Master Singers’ season finale: Fauré Requiem
The final concert in the Sacramento Master Singers’ season was presented last Saturday and again on Sunday at the First United Methodist Church with guest conductor Vance George.
The program was built around the Requiem by Gabriel Fauré, composed in the 1880’s. SMS performed this durable work beautifully, aided by the Sacramento Children’s Chorus singing the Pie Jesu with angelic purity.
The concert opened with three hopeful selections, energetic and bright: the traditional Appalachian tune “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” Finzi’s “My Spirit Sang All Day,” and another Fauré selection. A Mendelssohn motet from “Elijah,” sung in German, followed.
Still, after all of this beautiful music, it was the Bach Motet #2 which brilliantly showcased the considerable talents of these fine singers. It was magnificent. It was written for double choir, and the intricate antiphonal structure and gorgeous harmonies were stunning, sung with precision and passion. With accompaniment by guest organist Heidi Van Regenmorter and a 19-piece festival orchestra, it was a glorious performance.
There were also two special performances sandwiched between the SMS selections. Lynn Stevens directed the Sacramento Children’s Chorus in three selections. The 34 clear treble voices blended in harmony, singing a sweet ballad from the British Isles, a traditional Thai folk song (in Thai and English) and an energetic spiritual, “Chariot’s Comin’.” These children may well be future Master Singers.
The annual Asya Pleskach Scholarships for vocal students were also announced. Elyse Rosky of Nevada Union High School was present to accept her award in the 14 to 16 age category. In Category II, for singers aged 17-19, the first place winner was Kristin Knotts, of Oakmont High School.
Knotts sang “Vergebliches Ständchen, Opus 84., No. 4” by Johannes Brahms, and amazed the audience with her clear soprano and her considerable stage presence. Her graceful phrasing and nuanced tone was unexpected in one so young. Her vocal coach, Sherry Anderson, praised both her talent and her work ethic.
The guest conductor for these performances, Vance George, is conductor emeritus of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. His wide experience was evident in his work with the SMS, as was his personal charm in connecting with the large audience. In his 23 seasons with the San Francisco group, they were awarded two Grammys for Best Performance by a Choral Group. George has also been instrumental in Emmy-winning orchestral and choral performances, and in creation of the film soundtracks for “Amadeus,” “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “Godfather III.”
"I’m thrilled to have the choir work with such an esteemed conductor as Maestro George,” said Ralph Hughes, artistic director and conductor of the Sacramento Master Singers. “He is like a living history book on choral music in the United States, and we’ve benefitted from his metaphors on how to use the voice, his immense knowledge of lyric diction, and his ability to coax new vocal colors from the choir. The choir simply sparkles on the Bach!”
This has been an outstanding season for the Master Singers. Dr. Hughes is celebrating 25 years with the elite choral group. He joined his chorus on the risers for this performance. Under his direction, SMC presented “Peace, Peace,” their annual holiday concert; “Jingle All The Way,” a holiday concert for children, and “Celtic Connections III” in March.
For more information about the Sacramento Master Singers, visit their website at www.mastersingers.org.