The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Renaissance Choir Sacramento
Palestrina's Missa Iste Confessor - May 9, 2013
by Dick Frantzreb
This latest program by the Renaissance Choir Sacramento was quite brief, lasting only a little more than 45 minutes. The performance I witnessed was in a chapel at the Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights – a delightful setting for this kind of music. On this occasion, the choir consisted of 6 men (including one male alto) and 7 women, and Director Lee T. Lovallo sang tenor while directing. Organ music was an integral part of this program, and it was performed on a synthesizer. I’m sure that Lovallo, himself a builder of Renaissance organs, would have preferred the real thing. To my ear, though, the synthesizer produced a very acceptable sound.
Lovallo introduced the program with brief comments, asking the audience to hold any applause till the end. His comments echoed the explanation in the program that “all selections [in this concert] are based on the chant hymn Iste confessor Domini sacratus,” which dates from the 8th century. The performance began with 5 verses of the chant in settings by Frescobaldi and de Victoria, with organ solo alternating with singing by the choir.
(Click here to open the printed program in a new window.)
There was every indication that the singers were well rehearsed, and it seemed to me that they became more confident as they got into the music. However, the ensemble sound was noticeably rough, though the choir members seemed to have good ears, and I often heard well-tuned chords. One has to love this music to work on it as these people had, and I think I saw that love of the music expressed. Reading the program notes, I was also struck by the thought and scholarship that went into this performance, and like every previous concert by the Renaissance Choir Sacramento, this program was – for me at least – quite educational.
The heart of the concert was the Missa iste confessor by Palestrina. It is an a cappella composition, though as the program indicates, tradition allows organ accompaniment, and tonight’s performance included a light playing by the synthesizer at key points. To complete the mass, two organ solos occurred during its course.
Though several of these people were clearly accomplished singers, most of them were not. However, I found the ensemble sound this evening to be a distinct improvement over earlier performances. This choir is very much a work in process, and the limitations of their present stage of development could not – for me – detract from the sublimity of the music. I, for one, applaud and encourage this group. I expect that over time, they will draw more experienced singers who love the music of this period, and I look forward to charting the choir’s future progress.