Tonight’s program, Venice City of Lights, was set in the intimate St. James’ chapel. Furthermore, it was the artistic product of a fantastic collaboration between The Cathedral Choir of St. John the Divine and the Rose of the Compass. Moreover, a series of subsections in the program guided the path of tonight’s sojourn. It was altogether a trip through Venice’s artistic provenance, cultural dialectics, and ultimate unity. Additionally, tonight was an exquisite halcyon journey through time and space, achievable only with a coterie of accomplished artists performing effulgent musical works.
Angelic Ethereal Intones
Under the baton of Maestro Kent Tritle, Venice City of Lights began with music celebrating Saint Mark, the Patron Saint of Venice. The Cathedral Choir next performed two works in this genre, Giovanni Gabrieli’s Jubilemus Singuli, and Giovanni Bassano’s Deus, qui beatum Marcum. What’s more, angelic ethereal intones set the stage for an extraordinary evening of magnificent music and invention from the Gregorian chant of medieval times through the 20th century.
The ensemble continued with “The Armenian Presence,” adroitly performing a second series of works exemplifying the diverse cultural and artistic influences on Venice. Music performed represented cultures from as early as 800 A.D., like Grigor Narekatsi’s Havoon, havoon. A second work was performed entitled Looyse, composed by Ara Dinkjian, Oud virtuoso and Rose of the Compass member. Visitors to Venice noticeably enjoy Armenian influences in the cuisine, stone carving, manuscripts and bookbinding, and ornamentation of Venetian architecture with floral and botanical motifs.
Claudio Monteverdi’s Al lume de le stelle, and Cipriano de Rore’s Ancor che col partire, celebrated “The Venetian Salon: Italian Madrigals” and featured vocal quartets and recorder virtuoso Nina Stern.
The Ottoman Empire brought Eastern aesthetics and elements of its art, including Islamic motifs and decorative styles seen in Venetian art and architecture. Works subsequently performed in this genre included Sultaniyegah Longa by 20th-century composer Sadi Işılay.
Jews arrived in Venice as early as the 10th century and contributed to the cultural and scholarly life of the city. Indeed, Jewish scholars and intellectuals engaged in informed dialogue with Venetian cognoscenti, fostering cultural exchange and intellectual development. While contributing to the artistic landscape of Venice City of Lights, they advanced goldsmithing, glassmaking, and printing, in addition to commissioning works of art and building patronage for the city’s arts. Next, the ensemble performed Mi al har Chorev by Ovadia HaGer, Falla con misuras by Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro, and Judentanz from Lautten Buch by Wolff Heckel.
The finale was Claudio Monteverdi’s polyphonic masterpiece Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum featuring the entire ensemble in a rapturous, joyous conclusion to the evening’s festivities.
Nuances and Subtleties
The Cathedral Choir sang with superb vocal blend, balance, intonation, diction, and expression. As has been noted, along with expressive techniques that effectively conveyed musical nuances and subtleties, we sensed the singers’ genuine passion and conviction.
Passion for the Music
Maestro Kent Tritle’s conducting was precise and expressive. Indeed, the passionate and inspired Tritle displayed his mastery of the varied repertoire. Undeniably a superb choral conductor of Renaissance music and more, Tritle exhibited effective leadership, expressive interpretation, technical mastery, historical awareness, musical sensitivity, and a contagious passion for the music.
As Nina Stern performed on recorders and the chalumeau throughout the evening as she displayed sublime virtuosity. Indeed, such artistry is required for exceptional technical proficiency in navigating the intricate melodies, ornaments, and demanding passages found in tonight’s repertoire. Stern certainly commanded finger technique, articulation, breath control, and intonation. Thus, her execution of musical passages occurred with informed precision and historical accuracy.
From the Rose of the Compass ensemble, we enjoyed virtuosic performances all around. Hence, Ara Dinkjian demonstrated finger dexterity, precise finger placement, fluidity in picking and strumming, and control over ornamentation. Undeniably seen was Dinkjian’s flawless execution of complex and rapid passages frequently scored in unison with fellow instrumentalists. Dinkjian then navigated through microtonal intervals and employed ornaments such as meend (glissando), mordents, and trills to embellish and decorate melodic lines.
On the Kanun, Tamer Pinarbasi demonstrated extraordinary technical proficiency, interpreting and expressing the music with artistry, sensitivity, and nuance. Percussionist Glen Velez similarly demonstrated his frame drum mastery. For instance, he utilized finger rolls, finger snaps, ghost notes, and intricate finger patterns to enhance rhythmic textures and create expressive variations. He accordingly demonstrated a keen ear for subtle embellishments and ornamentation integrated seamlessly into his performance.
Transformative Musical Experience
This evening of superlatives by the Cathedral Choir and Rose of the Compass at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine offered a transformative musical experience for listeners and performers alike. Beauty and artistry were altogether utilized to guide our journey and evoked elation, wonder, and exhilaration. Onlooking participants also experienced profound tranquility and introspection, reflection and contemplation, transcendent joy and longing.
The Cathedral Choir
Soprano – Halley Gilbert, Linda Jones, Motomi Tanaka
Alto – Alison Cheeseman, Tracy Cowart, Katie Geissinger
Tenor – Austin Cody, Michael Steinberger, Jason Weisinger
Bass – Joseph Beutel, Gregory Purnhagen, Peter Stewart
Rose of the Compass
Nina Stern – Recorders and Chalumeau
Tamer Pinarbasi – Kanun
Arthur Fiacco, Jr. – Cello
Ara Dinkjian – Oud
Glen Velez – Percussion
Daniel Ficarri – Organ
VENICE, CITY OF LIGHT
For info and tickets about music events, go to: https://www.stjohndivine.org/music or https://www.stjohndivine.org/music/great-music-in-a-great-space
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of the Onsite Opera presents Puccini’s Il Tabarro, The Oratorio Society of New York performs J. S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor, MasterVoices presents Iolanthe at Carnegie Hall and Musica Sacra at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine