Preach­ing to the cho­rus

Pasatiempo - - IN OTHER WORDS -

Roughly forty-three mil­lion Amer­i­cans will per­form choral mu­sic this year, a num­ber which keeps ris­ing, ac­cord­ing to Joshua Haber­mann, mu­sic di­rec­tor of Santa Fe Desert Cho­rale. A lot of that singing is go­ing on in churches. Desert Cho­rale, Santa Fe’s res­i­dent pro­fes­sional choral group, how­ever, ex­ists in a more sec­u­lar niche — it is one of a hand­ful of pro­fes­sional Amer­i­can cho­ruses not con­nected to an opera com­pany or or­ches­tra. And its mis­sion is artis­tic rather than spir­i­tual, at least of­fi­cially.

Not that Desert Cho­rale has any­thing against churches. This sum­mer, the 24-mem­ber group will per­form at the Cathe­dral Basil­ica of St. Fran­cis of As­sisi, the Church of the Holy Faith, and Loretto Chapel — all in Santa Fe — as well as at the Cathe­dral Church of St. John in Al­bu­querque. Haber­mann, now be­gin­ning his sev­enth sea­son with the group, pro­grams con­certs us­ing themes, like this sum­mer’s “Tran­scen­dence,” “Ser­e­nade to Mu­sic,” “Vene­tian Splen­dor,” and “Hid­den Trea­sures of Byzan­tium.” He in­cludes sa­cred mu­sic along­side sec­u­lar clas­si­cal pieces, and has been known to fea­ture gospel and folk mu­sic. “The prac­tice of great choral mu­sic has been spon­sored and sup­ported by churches for its history, but I came at it as an out­sider. I loved get­ting to know church mu­sic,” he said. Haber­mann grew up in San Fran­cisco and earned a PhD in con­duct­ing from the Univer­sity of Texas, Austin. He was the di­rec­tor of choral stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Mi­ami be­fore tak­ing a po­si­tion di­rect­ing the cho­rus of the Dal­las Sym­phony.

“Tran­scen­dence,” the open­ing-week­end pro­gram, which runs from Thurs­day, July 9, through July 12, will fea­ture Herbert How­ells’ Re­quiem. “This is a spec­tac­u­lar piece. It’s a late-20th-cen­tury work — beau­ti­ful, in­ter­est­ing, and com­plex. Great cho­ruses use this piece to show off their sub­tlety. These are har­monies not just any­one can take on.” The first half of the pro­gram is mostly Ger­man mu­sic, he said. Johannes Brahms, Jo­hann Kuh­nau, Felix Men­delssohn, and Hein­rich Schütz will be rep­re­sented. The per­for­mances will take place in the Cathe­dral Basil­ica and the Cathe­dral Church of St. John in Al­bu­querque, where the acous­tics match the fullest sound of the cho­rale and the vault­ing melodies in the mu­sic, Haber­mann said.

“Vene­tian Splen­dor” will run in reper­tory with “Ser­e­nade to Mu­sic.” The for­mer uses just eight voices, fea­tures in­ti­mate vo­cal cham­ber mu­sic writ­ten dur­ing 17th and 18th cen­turies, and takes place at Loretto Chapel start­ing July 21. The lat­ter, open­ing July 23, fo­cuses on English mu­sic and is per­formed at the Church of the Holy Faith. Pieces by Ben­jamin Brit­ten, Wil­liam Byrd, John Dow­land, Ed­ward El­gar, Gerald Finzi, Or­lando Gib­bons, Robert Pearsall, and Richard Shephard will be fea­tured. The 16 singers in the pro­gram will take on 16 soloist parts in Vaughan Wil­liams’ Ser­e­nade to Mu­sic.

“Hid­den Trea­sures of Byzan­tium,” the last con­certs of the sea­son, opens on Aug. 6, and will present Eastern Ortho­dox mu­sic from Rus­sia, Greece, and other Eastern Euro­pean coun­tries at the Cathe­dral Basil­ica and the Cathe­dral Church of St. John. “We’re bring­ing in ex­tra singers; I call them sub-woofers, the su­per low basses who rum­ble like crazy,” Haber­mann said. The con­cert will fea­ture the world pre­miere of a Desert Cho­rale com­mis­sion by Ivan Moody, Aflame. Moody is a mu­si­col­o­gist spe­cial­iz­ing in Eastern Ortho­dox mu­sic, a com­poser, and Ortho­dox priest. — M.W.S.

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