The art museum will open its 2024 music season with the choir of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, in a program honoring Bullock.
Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum will open its 2024 season of classical music concerts Saturday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. with a program entitled “Releasing the Energies: Choral Music in Dialogue with the Art of Barbara Bullock.” The featured performers will be the choir of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Whitemarsh, under the direction of Michael Smith.
Organist and choir director of St. Thomas, Smith explained, “Anne Standish invited me to curate a concert responding to the artwork of Barbara Bullock. We performed a similar concert there five years ago focusing on Pennsylvania Impressionists.
“’Stories My Grandmother Tole Me’ involves her artistic creations that examine her childhood, ancestors, and distant past,” Smith continued. “The choral music that I’ve chosen includes works by Sweet Honey in the Rock, Florence Price, and scores based on Amish bookplates.
“’Most Precious Blood’ was a work Bullock created in response to Trayvon Martin’s shooting. It is also the name of her childhood Roman Catholic parish. Works of music include compositions by William Byrd, Orlando de Lassus, William Walton and Caroline Shaw.
“’Spirit House’ refers to some of her artwork focusing on ancestors, dwelling places, and heaven. We’ll sing music by Edward Bairstow as well as arrangements of spirituals and gospel music. A small excerpt from Craig Hella Johnson’s ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ entitled ‘We Tell Each Other Stories’ ties the program together.”
Smith explained that the idea for the concert began as a conversation with Bill Valerio, Woodmere’s director, and that Hildy Tow, the museum’s director of education, has been his primary planning partner.
Next up on Woodmere’s calendar will be a pair of recitals featuring Finnish-born pianist Marja Kaisla, Friday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 20, also at 6 p.m. The first is entitled “An Evening of Beethoven and Dvorak” with violinist Paul Arnold and cellist Ovidiu Marinescu joining Kaisla. The second features Kaisla and baritone Randall Scarlata in music by Robert Schumann.
For more information, visit woodmereartmuseum.org.
Monteverdi’s ‘Vespers of 1610’
Chestnut Hill conductor Donald Meineke led Choral Arts Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Bach Collegium in a stunning rendition of Claudio Monteverdi’s “Vespro della Beata Virgine” of 1610 the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. The concert took place in the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Savior in West Philadelphia.
Despite the church’s sterile interior and muffled acoustics, the concert drew a hearty audience of 350, perhaps the largest in Choral Arts’ history for this annual event. All the same, I couldn’t keep myself from wondering if even more people might have attended had the concert been at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, which not only looks like an English Anglican Cathedral, but also boasts the acoustics of one.
Meineke elicited a performance from his singers and players that efficaciously delineated the narrative of the text, projected Monteverdi’s harmonic language as it moved away from medieval modality and into baroque major/minor tonality, sustained its transparent textures and vibrant rhythms, and securely held together its overarching structure.
Particular standouts were sopranos Jessica Beebe and Rebecca Myers, countertenor Nicholas Garza, tenor Steven Bradshaw, and organist John Walthausen, music director of The First Presbyterian Church in Germantown.
AVA at St. Martin’s
Philadelphia’s acclaimed Academy of Vocal Arts will present its annual Winter Recital at the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill, Saturday, Jan. 13, at 3 p.m. The program showcases the timeless beauty of Franz Schubert lieder masterpiece, “Winterreise.”
Schubert composed “Winterreise’ in 1827, only one year before he died. It’s a cycle of 24 individual songs based on the haunting poems of Wilhelm Muller that navigate the depths of human emotions paralleling the winter landscape. Luke Housner, one of AVA’s senior vocal coaches and piano accompanists, will direct.
“Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’ is a truly monumental undertaking,” he said, “so we opted to divide this musical journey equally among four resident artists: a mezzo-soprano, a tenor, a baritone and a bass-baritone. Delving deeper into the cycle, we have marveled at how Schubert has woven text and music together into a seamless tapestry.
“Four distinctly authentic voices,” he continued, “will bring a new perspective to this winter classic. Mezzo and Ukraine native Alla Yarosh explained that she never expected to sing ‘Winterreise’ because it was written for a male voice. Bass-baritone and Maryland native Dylan Gregg added that the experience of learning a fraction of ‘Winterreise’ has provided him with a profound window into his own artistry, The human conditions of suffering and despair are among the most challenging to convey.”
For more information, visit avaoper.org.
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