Thursday, May 15, 2014

DVC Celebrates a Legacy

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer. 


You don’t have to be an Anglophile to know that the Western choral tradition owes an enormous debt to Britain. From the Renaissance to today, works by British composers have become the mainstay of the world’s choral repertoire.  

The DelawareValley Chorale dipped into the vastness of this centuries-old tradition to close its 2013-14 season on Saturday at The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew& Matthew in Wilmington with a concert titled “The English Choral Legacy.” The sound was so glorious and the program so well-chosen that one only hopes the group will revisit this literature in the not-too-distant future.

Two works by composer C. Hubert H. Parry bookended the concert. Hear my words, ye people, was composed for the Festival of the Salisbury Diocesan Choral Association and was first performed in the Salisbury Cathedral on May 10, 1894. This extended anthem was meant to be sung by a gathering of parish choirs so the choral parts are within the reach of most choirs. The more technically demanding music is reserved for the soloists and organ. Soprano Lauren Conrad Giza, baritone Bill Gross and organist David Hearn did not disappoint. The final section of the quarter-hour work featured the SsAM Choral Scholars, with the resulting contrast of choral sonorities suggestive of a choral “concerto.”

Blest pair of sirens, Parry’s rip-roaring setting of John Milton’s poem Ode to a Solemn Musick concluded the concert. The highlight of the piece is the “big tune” to the words "O may we soon again renew that song” which spreads from the sopranos to the whole choir, then turns into fugue on "To live with him," which again reverts back to a homophonic texture of the final bars. The performance was one magnificent arch of music, bringing the audience to its feet with calls for an encore.

The other major piece of the first half was Come ye, sons of art, Ode to the birthday of Queen Mary II in 1694, by Henry Purcell, arguably Britain’s greatest composer. Soprano Conrad Giza and baritone Gross were joined by countertenors Augustine Mercante and Daniel Moody, whose superb voices, diction and style were a delight.

The balance of the concert included four madrigals ably executed by the SsAM Choral Scholars. The Chorale returned after the intermission with three songs by Arthur S. Sullivan, perhaps better known for writing a few operettas with a partner named Gilbert. The 20th Century got its due with Jubilate Deo, one of Benjamin Britten’s best known and most often performed short choral works. Hearn provided a rhythmically spirited organ accompaniment to the chorale’s direct vocal phrases and the piece bubbled with the joyous mood of the words.

See www.delawarevalleychorale.org.

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