A great choral performance can transport one from the world of mundane cares to the lofty realm of shining aspirations. Since 1996 the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra has been providing such transportation to this community with world class performances of great choral works. An under-appreciated gem, the organization has often given dazzling performances of major works to lean houses. The night of June 2 saw another brilliant performance by this outstanding group, but this time to a packed house at Fremont Presbyterian Church.
The classical choral genre is sometimes seen as inaccessible by listeners whose tastes run to more popular forms of vocal music, but Director Dr. Donald Kendrick has chosen pieces which by their brevity, allow even the less sophisticated listener to enjoy an introduction to the form. Yet the superb artistry and finesse of performance affords connoiseurs of choral music an evening of sumptuous auditory pleasure.
For this program, Stained Glass Concert 2: European Traditions, Dr. Kendrick chose a sampling of shorter pieces representing European sacred music spanning Baroque through Contemporary composers and demonstrating the wide range of vocal talent which he has so carefully crafted in this organization. Along with the expected choral presentations and solos by guest performer Katherine Jolly, the program included organ pieces performed by the SCSO’s accompanist Dr. Ryan Enright.
The evening’s offerings began with a Baroque section featuring Dr. Enright’s technically stunning solo performance on the powerful new Reuter Pipe Organ, one of the crown jewels of Fremont Church’s renovation. He began Bach’s Fantasie in G Major with airy floating arpeggios, which transformed suddenly into a thunderous middle section and finished with stately grace.
The perfectly blended lush voices of the chorus surround the nave of the church for three liturgical pieces by Antonio Vivaldi – Deus Adjutorium Domine, Gloria Patri and Sicut Era. Katherine Jolly’s soprano soared on the Gloria Patri, followed by the choral fugue Sicut Era. One has to appreciate the quality of this group.
Mendelssohn’s Verleih uns Frieden, a flowing, prayerful piece, accompanied by cellos, led us into the Romantic section of the program. When a fifty voice section can sing a unison passage so perfectly that no individual voice can be detected, you know that you are in the presence of the highest degree of choral artistry. Then when those voices join with the other three section in a canon, the result is simply exquisite. In the Bruckner chorale Locust Iste which followed, the ability of this chorus to perform delicately as well as majestically was well displayed. The audience was very pleased by Charles Villiers Stanford’s Magnificat in C, especially the magnificent ending Glory Be to the Father.
Katherine Jolly’s bright soprano is a fine vehicle for Mozart’s well-loved Laudate Dominum, the first entry in the Classical section. The Allegro from the Sonata in F Major by CPE Bach with its changes of mood, again shows the masterful versatility of Dr. Enright. The classical section concluded with a joyful choral rendition of Laetatus Sum.
A Spiritual section happily was included because, as director Dr. Donald Kendrick says, these spirituals are often performed on European stages, One of the highlights of the evening was an inspiring a cappella rendition of Deep River, featuring a solo by Nephi Speer, a member of the chorus. Although it is possible that the audience’s enthusiastic response may have been partially due to familiarity with the piece, credit must also be given to the spirited performance by Mr. Speer and the choral society. Another spiritual by American composer Moses Hogan, I’m Gonna Sing ‘Til the Spirit Moves, completed this section with a solo from another talented chorus member, Abram Stein Freer, and a choral section which demonstrated the versatility of the ensemble. .
Another exuberant organ piece, Prelude and Fugue in B major by Marcel Dupre led into the Modern section of the program. The triumphant Antiphon, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a hymn of praise in which one can luxuriate in the choral society’s opulent sound. The familiar but always enjoyable Alleluia by Randall Thompson, and the majestic finale, Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies finished an evening of glorious uplifting music.
Although the Chorus often performs with its equally wonderful orchestra, it was enjoyable, in this Stained Glass series, to have the focus be almost entirely on the vocal art. This superb organization surely deserves to be recognized in its own right for its world class artistic achievement.
The Sacramento Choral Society has once again upheld the tradition of transporting the community of Sacramento with outstanding performances of great music.