Chorale as a genre originated in the application of the term to sixteenth-century Lutheran worship music, but chorales and chorale style did not really enter the vocabulary of secular concert music as a musical topic until the eighteenth century, as a semiotic code for ideas and feelings associated with chorales. Chorales by definition are congregational, identifying and expressing the sentiments of a group, and their most common associations are of purity, archaism, and spirituality.

When chorales are used topically, the range of their expressive perspectives broadens considerably, and varies widely depending on the context. Chorale topic can express a religious or nationalistic “we,” a monumental and impersonal “it,” or an intimate and personal “I.” Within the category of “I” expressions, chorale topic can express the irony and despair of the “I” separated from the “we,” or on the other hand, the comfort, guidance, or transcendence of the separated “I” seeking and finding its community or communion. Nineteenth-century composers—Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Schumann, among others—provide many examples of chorale topic with these types of personal expression. Analyzing the contexts and meanings of “I” chorales is essential to understanding chorale topic as a whole, which increased in frequency of use as well as range of contexts and implied meanings from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Author Biography

Eileen Watabe is an Instructor of Music at Colorado Mesa University. She holds a Doctor of Arts degree in Music History and Literature from the University of Northern Colorado, where she received a citation for outstanding dissertation—Chorale Topic from Haydn to Brahms: Chorale in Secular Contexts of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Dr. Watabe’s research and teaching interests overlap: the various ways we can discover meaning in music, on every level of musical experience. Dr. Watabe has presented her research at the Rocky Mountain regional conference of the American Musicological Society (2015) and the Western Horn Workshop (2014).

Dr. Watabe is also a seasoned chamber and orchestral musician. She is currently hornist of CMU’s faculty woodwind quintet, Mesa Winds, and previously held positions with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Guanajuato (Guanajuato, Mexico) and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Nuevo León (Monterrey, Mexico) in addition to performing extensively with orchestras and chamber ensembles in California, Arizona, and Colorado. She studied natural horn at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya in Barcelona, and earned a Master of Music degree in Horn Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and Classics (Latin and Greek) from Brown University.

Prior to her position at CMU, Dr. Watabe was instructor of music at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and co-principal horn of the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra.

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