'Flowers Songs' bloom at Northwest Choral’s May 5 concert

Northwest Choral Society (NWCS) will celebrate the wonders of the spring season with a concert on Sunday, May 5, filled entirely with, and entitled, “Flower Songs.” The concert will begin at 4 p.m., at Trinity Lutheran Church, 675 E. Algonquin Road in Des Plaines.

“Repertoire for the concert pays homage to flowers and growing things, and features Benjamin Britten’s ‘Flower Songs’ for unaccompanied chorus, as well as the rarely-performed seven ‘Flower Songs’ of Vincent Persichetti and Jake Runestad’s ‘Flower into Kindness,’ which include the chorus joined by the Metropolis String Quartet,” said NWCS Artistic Director Thomas Colao.

NWCS’ collaborative pianist Lori Lyn Mackie also will accompany the chorus on other songs.

The “Flower Songs” of Benjamin Britten are well-known among aficionados of choral music, and represent one of the cornerstones of the secular, English-language choral repertoire. Britten composed them in 1950, as a wedding gift for his friends Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, who were both botanists, philanthropists and fond of flowers. Conceived as part-songs in the English tradition, the first performance was in the open air at the Elmhirsts’ estate, which was noted for its gardens. Each movement is full of color and character as the composer sets five poems by four authors which mention flowers — there are merry scenes of daffodils, imaginative descriptions of trees, roots and weeds, gentle odes to delicate flowers, and the set concludes (“Ballad of Green Broom”) with a poem about a lazy young flower-cutter who ends up marrying a rich woman.

The seven “Flower Songs” of Vincent Persichetti are evocative, modern settings of poetry by e. e. cummings, accompanied by strings. Here, the American composer and pianist creates vast sonic landscapes wherein the voices of the choir and the wide palette of sounds available from the strings complement each other beautifully. Sometimes slow and solemn, and at other times lithe and lively, each movement is a reflection on an interaction with a flower.

Shorter, individual choral works round out the “Flower Songs” program, including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “Summer Is Gone” which captures the feelings when beloved summer flowers leave for the year; Lili Boulanger’s “Hymne au Soleil” (“Hymn to the Sun”) is sung as if the chorus were the flowers, rejoicing in the source of our strength and beauty; Libby Larsen’s “Green Grow the Lilacs” is a lovely waltz tune from the days of the cowboy West; and the program concludes with “Flower into Kindness” by Jake Runestad, dubbed a “choral rock star” by American Public Media.

Northwest Choral Society members Gena Long from Bartlett will sing the solo for “Hymne au Soleil” and Mikaela Sanson from Arlington Heights performs the solo in “Flower into Kindness.”

Tickets for the Flower Songs concert are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors and can be purchased online at; by calling (224) 585-9127; or one hour prior to the concert at Trinity Lutheran Churc, Des Plaines.

“Flower Songs” will be the final performance for NWCS’s 2023-24 season; rehearsals for the next session begin after Labor Day. Information regarding the June Summer Chamber Choir Intensive week will be publicized on

NWCS’ concert programs are sponsored in part by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.

Founded in 1965, the Northwest Choral Society is a nonprofit organization that promotes and encourages the appreciation, understanding and performance of a wide variety of outstanding choral literature. Its adult membership resides in the greater Chicago area.

The Northwest Choral Society invites experienced singers to audition to join the organization. Basses, tenors, altos and sopranos with previous choral experience and at least 17 years of age, can obtain additional information about the Northwest Choral Society at

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