Review: Cappella Romana: Rakhmaninov Vigil

Review: Cappella Romana: Rachmaninov All Night Vigil. 

Of the times I have heard Cappella Romana do the Vigil, this was clearly the best balanced. The extra bass personnel made for a very enjoyable concert experience. Benedict Sheehan did a masterful job of piloting the choir through not just the Rachmaninov, but also several other pieces that provided a  context that gave the audience a taste of what was covered in a typical vigil. The intonation was wonderful. On Nynye Otpushchayesi the tenor solo was good if a bit nervous. The descending bass line at the end was helped by the services of Glenn Miller, the basso profundo who has become well associated with this work throughout the USA through his participation with many choirs. There was even a nice F1 at the end of Bogoroditse Dyevo. 

There was a tendency to not accent the strong syllable through much of the concert. This became most problematic with the singing of the small glorification (6 Psalms). If the choir accented SLA of “Slava” as much as Rachmaninov wrote for them to, it was lost in the acoustics of St. James Cathedral. The Bell effect that Rachmaninov composed was mostly limited to the sound of the various voices together creating the proper tones and overtones. 

On the Velichaniye (Magnificat) the sound of the men was very satisfyingly solid. The women had balance issues with the altos and 2nd sopranos overpowering the 1st sopranos. 

The Cappella Romana added many of the parts that would change from service to service to round out the concert and give a sense of context. They performed these hymns quite well.

It was overall a glorious concert with the voices accomplishing a feat of stamina and not sounding tired at the end. 

As an encore the Choir proformed Chesnokov’s Nye Otverzhi Menye with Glenn Miller singing the solo that he first premiered with the Illumni Men’s Chorale, singing the original ending the Chesnokov wrote.   Later, he won a Grammy with Conspirare with this piece. We were spoiled richly. 

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Woods Coffee, Bellingham WA

OUTSTANDING COFFEE IN BELLINGHAM WA

A few weeks ago the Illumni Men’s Chorale was headed north to the VanMan Summit to sing a set. We stopped in at North Western Washington U in Bellingham to sing with their men’s choir. On the way out of Bellingham I had the pleasure of drinking an awesome cup of coffee at Woods Coffee. We stopped at the one on King Street.

The Barista, Jess, clearly knew her coffee and was able to speak intelligently about it. It was clear that she had been well trained. She was able to go toe-to-toe with me, which is rare in a barista. That day, they were serving a Blend of Kenya,  Honduras, and Sumatra. Very often people want to brush their teeth after drinking coffee to get rid of “coffee breath”; not this cup. It had a very clean taste that stayed that same way for hours. I did not want to drink anything else because of the wonderful taste in my mouth. The body was excellent. As the cup cooled the characteristics of the Kenya came to the forefront. The roaster/blender has hit a home-run with this coffee. You know you are drinking a good cup of coffee when it still has a wonderful flavour hours after you have drunk it. I had to stop by and have another cup on the way back south.

Thank you Woods Coffee for your attention to the coffee and for serving outstanding coffee. This is what Coffee shops are supposed to do. Bellingham has excellent coffee in Woods Coffee.

http://www.thewoodscoffee.com/

Music of Russia CD

Music of Russia CD – Illumni Men’s Chorale

Some 5.75 years ago Chris McCafferty and I began trading comments back and forth on mondo deep bass parts in Choral music. We listened to the many examples on Youtube and said, “What if?”

That winter the Concert hall Lagerquist was available the week before Christmas with no Christmas Concert scheduled. A few hundred phone calls by Chris later, the Illumni Men’s Chorale was born. One of the pieces we sang was from the Standard Russian Choral repertoire (It’s on this CD), Chesnokov’s “Spaseniye” This made the conversation switch from “What if?” to “What would it take?”

Thousands of hours of research, arranging, composing, transliterating, making contacts, networking, raising support and 2 years later the Illumni dared to present a concert of Russian Music, some pieces in their original key with their original ending for the first time in concert on the west coast of the USA (this claim can probably be expanded upon, but that research of earlier concerts has not been completed). A section of Bassi Profundi, some of whom could be Octavists, was developed, and the Basso Profundo Glenn Miller was engaged. After many hours of learning music that was mostly in a language that few of the men of the Illumni had spoken or sung in, the Concert was put on.

To give you a sense of what this took physically from the singers, the week after the concert, most of them complained to me that the muscles they use to support their breathing were sore.

After two years of trying to find someone to Master the CD, we finally came upon Seraphim Hanisch of Little Spot Productions, who had recorded the PaTRAM Institute with Vladimir Gorbik, (one of the top Russian Sacred Music Conductors). Seraphim Hanisch did a masterful job of mastering.

Here is the CD. You can follow the link to order your own copy as well as hear a couple of short preview tracks.

I will not provide a review of this; it would be a conflict of interest since so much of my own work has gone into this.

Thank you Chris, for being the glue that brought all this together. Thank you Sean Haley and Scott Kovacs for conducting most of the concert. Thank you Glenn Miller for coming in and putting us over the top, especially with your solo. And thank you to the men of the Illumni Men’s Chorale for all the hard work you did to put this concert together.

Link to order the CD: http://musicofrussia.com/

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Meditation on the Massacre at Sandy Hook

On Dec 14 2012 20 children and 6 teachers were murdered. My choir, the Illumni Men’s Choral, had a concert that very evening, a Christmas Concert. How do we sing of Christmas in the midst of such tragedy. This is my…

Meditation on the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary

REJOICE !!!. The Hymn says. REJOICE !!!

And yet it is hard to rejoice. Innocent Children die at the hand of a person that we are most comfortable calling “Mad”, because we cannot understand “why?”.

REJOICE !!!! the Hymn Says. But how can the parents, who must bury their child, the joy of their hearts, the expectation of their dreams, who are going though the worst thing a parent can go though, rejoice?

REJOICE !!!! the Hymn almost demands. But how can our communities rejoice that will never know the contribution of the little ones who now lie dead?

This is much more like the Carol that is proper to the days of Christmas (Dec 28th or 29th, depending on which calendar you keep), the Coventry Carol. “Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” Indeed we must celebrate these young lives that have been cut off; and I can think of no better time than the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

REJOICE !!! the Hymn remonstrates.

How can we rejoice when there is so much pain? The poet muses about that in one of our Christmas Carols: “And in despair I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of Peace on Earth good will to men.

REJOICE!!! the Hymn almost mocks

There is no sense to the violence that has visited us. It is an insult to truth to assign it a meaning. How can we rejoice?

And yet when we look at that hymn, it speaks of exile, of mourning, of a captivity that needs God Himself to come and undo. As we mourn the fallen innocents, we also mourn our own fallen innocence. It touches the tender part of us that does its best to trust in a world that cannot be trusted. It is that part of us, the part that is still child like, that feels the wound most deeply. We feel the violence done to these dear ones deeply in ourselves. On some level we share in that wound, a wound that is not easily healed

The Hymn acknowledges all that, and still confronts us: REJOICE !!!!

Sometimes “REJOICE” is an act of defiance.