short recording and asked my good friend and colleague, Michael Dennis Browne to write new words for this tune. The tune is taken from The Southern Harmony Songbook” of 1835.  It is pentatonic and that is part of its attraction.  Pentatonic scales have been extant for centuries and are prevalent in almost all musical cultures throughout the world.  They are universal.  Michael crafted three verses and gave it the title “The Road Home.”  He writes so eloquently about “returning” and “coming home” after being lost or wandering.  Again, this is another universal theme and it has resonated well with choirs around the world as this simple little a cappella choral piece has become another “best seller” in our catalogue.  It is just more evidence that often the most powerful and beautiful message is a simple one.

Lyric by Michael Dennis Browne, professor of English emeritus at the University of Minnesota.

Tell me, where is the road
I can call my own,
That I left, that I lost,
So long ago?
All these years I have wandered,
Oh, when will I know
There’s a way, there’s a road
That will lead me home?

After wind, after rain,
When the dark is done.
As I wake from a dream
In the gold of day,
Through the air there’s a calling
From far away,
There’s a voice I can hear
That will lead me home.

Rise up, follow me,
Come away, is the call,
With the love in your heart
As the only song;
There is no such beauty
As where you belong:
Rise up, follow me,
I will lead you home.

Sarah Upchurch, soloist

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