by Michael Caruso
The Children’s Choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, hosted the Choristers of Church of the Redeemer, Bethesda, Maryland, and the Choristers of Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia, for a weekend of music-making. The final portion of the get-together was Choral Evensong, Sunday afternoon, with the combined choirs of young voices singing the traditional Anglican liturgy of the early evening to close out the second Sunday of Lent.
The musical program was ambitious, particularly considering that these three choirs don’t sing together on any regular basis. Yet their renditions of Malcolm Archer’s “My Song Is Love Unknown,” Ralph VaughanWilliams’ “Magnificat” and “Nunc Dimittis,” and Paul Boumann’s “I Lift Up My Eyes” would have made the children’s choir of any important Episcopal cathedral proud.
Under the direction of Zachary Hemenway, St. Paul’s director of music and organist, the choir sang with admirable ensemble and clean diction. The “Nunc Dimittis,” in particular, is a masterpiece, and the combined choirs sang it with focused, haunting spirituality.
West Mt. Airy conductor Jeri Lynn Johnson will lead the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra in concert Saturday, March 10, 8 p.m. in the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Savior, located at 38th and Chestnut Streets in West Philadelphia. The concert is entitled “The Black Mozart.”
Explaining the choice of pieces for the concert, Johnson said, “Despite its taking place in March rather than February, this is the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra’s concert in honor of Black History Month.” Johnson is the founder of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra (BPCO).
“This concert features the work of three musical giants of the 18th century: Haydn, Mozart and Joseph Boulogne, a composer, conductor, violinist, swordsman and revolutionary Parisian of African descent.”
Johnson added that the BPCO would be comprised of approximately 25 players for this concert. She is also the newly named director of Settlement Music School’s Trowbridge Chamber Orchestra, the school’s advanced instrumental ensemble.
Plymouth Meeting’s Kris Rudzinski, director of Settlement’s Mary Louise Curtis Branch, said, “We are thrilled to welcome Jeri Lynn Johnson as the new conductor of the Trowbridge Chamber Orchestra here at the MLC Branch. Her enthusiasm and energy with the students is inspiring to watch each week. The students are performing at a very high level and are extremely proud of their work with her.”
The program will feature Boulonge’s “Symphony in D major,” Haydn’s “Symphony No. 44” and Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante for Violin & Viola.” Tickets for “The Black Mozart” are $35 for preferred seating, $25 for general admission, and $10 for seniors & students. Call 215-717-7103 or visit www.blackpearlco.org.
The Philadelphia Orchestra celebrated the musical glories of Spain this past weekend with a set of three concerts performed in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. Spanish-German conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos was on the podium for the second weekend in a row. Legendary Spanish guitarist Pepe Romero was his soloist in Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” and selections from Palomo’s “Andalusian Nocturnes.” He opened and closed the program with two orchestral masterpieces: Turina’s “Danzas fantasticas” and Ravel’s “Bolero.” The program drew a full house Saturday night, perhaps pointing toward a potential option for attracting larger audiences by performing music of both beauty and character.
Certainly “beauty” and “character” describe Spanish music of the late 19th and 20th centuries. And with interpretive masters such as Fruhbeck de Burgos on the podium and Romero in the solo spot, is it any surprise that Saturday evening’s performances were among the most enjoyable of the season? Most assuredly, this places them in stark contrast to those programs featuring contemporary atrocities that thankfully never seem to be played here again.
In a mark of respect for both Romero and Fruhbeck de Burgos, the composer was on hand to share the well-earned ovation given to the expertly expressive playing of his evocative score.
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