Donald Neuen on "Rosarium"
It was 1997. I asked Roger Bourland if he'd be interested n composing a large-scale work for chorus, orchestra and soloists - and base it all on something really significant, something of true substance. He answered a very definite "Yes!"
He then began collaboration with librettist William MacDuff for this work - to be titled "Rosarium." It is based on the apparitions of the Virgin Mary both in Guadalupe and Medjugorje, and was first performed on the UCLA campus, June 5, 1999. The result was a huge success in every way. The 200 voices of the combined UCLA and Angeles Chorales loved every minute of the preparation process (very unique, indeed, for a twentieth century composition). The orchestra also enjoyed their rehearsal process. Both found the experience completely fulfilling. The audience literally jumped to their feet with a rousing standing ovation upon the premier concert's conclusion. Everyone involved was, somehow, better for the entire experience.
I found the work to be approachable, relevant, musically and spiritually challenging, and personally very satisfying. Roger and William "said what they had to say" in a manner that successfully spoke to everyone. The audience was talking about it for weeks, the singers and players said it made a very positive impact on their lives, and priests were talking about it in their pulpits the folloiwng morning. It was not just a musically rewarding experience - it was a soul-searching, and life-changing experience.
The work brings forth truth, captivating drama, serene intimate religious experiences, humorous moments, powerful elements of conflict in our society, the innocence of children, intolerance of adults, and the value of deep convictions. It does so with melodies that people enjoy hearing and will remember, driving rhythms that invoke the living spirit in listeners and performers alike, and harmonies that are rich in substance. The extremely creative text continually stimulates the heart, mind, and soul.
The vocal writing is always singable, and well suited to the ranges of each section of the chorus. The poignant text is a challenge for the singers, but well worth the effort to successfully convey its understandability and deep meaning. The orchestral writing also drew praise from the instrumentalists who found it both challenging and rewarding.
I find "Rosarium" to be a work that will be counted among the finest major works of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It successfully crosses the boundaries of religions, nationalities, and creeds. It brings people's thinking together. The audience and performers felt as one and responded as one - exactly what Mary has been praying for, and admonishing us to do through the visionaries.
In short: IT WAS A SUCCESS AND A TRIUMPH - AND THERE IS EVEN MORE TO COME! We are planning another performance of it in the future, to be followed by a complete recording.
Donald Neuen, conductor