FEATURE image: Milwaukee’s Bel Canto Chorus in public performance. Fair Use.
INDEPENDENT CHORUS FOUNDED IN 1931
Founded in 1931, Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s independent 100-voice Bel Canto Chorus 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.
SOLD OUT CONCERTS AT CHRISTMAS
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.
CONCERT AT BASILICA OF ST. JOSAPHAT, COMPLETED IN 1901
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
FEATURE image: In each academic year the Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir performs extensively throughout the state of Alabama, as well as nationally and internationally , including Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Canada in 2018. Fair Use.
Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir
The 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.
The Choir founded by Booker T. Washington in 1886
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, Washington 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.“
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was called “The Sage” of Tuskegee Institute outside Montgomery, Alabama. Founded by Booker T. 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.
Tuskegee’s deep love and appreciation for the arts, especially music
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…“
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.
FEATURE image: The Angeles Chorale is based in greater Los Angeles, California, and has been active as an all-volunteer choral group for more than 40 years. Fair Use.
WHO IS JOHN RUTTER AND WHAT IS HIS GLORIA ABOUT?
Gloria by English composer John Rutter (b. 1945) is a 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 known as “The Hymn of the Angels” because they are the words the angels sang 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.”
Only twenty minutes long, John Rutter’s chorale masterpiece Gloria is reputed to be a challenging work. The performance by the Angeles Chorale at First United Methodist Church in Pasadena on December 15, 2012 strives for perfection in this excellent all-volunteer chorus porformance.
MUSIC THAT IS VIBRANT, ACTIVE, PERSONAL, ALIVE
The Angeles Chorale 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.
Allegro vivace – “Gloria in excelsis Deo”
Andante – “Domine Deus”
Vivace e ritmico – “Quoniam tu solas sanctus.”
The performance is 20 minutes.
VOLUNTEER CHORAL GROUP FOUNDED IN 1975
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.
FEATURE image: The St. Bavo Cathedral Choir performs Christmas carols and other seasonal music for voice, many in modern settings. Fair Use.
The Advent program (2012) includes well-known carols along with Anton Diabelli’s Pastoral Mass In F Major For Solos, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 147. The concert also includes excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s 11-part choral piece, A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28, composed in 1942.
Full 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
CONCERT SPACE IS EARLY 20TH CENTURY CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL IN HAARLEM, NETHERLANDS
The concert was performed and recorded at the (Catholic) Cathedral Basilica St. Bavo in Haarlem on December 16, 2012 during Advent. The construction of the immense church took place between 1895 and 1930 on the Leidsevaart. It is different from and not the iconic Grote Kerk on Haarlem’s main square. As a cathedral, St. Bavo Basilica was built as the Catholic bishop’s church but it is also an active local parish. The St. Bavo Cathedral Choir is the church’s largest choral group, and an important part of the dual activity of the church.
The monumental church building, its art collection, organs, future museum, and the liturgical support of its Music Institute are all important aspects of serving and celebrating the Gospel in the service of others. The church community does not limit itself solely to believers within the territory of the parish, but offers a hospitable home for all who feel connected to it. https://rkhaarlem.nl/kerken/bavo-kathedraal-haarlem/
ORIGIN, PRACTICE OF THE CATHEDRAL CHOIR. WORKS PERFORMED
The Cathedral Choir who performs this Advent 2012 concert is comprised of all the choirs put together and can hold more than 100 people. The “Kathedrale Koor” sings on average once a month and for the major festivals such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
The full Cathedral choir is also used at large concerts and other important diocesan and other large events. The choir’s repertoire is wide with centuries of church music being represented. Large works with organ are especially performed, such as Masses by Louis Vierne (1870-1937) and Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) as well as works by Louis Andriessen (b. 1939) and Herman Strategier (1912-1988). The works of Jan Valkestijn, former Magister Cantus of the Music Institute and composer of several works for the Cathedral Choir, are also regularly performed.
Le Concert des Nations is an orchestra created in 1989 that performs orchestral, choral, and symphonic music with period instruments. Founded by Catalan maestro and viola de gamba virtuoso, Jordi Savall (b. 1941), Le Concert de Nations performs a wide ranging repertoire from the Baroque period (16th-17th centuries) to the Age of Enlightenment (18th century) and into the Romantic period (19th century). Their name, Le Concert des Nations, refers to a musical work by French Baroque composer and musician, François Couperin (1668-1733).
Messe et Motets pour la Vierge by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1702): 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)
What is Charpentier’s Messe et Motets Pour La Vierge about?
Marc-Antoine Charpentier (French, 1643-1704) was a prolific composer who had a diverse list of clients in Paris and the composer continually adapted his work. His religious music is complex for its musical relationships and its theological structures.
Starting in the sixteenth century one of the Catholic Church’s responses to Protestant reformers during the so-called “Catholic Counter Reformation” was the renewal of its devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Charpentier’s composition of Messe et Motets Pour La Vierge is not trivial. It supports varied and comprehensive expressions of Marian devotion. This includes 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 the theological variety of musical forms are its 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.
Charpentier’s Messe and the Palace of Versailles
Intriguing facts coincide in this live early music performance of the Messe et Motets Pour La Vierge (Mass and Motets for the Virgin) by Charpentier and the Palace of Versailles in whose Royal Chapel it was recorded in 2007. The ninety-one-minute music video in this post is directed by Olivier Simonnet and broadcast by MEZZO.
In the Jules Hardouin-Mansart-designed chapel of 1699 (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.
Fourteen miles west of Paris, there are many ways to visit Versailles’ château and grounds as it is very big and expansive. The château has over two thousand windows (exact count: 2,153).
Square feet of Versailles compared to Michael Jordan’s Chicagoland mansion
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.
Versailles has over 6000 paintings and 5000 pieces of furniture
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 that Charpentier’s Messe et Motets Pour La Vierge is performed in its Royal Chapel. Composed in 1702, this brilliant new liturgical music of the time is hosted in a architectural space that at the time was also brand new. It was completed in 1710 by the First Architect to the King’s brother-in-law because Mansart died in 1708 at nearby Marley-le-Roi.
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