Category Archives: Music, Choral

Christmas Choral Concert: Bel Canto Chorus, Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s independent 100-voice Bel Canto Chorus–founded in 1931–performs carols and hymns in the historic Basilica of St. Josaphat, a Polish-style church in Milwaukee completed in 1901 and boasting one of the largest copper domes in the world.

The Bel Canto Chorus is made up of singers from throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Their Christmas concert is one of their most locally popular of the year and its weekend of Christmas concerts is often sold out.

In this 2012 performance, Music Director Richard Hynson conducts. Hynson has been music director of the Bel Canto Chorus since 1987 and in 2012 received the American Prize in Choral Conducting, Community Choral Division. The Bel Canto Chorus has an impressive international performance portfolio, including performances at the Spoleto Music Festival in Italy and music festivals in France, the UK, Ireland, Canada and Argentina and Uruguay.

This wonderful performance features the Stained Glass Brass and Bel Canto Boy Chorus, both conducted by Ellen Shuler.

PROGRAM:
Once in Royal David’s City – H.J. Gauntlett
Ding Dong Merrily on High – George Radcliffe Woodward
A Spotless Rose – Herbert Howells
O Come, All Ye Faithful – J.F. Wade
Welcome All Wonders – Richard Dirksen
Gloria-John Rutter
Silent Night-Franz Grüber
Joy To The World – George Frideric Handel
We Wish You A Merry Christmas – arranged by John Rutter

This performance is approximately one hour.

Notes©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Christmas Choral Concert: The Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir, University Chapel, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was called “The Sage” of Tuskegee Institute outside Montgomery, Alabama. Founded by Washington in 1881, the Institute thrives today as Tuskegee University, home to more than 3,000 students from the U.S. and dozens of foreign countries.

The historically African-American college boasts several academic distinctions today, especially in the broad range of the sciences, engineering, medicine and math. This stems from the coeducational school’s founding value of industrial education.

Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington.

Tuskegee is home to the first bioethics center in the United States: the National Center for Bioethics in Research & Health Care. Founded in 1999, the Center is devoted to the exploration of the core moral issues which underlie research and medical treatment of African-Americans as well as other under-served populations by bringing together in dialogue the sciences, humanities, law and religion.

In addition to excellence in these important academic fields, Tuskegee, with over 60 degree programs, offers study in the Liberal Arts, Fine Arts, and Humanities. This includes The Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir in the Department of Fine & Performing Arts.

Tuskegee’s first singing groups were organized by Washington as early as 1884 with the choir formally founded by Washington in 1886. Booker T. Washington, who grew up in slavery as a child, had witnessed music and singing’s central value to the African-American experience.

In chapter one of his highly readable and interesting American classic autobiography, Up From Slavery, he writes: “Finally the war closed, and the day of freedom came. It was a momentous and eventful day to all upon our plantation. We had been expecting it. Freedom was in the air, and had been for months… As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom. True, they had sung those same verses before, but they had been careful to explain that the “freedom” in these songs referred to the next world, and had no connection with life in this world. Now they gradually threw off the mask, and were not afraid to let it be known that the “freedom” in their songs meant freedom of the body in this world.“

Washington insisted that Tuskegee’s always augmenting student body at the Christian nondenominational school sing spirituals at weekly Chapel worship services. Washington, and all Tuskegee’s successor presidents to the present day, have maintained a deep love and appreciation for the arts, especially above all music. Booker T. Washington wrote the students, exhorting them: “…If you go out to have schools of your own, have your pupils sing [Negro spirituals] as you have sung them here, and teach them to see the beauty which dwells in these songs…”

In each academic year the Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir performs extensively throughout the state of Alabama, as well as nationally and internationally (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Canada in 2018).

Their Christmas Concert is held each December in the University Chapel under the direction of Dr. Wayne Anthony Barr. Dr. Barr is assisted by Mrs. Brenda Shuford at the piano who herself is a lifelong music educator and ordained minister at her Baptist church in Montgomery. Also taking significant part is Warren L. Duncan who heads the Department of Fine & Performing Arts at Historic Tuskegee University.

The choir has had a momentous performance history performing before American presidents and this entire concert offers the listener the flavor of its wonderful spirit and deep talent shared at Christmas-time.

The concert is approximately two hours and fifteen minutes.

Notes©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Christmas Choral Concert: The Angeles Chorale, First United Methodist Church, Pasadena, California, performs John Rutter’s “Gloria.”

For over 40 years, the Angeles Chorale has brought inspiring choral music to greater Los Angeles, California. It is an all-volunteer choral group comprised of about one hundred voices. The Angeles Chorale was founded in 1975 as one of the local Valley Master Chorales and merged in 1987 with California State University Northridge’s Masterworks Chorale under the baton of Artistic Director John Alexander. For the next nine years Alexander led the assemblage into a professional standard, and changed its name to the Angeles Chorale. Donald Neuen took over the podium in the 1996-1997 season. Neuen, Director of Choral Activities at UCLA, focused the chorale’s repertoire on classical music masterworks for chorus and orchestra such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler. For the 2010-2011 season, Neuen handed the baton to its present-day Artistic Director Dr. John Sutton, who had been with the chorale since 2004. Sutton continues to actively study with Professor Neuen, now retired, among others, and utilizes the Angeles Chorale’s versatility and mastery in classic music and current music in concert programming.

While only about twenty minutes long, John Rutter’s chorale masterpiece Gloria is reputed to be a challenging work – and this performance at First United Methodist Church Pasadena on December 15, 2012, while continuing to strive for perfection in minor technicalities, remains overall excellent. The Angeles Chorale really takes the three movement work as its own. This is a musical performance that is vibrant, active, personal, alive, and while not perhaps the most refined performance of this favorite work on record, it provides the listener with an aural experience that leaves one on the edge of their seat which is a power not typically found in other performances. This engaging vibrancy could be part of Sutton’s ease and familiarity with popular musical forms, such as for film and television, that infuses this choral piece’s unique harmonies, structures, and rhythms with a branded verve and, if imperfectly, then confidently based on the chorale and brass’s obvious performative exuberance and enjoyment.

John Rutter’s Gloria is the English composer’s musical setting of parts of the Latin Gloria which is a Christian hymn. Rutter’s work was written in 1974 and has been part of the Christmas concert tradition ever since. The Latin Gloria is also known as “The Hymn of the Angels” because they are the words the angels sang when, in Luke 2:14, the angelic host hovered over the shepherds in the field to announce Christ’s birth. “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” the shepherds heard the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest.” (20.23 minutes).

  1. Allegro vivace – “Gloria in excelsis Deo”
  2. Andante – “Domine Deus”
  3. Vivace e ritmico – “Quoniam tu solas sanctus.”

The performance is approximately 20 minutes.

Notes©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Christmas Choral Concert: St. Bavo Cathedral Choir, Haarlem, Netherlands.

The St. Bavo Cathedral Choir performs Christmas carols and other seasonal music for voice, many in modern settings. Recorded in Haarlem in Advent 2012 (December 16) in the Cathedral Basilica St. Bavo –not the iconic Grote Kerk in Haarlem’s main square but the Catholic church constructed between 1895 and 1930 – the program includes well-known carols along with Anton Diabelli’s Pastoral Mass In F Major For Solos, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 147, and excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s 11-part choral piece, A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28. Fons Ziekman conducts the Promenade Orchestra and Sanne Nieuwenhuijsen directs the chorus with soloists Jasper Schweppe, Anouk van Laake, Floris Claassens, Hidde Kleikamp and Frank de Ruijter. The impressive vocal and orchestral ensemble is accompanied by Ton van Eck on organ and Auréli Husslage on harp.

Program:
John Francis Wade (1711-1786) : Oh, come all ye faithful
Anton Diabelli (1781-1858): Pastoral Messe in F-dur, op.147
Willcocks: The First Nowell
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976): A Ceremony of Carols
Richards: Over the Country
Britten: A New Year Carol
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847): Hark the herald angels sing
Vaughan Williams (1872-1958): Fantasia on Christmas Carols

The concert is 1 hour, 3 minutes and 48 seconds long.

Notes©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Marc-Antoine Charpentier at Versailles: Messe et Motets Pour La Vierge (1702).

Le Concert des Nations in 2005.
Le Concert des Nations in 2005.

Print (c. 1680s) of M. Charpentier in the lower left corner with two ladies displaying a sheet of musical notations.

Text by John P. Walsh

Intriguing facts coincide in this live early music performance of the Messe et Motets Pour La Vierge (Mass and Motets for the Virgin) by Marc Antoine Charpentier (French, 1643-1704) and the Palace of Versailles in whose Royal Chapel it was recorded in 2007. In the Jules Hardouin-Mansart-designed chapel of 1699 (it was completed in 1710) is performed some of the greatest music ever composed by early music ensemble Hespèrion XXI and period instrument orchestra Le Concert des Nations led by Jordi Savall. The ninety-one minute music video in this post is directed by Olivier Simonnet and broadcast by MEZZO.

Only fourteen miles west of Paris, there are many ways to visit Versailles’ château and grounds because it is very big and expansive. The château has over two thousand windows (count: 2,153). In 2012 when former Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan sold his house he listed it at $29 million. For that price the residence boasted 32,683 square feet on seven acres near Chicago. What about Louis XIV’s Versailles? The royal château is over 720,000 square feet on two thousand acres. The visitor who wanders the 30 rooms of Jordan’s house could wander Versailles’ twenty-three hundred rooms.

To be expected, there is much to see inside the château: by one count, 6,123 paintings, 1,500 drawings, 15,000 engravings, 2,000 sculptures and 5,000 pieces of furniture. Most of the palace was built in the 1670s. It is interesting to host Charpentier’s Messe et Motets Pour La Vierge in the Royal Chapel. Composed in 1702, this brilliant new liturgical music of the time is performed in architectural space that was also new—to be completed in 1710 by the First Architect to the King’s brother-in-law because Mansart died in 1708 at nearby Marley-le-Roi.

What is Charpentier’s composition of Messe et Motets Pour La Vierge about? During the counter Reformation in the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church renewed its devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Charpentier was a prolific composer who had a diverse list of clients in Paris and the artist continually adapted his work. His religious music is complex for its musical relationships and its theological structures. Charpentier’s complete composition is not trivial. It supports varied expressions of Marian devotion—specifically, a didactic dialogue in her honor (Canticum in honorem Virginis Mariae Beatae homines…), a sorrowful Virgin at the foot of the Cross (Stabat mater dolorosa), a litany of the Virgin, and a great Mass in her honor for God’s glory (Assumpta est Maria…). Added to this theological variety are the different musical styles for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Charpentier’s final product is sublime and leads directly to the Mass worship on the Feast of Mary’s assumption into heaven which is August 15.

Messe et Motets pour la Vierge (1698)

Canticum in honorem Beate Virginis Mariae inter hominess et angelos (H.400)

In Nativitatem Domini Canticum: nuit (H.416)

Stabat Mater pour des religieuses (H.15)

Litanies de la Vierge a 6 voix et 2 dessus de violes (H.83)

Missa Assumpta Est Maria (H.11a)

Vocalists

Emmanuel Bardon, countertenor
Yves Bergé, bass
Pascal Bertin, countertenor
Daniele Carnovich, bass
Raphaële Kennedy, soprano
Jean François Novelli, tenor
Jordi Ricart, baritone
Arianna Savall, soprano
Judit Scherrer-Kleber, mezzo-soprano
Elisabetta Tiso, soprano
Lluis Vilamajo, tenor

Musicians

Jordi Savall, pardessus de viole
Guido Balestracci, bass viol
Bruno Cocset, bass violin
Imke David, haute-contre de viole
Xavier Diaz-Latorre, theorbo
Luca Guglielmi, organ and harpsichord
Marc Hantai and Charles Zebley, transverse flutes
Xavier Puertas, violone
Joanna Valencia, tenor viol

Royal Chapel Versailles
The vaulted ceiling in the Royal Chapel at Versailles (1699-1710). Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708) designed it without transverse ribs so to create a unified surface, It is dedicated to the Holy Trinity: iGod the Father in his Glory by Antoine Coypel (1661-1722) is in the center. In the apse is The Resurrection by Charles de La Fosse (1636 – 1716). Above the Royal tribune is The Descent of the Holy Ghost by Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet (1644– 1717).
Hardouin-Mansart (1645-1708),
Portrait of Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708), Premier architecte du Roi by François de Troy (9 January 1645 – 21 November 1730), 1699. Palace of Versailles.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.