hold on

Hold on to what is good,
even if it’s a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
even if it’s a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
even if it’s easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
even if I’ve gone away from you.
(Pueblo Indian Prayer)

Bella Voce Women's Chorus and the Cantabile choirs

Friday, April 16 2010

The line between choral music and poetry is more of a delta, with the best possible outcome being an indistinguishable blend that fuses the two art forms.
Last night’s combined concert with the Bella Voce Women’s Chorus and visiting Cantabile choirs (Kingston, Ontario) featured poetry ranging from ee cummings to Sara Teasdale and a Pueblo prayer, in engaging contemporary settings that new context to the verse.
ee cummings’ poem, i thank you god for most this amazing day, was realized in a setting by Vermont composer Gwyneth Walker, and the evening also held traditional Québecois folksongs, African-American spirituals, and original works by Bob Chilcott, and Cantabile’s conductor Mark Sirett. Some poems just seem made for music. I am familiar with Frank Ticheli’s namesake setting of Sara Teasdale’s beautiful There Will Be Rest, and last night I was delighted to hear another equally evocative version from Minnesota-based composer David Dickau. His setting takes its name from the last line of the poem, Stars I Shall Find. Gorgeous.
Cantabile’s men’s chorus sang first, and the highlights (besides that elegant Dickau setting) were Howard Helvey’s lush O lux beatissima, Stan Rogers’s rollicking sea chanty Fogerty’s Cove, and the catchy Québecois song J’entends le moulin (tikki tikki TAH-kah!). Very impressive sound in the bass section, particularly. Unfortunately the men’s chorus was also saddled with the only dud of the night, Jim Papouli’s simplistic and repetitive feel-good fist-pumper We All Have A Right. I was glad it opened the concert. Everything afterward was straight up.
Then the Cantabile women’s chorus sang, with a program including sacred and folksongs, and finishing up with Walker’s ee cummings setting. The sopranos were slightly overpowering, the music could have used more balance between them and the altos. But Guy Forbes’ O Magnum Mysterium was just right with a hushed aura of shimmering wonder.
Cantiamo (Bella Voce’s select chorus) and Bella Voce were up next, rounding out their set with Alice Parker’s arrangement of the spiritual, Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal and it rang, rang rang through the house.
At the end of the program the Cantabile combined choirs sang three more songs (including Cantabile conductor Mark Sirett’s serene setting of the Pueblo Indian poem, Hold On), and then for the finale, Bella Voce joined them for two more all-out Sirett arrangements: My Heart Soars, and Go, Lassie Go.
Wonderful night of music.
PS – I am annoyed with WordPress right now. Recently my posts have not been retaining line breaks and nothing I do has helped. So, sorry about the run-on formatting here, I’m trying to get to the bottom of it!

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