Mission Santa Clara on Friday was packed to standing room only, which is about 800 people! Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz was pretty full, and St Benedicts in Hollister was almost as many in the audience as on stage, which is better than last year there. ;) The SJ Mercury News music reviewer came to Friday's concert and his review is out today. Behind the link here below is the full article text, since the article won't stay online forever on the Merc's website.
Two local groups make beautiful, sacred music together - By Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News
We are trained to think that the best music must happen in the great
cultural centers: San Francisco, New York, wherever. It isn't always so.
Friday night, San Jose's the Choral Project, sent its billowy sounds wafting
up and through the holy space of Santa Clara Mission where a full house had
gathered for the group's holiday program titled "Winter's Gifts." The
46-voice chorus, now in its 10th season, has quietly built a tenacious
following, as has its collaborator for this excellent program, the San Jose
Chamber Orchestra, which is in its 15th season.
There is a lesson to be learned from both groups.
Daniel Hughes, the Choral Project's founder and artistic director, and
Barbara Day Turner, the chamber orchestra's founder and music director, are
paragons of persistence, convinced that significant music can be performed
and sold in a regional market. That's what the South Bay has long been,
though it is showing signs of perking up and elevating itself, becoming
Friday's concert, which was repeated over the weekend at churches in Santa
Cruz and Hollister, centered around a pair of sacred works, one old, one
recent. J.S. Bach's motet No. 1 "Singet dem Herrn" (Sing to the Lord) was
a Baroque comforter, wrapped around the 700 listeners. Arvo Part's "Te
Deum" was like incense, rising from the composer's Eastern Orthodox faith.
Bach's motet instructs listeners -- more than 50 times -- to "Sing!" The
work is a riot of rhythm and fugue (R&F, let's call it) with dueling and
intertwining sub-choruses and soloists to make for a perpetually moving
Toward the end of the third movement, which dances, throbs and almost
ululates, a fabulous fugal figure rose up from the Choral Project's low
voices to set off that great, warm, rousing Baroque feeling you always hope
to experience with music like this.
Hughes conducted the Bach. Day Turner took over for "Te Deum." Their
styles of gesturing with the baton are similar: crisp, flowing,
straightforward. Each drew nuanced performances from the ensembles.
The Choral Project is making a name for itself with its pinpoint intonation
and clouds of color. On "Te Deum," it sounded like a proclamation of
angels, singing "Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant.
Sanctus. Sanctus. Sanctus. Dominus Deus Sabaoth."
In Latin, that means, "All the Cherubim and Seraphim unceasingly proclaim:
Holy. Holy. Holy. Lord God of Hosts!"
The music felt spacious, uncrowded; Part is famous for using minimal
materials to create wide-open, floating and reverberating sonorities that
mimic bells and their overtones. There were string interludes, serene and a
little eerie, and drones from cellos and basses, underpinning the voices.
Playing a prepared piano, Hughes also created soft gong-like sounds.
There were numerous fine soloists; soprano Carolyn Derwing was a
particularly effective out-of-the-mists surprise. And the crescendos were
marvelous -- though singers and chamber orchestra might, generally, have
pulled back a bit. The mission is a boomy space and less volume would have
allowed Part's heaven-and-earth musical design to emerge with more clarity.
The second half of the concert began with Day Turner and the orchestra
performing Michael Touchi's "Villancicos para Cuerdas," commissioned by
the orchestra in 2002. It is richly melodic, drawing on three vallancicos --
an indigenous Spanish form from the 15th through 18th centuries -- including
the Catalonian carol "El Cant dels Ocells" (The Carol of the Birds).
Particularly warm and effecting was the sound of acting principal viola Chad
The Choral Project, led by Hughes, followed with a number of Christmas
songs, sounding less full-bodied, perhaps because the pieces themselves
weren't that substantive. The biggest crowd-pleaser of the night was David
Maddux's fun but kitschy "Christmas Goes Classical," which sets holiday
lyrics to Mussorgsky's "A Night on Bald Mountain," Verdi's "Anvil
Chorus" (set to "Gently falls the snow"), and, best of all, Richard
Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra."
Non-classical folks will know the latter from the soundtrack to Stanley
Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Imagine the sound of the timpani -- DUM
dum! DUM dum! DUM dum! -- and then these words:
"Happy! Happy! Happy Kwan-ZAAAAAAA!! Han-u-KAHHHHHH! And --
The evening ended as members of the chorus encircled the audience for a
sing-along to "Silent Night."
[end of article]
This is not the end of my month of singing, of course. This coming weekend is the 11th(?) annual Cibo Cantabimus Christmas Caroling weekend, with the command performance at my parents' Christmas party on Saturday night, then there's talk of a little band of local choral geeks caroling in downtown San Jose the following Monday...even though I need to be moving stuff to my new house (yay!), I don't think I can pass up a chance for some Christmas cheer... :)