Tonight, it was Musica Sacra at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine presenting a remarkable evening of music. For those altogether thirsting for a spiritual, uplifting musical event, hardly a better venue could be found than the Cathedral with its magnificent artists, space, and rich acoustics.
The concert featured works by women composers spanning eight centuries of music with English, German, and Latin texts. The extensive provenance of the works presented certainly suggested a musical phylogeny or evolution of liturgical music. Additionally, while some of the composers lived in convents centuries ago and wrote liturgical music, two modern composers whose works were featured tonight, Kerensa Briggs and Rani Arbo, who were present and publicly recognized.
A Bespoke Ensemble
The program began with a pre-concert recital by the Newark Boys Chorus, directed by Donald C. Morris and accompanied by Dr. Brian P. Harlow. Indeed, the bespoke ensemble sang several selections for the enthusiastic, appreciative audience. Marvelous indeed!
Emotive, Spiritual Experiences
It’s especially notable that most of the Musica Sacra Chorus’s offerings were performed a capella, an organic, intimate means of evoking a sense of transcendence and purity. Thus, the power of the voices and texts transported listeners towards virtual, mystical realms encompassed by emotive, spiritual experiences. The Chorus chiefly connected with the human experience in a way that transcends time and place, just as it inspired a diffusive synesthesia—evoking perceptions in multiple senses.
Kent Tritle with Musica Sacra at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine has emphatically brought important musical works to the forefront in an opulent setting with superb artists. Accordingly, Tritle’s conducting was expressive and precise, while the Chorus performed with an aplomb to which audiences have become accustomed. Listeners certainly experienced glorious sweeps of sound, delicate shadings, impeccable clarity and vocal precision, superb blend, unerring expression, apposite dynamic range, ineffable artistry, and inspired interpretation. It was evidently an awe-inspiring and memorable musical experience.
Musica Sacra Chorus – A Multitude of Voyces
Kent Tritle, Music Director & Conductor
Michael Sheetz, Assistant Music Director
Margery Daley, Choral Contractor
Alma Redemptoris Mater – Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704)
Hear my prayer (New York Premiere) – Kerensa Briggs (b. 1991)
Stabat Mater – Sister Sulpitia Cesis (1577-c.1619)
Cessate tympany, cessate praelia – Maria Xaveria Peruchona (c.1652-p.1709)
Komm susser Tod – Ethyl Smyth (1858-1944)
Lord, now lettest thou (Nunc dimittis) – Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Crossing the Bar – Rani Arbo (b. 1968)
Jesu, meine Freude – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Blessed be! – Melanie DeMore (b. 1955)
We Shall Walk Through the Valley – Negro Spiritual Arr. Undine Smith Moore (1904-1989)
THE MUSICA SACRA CHORUS
Soprano – Chloe Holgate, Amy Justman, Nola Richardson, Elisa Singer Strom, Elizabeth van Os
Alto – Phillip Cheah, Tracy Cowart, Heather Petrie, Clifton Massey
Tenor – Brian Giebler, John Ramseyer, Michael Steinberger
Bass – Joseph Beutel, Dominic Inferrera, Neil Netherly, Gregory Purnhagen
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th Street)
New York, NY 10025
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Kent Tritle in Concert, Light of Paradise with Kent Tritle, the American Classical Orchestra presents Healing Bach, MasterVoices performs at Central Synagogue, and Drinking in America.