Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday link

The Boston Children's Chorus is bringing the highly successful Venezuelan conductor Maria Guinand to town in early April. There will be a number of events open to the public; check out the schedule and consider going!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend Concert Calendar - not

Sorry folks, too swamped to put together a Weekend Concert Calendar this week. On Sunday, check out the King's Chapel Choir doing a program called "Sound Architecture" that reflects the architecture of King's Chapel. And for some virtuoso solo singing, please check out La Donna Musicale's production of Sophonisba. Otherwise, if you are performing this week, please leave a comment!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday link

Goofy link today. A few comics about Chopin and Liszt! I had no idea they had a friendship or a rivalry (neither being most famous for their choral music, I have not exactly concentrated on them) but some brief Googling (e.g. read the fourth paragraph here) seems to indicate they had both.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday cat post - Guest Edition!

We have something very exciting today - another Guest edition of the usual Friday cat post! Without further ado, may I introduce Eden Casteel and her cats Boo-Boo and Cecilia!

Eden says:
I'm an adjunct voice teacher at Salve Regina U. in Newport RI, just moved here in summer from Michigan. I'm trying to start a small Schola down here south of Providence -- there are lots of opportunities north of the city, but very little for those of us near the coast, except for the Chorus of Westerly. I'm interested in starting a group that can be itinerant -- sing at parishes that might be welcoming, but not be attached to any particular place. If you hear of any one down this way who is looking for some low-commitment choral fun, give 'em my email. I also started a Meetup group -- "Chants Occurrence" -- and have a few members.

Cecilia Cat, age 6, dwelling among my hymnals. Guess I made it easy for her with the stepstool!

Boo-Boo Kitty, my step-cat, age 6, enjoying a sunbath on top of his scratching box. Multitasker. He also loves to sit in when I teach at home -- sitting on the piano bench with me, or purring loudly nearby. He is very social!

Aw, look at that furry belly. Thanks, Eden! And if anyone wants your kitty to star in a guest edition of Friday Cat Post, let me know!

(Samson sends his greetings to all, by the way, but wants you to know that he has hidden my camera, so not only is it broken, I couldn't find it to take it to the shop to get fixed. His prettiness will have to go unadmired for another week!)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Weekend Concert Calendar, 3/17/11

It's a good weekend! Tough choices.

Friday: On Friday, there is really only one choice. The Cantata Singers will be presenting Bach's Mass in B Minor. I have no doubt that they will hit it out of the park. At NEC's Jordan Hall at 8 pm. They will also perform it at 3 pm on Sunday, and in fact, put together with the Freisinger Chamber Orchestra's performance on Saturday, you could hear Bach's Mass in B Minor every single day this weekend! What a city!

Saturday: On Saturday, Blue Heron will be presenting the music of Tomás Luis de Victoria. He is one of my favorite composers, they are one of my favorite groups, and this concert is sure to be exquisitely beautiful. The concert is at 8 pm at First Church Congregational, Cambridge, and there is a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 pm.

Also on Saturday: Boston Camerata, Freisinger Chamber Orchestra (Bach's Mass in B Minor).

Sunday: Oh gosh, Sunday. A hard day to decide! On the one hand, you should go see my friend up-and-coming mezzo-soprano Eileen Christiansen sing with the Polymnia Choral Society, which will perform Michael Haydn's rarely-heard and excellent Requiem at 4 pm at St. Mary's Church in Melrose. On the other hand, how can I not recommend Rossini's utterly charming and also rarely-performed Petite Messe Solenelle, performed by Chorus Pro Musica at 3 pm at Old South Church in Boston? And on the third hand...Ladysmith Black Mambazo! EEEEEEEEE! Whatever you do, don't let indecision paralyze you!

Also on Sunday: Assabet Valley Mastersingers, Cantata Singers, Chorus Pro Musica, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Polymnia Choral Society.

Musica Sacra tallies

I mentioned that Musica Sacra handed out ballots in their concert this past weekend, and the votes are in!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Boston Cecilia review

The second great concert I saw last weekend (the first being the Musica Sacra concert which I talked about Monday) was the Boston Cecilia's performance of Handel's Jephtha.

Warning: gushing ahead! I know that makes for the less interesting reviews, but I loved it!

First off, the line-ups of soloists was very impressive. I especially loved both the women soloists. Teresa Wakim was the soprano, and her voice was absolutely clear and delightful the whole way through. All her arias were wonderful, but I especially enjoyed "The smiling dawn of happy days." And Deborah Rentz-Moore as the mezzo-soprano was a happy surprise; I had never heard of her, or heard her perform before, but she was great, with a wonderful rich tone that easily carried over the orchestra, and good emotional intensity.

But the hero of the hour (well, three hours) was definitely Aaron Sheehan, who totally knocked it out of the park. I really cannot say enough nice things about him. His tone was both heroic and vulnerable; his diction and tuning exquisite, and he nailed every note, no matter how small or fast. You could hear people gasp after some of his more virtuosic runs. I am more impressed every time I hear him (last time was also with the Boston Cecilia, when he performed Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings.) Someone should snap him up to record this role right away so I can put "Waft her gently" on my ITunes and listen to it on repeat.

Finally, one can't talk about the soloists without mentioning boy soprano Ryan Williams as the Angel in Act III. He was extremely impressive; perfectly dead-on pitch, and carried well over the orchestra, and in general nailed his performance. Everyone had to stop and give him an extra bow in the middle of the performance. He is also the son of Ron Williams, the baritone soloist, so he comes from an excellent family line!

Of course, I went to hear not the soloists but the chorus. And the chorus was excellent! Many people were talking about the choral movement at the end of Act II, "How dark, O Lord, are thy decrees," which was definitely one of the emotional climaxes of the whole piece, and very intense. But I was even more blown away by the chorus at the end of Act I, "When his loud voice in thunder spoke," which although not as deep was very virtuosic. The chorus was nimble, accurate, and their rhythm and tempo was perfect; they were never behind the conductor. Also, I could hear their ending consonants, even the "k" on "broke," which kind of blew me away. Throughout the entire performance they had a strong full sound that was extremely well-balanced and well-tuned.

I expected this plus-three-hour performance to occasionally lag in dramatic drive, and thought that my energy would flag during the listening, especially in light of Daylight Savings that morning. But Jephtha struck me as one of the more dramatically well-balanced oratorios that I have heard, and Don Teeters kept things rolling along at a good clip. It's sad that this was the last Handel oratorio we will hear him conduct with the Boston Cecilia, but it was the perfect way to go out!

The next Cecilia concert is Bach's St. Matthew Passion on Nov. 6, when they will be joined by Musica Sacra! It's already on my calendar; I expect it to be great.

For another review of Cecilia's performance last Sunday, you can read Jeremy Eichler in the Globe. Much as I loved the performance, I do think his comment about "more pointed emotional specificity" is well-taken.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Audition heads-up

Feel like you missed audition season? You're in luck! Calliope, a collaborative choral and orchestral ensemble, will be auditioning in early April (4/9 and 4/10, or by appointment) for a concert that will be rehearsed over the summer and performed in September. I know very little about this group, but you can get more information here. (It looks like they have not updated their audition page, but get in touch with them for details.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Musica Sacra review

I saw two great choral concerts this past weekend! The first was by Musica Sacra. Full disclosure; they offered me a pair of comps, which I was delighted to accept.

Musica Sacra did a program called "Double-Takes: One Text, Two Perspectives," and it was highly enjoyable. The star of the program was, well, the program. I just love the way director Mary Beekman programs all her concerts; they are always interesting and clever, but every piece is also programmed out of love. It always makes for a great mix.

In this case we had two composers each setting one text. For example, there was an Ave Maria by Josquin, and the Ave Maria by Biebl. Musica Sacra did something very smart, which was to hand out ballots in the program, and have everyone vote for their favorite setting of a given text. This meant that everyone in the audience ended up extremely invested in the concert. Results have not been tallied yet, but I am keeping an eye on their Facebook page for the results! For the record, my choices were:

I preferred the Ginastera "O Vos Omnes" over the Correa.
I preferred the Josquin "Ave Maria" over the Biebl (but that's a hard call.)
I preferred the Allegri "Miserere Mei" over the Brahms' "Schaffe in Mir, Gott."
I preferred the Tomkins "When David Heard" over the Whitacre.
I preferred the Bach "Lobet den Herrn" over the Monteverdi "Laudate Dominum" (another tough call.)

See? I am still invested! They had great audience turnout, a fun reception with a raffle; that group is just doing everything right, in my opinion. The energy in the room was high and positive.

And the music? Extremely well-done! The sound was very clean and well-blended; everything was strong, and there were no pieces that sounded unsteady. Particularly impressive was the soprano section. Beekman has some very strong sopranos, and chose a program that showed them off well, with lots of different solos that were all excellently sung. Particular kudos to the high soprano soloist in the Allegri "Miserere Mei," whose high notes were always dead-on, every time. Their next concert is called "Love, Lust and Laudations: Flemish Choral Music of the High Renaissance" on May 14, and based on this last concert, I definitely recommend going.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend Concert Calendar, 3/10/11 (well, 3/11/11)

This weekend I am actually getting out of the house and seeing some of the choral concerts I am always telling you about! See you at the Musica Sacra concert on Saturday, and the Boston Cecilia concert on Sunday!

Friday: Masterworks Chorale is presenting Dvorak's beautiful Stabat Mater. Steven Karidoyanes will be conducting, and this concert is a tribute to Allen Lannom, who led the Masterworks Chorale for 53 years. Richard Dyer, formerly critic for the Boston Globe, will present the opening remarks. This will be at 8 pm at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University.

Also on Friday: Worcester Chorus.

Saturday: Musica Sacra presents "Double-Takes: One Text, Two Perspectives." They have chosen five texts, and will present two settings of each by two different composers. Included on the program are Ave Maria by Josquin and Biebl; When David Heard by Whitacre and Tomkins; and Psalm 51 by Brahms (Schaffe in mir, Gott) and Allegri (Miserere).

Check out this very cute video of chorus members talking about their favorite pieces!

Sunday: The Boston Cecilia will present Handel's Jephtha. This was Handel's final oratorio, and it will be Cecilia's final Handel oratorio under the baton of Donald Teeters. (Teeters is retiring at the end of next year.) Don Teeters is a Handel specialist, and over the years has led many acclaimed Handel oratorio performances; all the stops have been pulled out for this last one, so don't miss it! It will be at 2:30 pm (note the start time) at NEC's Jordan Hall in Boston. This should definitely be one of the most talked-about choral performances of the year.

Also on Sunday: Arlington-Belmont Chorale, the Brookline Chorus, Newton Choral Society, Quincy Choral Society, Sorellanza, Sounds of Stow.

On Tuesday, Blue Heron will be singing a FREE concert at St. Mary's Chapel on the BC Chestnut Hill campus.

And next Thursday, check out the University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert Choir at First Church Congregational, Cambridge at 8 pm. They are directed by Beverly Taylor (a familiar name in these parts) and have all kinds of goodies lined up, from Hogan to Howells.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Choral workshop ahoy

If you are free this coming Saturday (it's a pretty crazy weekend) you might consider checking out this choral workshop, offered by R/EMM, which in addition to doing lots of work with recorders offers several choral workshops a year.

R/EMM is offering a choral morning with Jay Lane, director of Vox Lucens, focussing on works in 4-8 parts by Guerrero, Morales and Victoria.

* Saturday, March 12, 2011 from 9:30-12:15
Trinity Episcopal Church, 81 Elm Street in Concord MA

Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 9 if you plan to attend.
PDF files of the music will be sent out on Wednesday evening.

Registration fee: $18, $12 for R/EMM Members; R/EMM Choral Affiliates FREE. (Note: I don't know what the fee is for non-R/EMM members, but I do know this is open to the general public. I went to one led by Scott Metcalfe of Blue Heron a few years ago, and it was a lot of fun.)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Monday links

A couple of conductor links for you today! Don Teeters of the Boston Cecilia is interviewed by the Musical Intelligencer, and David Hoose of the Cantata Singers is interviewed by The Arts Fuse.

Both groups have major concerts coming up this month. The Boston Cecilia is performing Handel's Jephtha on March 13 at 2:30 pm at NEC's Jordan Hall; and the Cantata Singers is performing Bach's Mass in B Minor on March 18 and 20, at 8 pm and 3 pm respectively, also at NEC's Jordan Hall.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Friday cat post! Oomi edition

My camera is broke, so until I get it fixed, I'm afraid you will have to do without pictures of Samson! I can assure you he is well, currently sprawled out beside me taking a nap in the sun.

In the meantime, here is Oomi posing for the camera.

Weekend Concert Calendar, 3/3/11

March is here! Be a concert-going lion!

Friday: The Lorelei Ensemble, a group of professional female singers, will be presenting a program called "By Women, For Women," directed by Beth Willer and featuring new music by Abbie Betinis, Erin Huelskamp, Mary Montgomery Koppel and Libby Larsen, as well as old favorites by Hildegard and Strozzi, among others. I've heard this group in performance, and they are hot stuff. On Friday night at 8 they will be at the Emmanuel College Chapel in Boston; they'll also be performing on Sunday in Wenham.

Also on Friday: Boston Baroque, Boston Choral Ensemble, Braintree Choral Society.

Saturday: The Back Bay Chorale is performing Rachmaninoff's Vespers. One of the town's best choruses; one of the world's most beloved beautiful choral pieces. What more need be said? At Emmanuel Church in Boston at 8 pm.

Also on Saturday: Boston Baroque, Choral Art Society, Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society, Spectrum Singers.

Sunday: Check out the Boston Choral Ensemble and their program "The Door to Paradise," exploring 20th-century British choral music. Get your Howells fix here! 2:30 pm (notice the start time) at Old South Church in Boston. Also on Friday night in Cambridge.

Also on Sunday: Choirs of First Parish Westwood and United Church Walpole, Concordia Concert, Coro Allegro, Lorelei Ensemble.

Later this week, the Kenyon College Chamber Singers will be in Needham on Tuesday during their spring tour.

Did I miss anything? Leave it in the comments!