The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Lenten Choral Mysteries - March 24, 2013
Sacramento's TV News 10 covered this concert on the evening of the performance. Their reporting included information about Schola Cantorum's tour to Italy this summer, including an invitation to perform at the Vatican. To view the 3-minute video of the story, click here.
by Dena Kouremetis
A sunny Sunday afternoon heralded the talented, beautifully directed voices of the Schola Cantorum choir, echoing the sacred music of Great Lent throughout the hallowed acoustics of Sacramento’s Sacred Heart Church.
Robed, articulate conductor Donald Kendrick gave a brief explanation of the concert selections we were about to experience, asking us to let go of the day’s worries – not a difficult task considering what was to ensue.
As the concert began, the ethereal effect of a darkened altar and the ringing of a solitary church bell transported attendees to another place, engulfing us in a world of vocal sound. Voices began to waft from the back of the church, proceeding slowly to the altar as the group sang William Beckstrand’s Blessed Are the Dead, choristers remaining as silhouettes as they finished their first hymn. The voices of 28 singers’ (15 women and 13 men) pure, vibrato-less tones filled the air with G.P. da Palestrina’s Kyrie (Missa Descendit Angelus Domini).
(Click here to open the concert program in a new window.)
What struck me as the concert began to unfold was the precision with which the choir executed the program, which included Mark Jennings’ O Crux, Philip Stopford’s Teach Me, O Lord, Felix Mendelssohn’s Richte Micht, Gott and Karl Heinrich Graun’s Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs. The pristine nature of the group’s sound (particularly the soprani voices) swelled and receded with each selection in an exquisitely flawless musical journey.
The concert was performed mostly a cappella, save for the outstanding performance of solo violinist Sandro Ladu during John Ferguson’s Who is This (an almost Bible-movie-like piece with subtle hints of Middle Eastern harmony) and organ accompaniment for the final hymn.
As a person of Greek descent, I eagerly awaited Domijon Mocknick’s Evhe Gebet (Lamentatio), which was to be sung entirely in Greek. While it was stunningly performed and unexpectedly non-Byzantine in nature, I was disappointed at the Latin-like pronunciation of the words, though I realized few in attendance would be as sensitive to it as I am.
One of my favorite segments of the concert was when a quartet of singers (Rachel Sprague, Sarah Haynes-Larson, Aaron Catolico and Alexander Neubeck) sang at the back of the church while the rest remained on the altar for Zachary Wadsworth’s Beati Quorum Remissae. Being surrounded by these clear, trained voices was nothing short of heavenly.
The concert was sung straight through, buffered by several pipe organ solos by the accomplished Dr. Ryan Enright (a native of Montreal, Quebec and winner of numerous musical awards), and applause was permitted only after these solos and at the end of the program, giving us a seamless, enjoyable experience. The simple supplications of David Cherwien’s To You Before the Close of the Day was followed by a dramatically performed When I Survey the Wonderous Cross by Gilbert Martin, ending the performance.
All in all, I felt this was a magnificent and reflective program, worthy of a Vatican invitation to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Papal Choir at St. Peter’s Basilica and elsewhere in Rome, Venice and Florence this summer.Schola Cantorum, now celebrating 21 years of excellence in church music, is the adult mixed choir at Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in Sacramento under the direction of Dr. Donald Kendrick.
Event reviewer Dena Kouremetis studied languages and psychology at Ball State University, Deree University in Athens, Greece and at l'Aliance Française in Paris. A native of San Francisco, she grew up in a family of musicians as well as in and around her father's piano store. A writer, author and journalist, Kouremetis is also a professional blogger for Forbes. She has sung alto voice under Sacramento's Donald Kendrick in University Singers, under Alan Simon for Soli Deo Gloria in the San Francisco Bay Area and currently sings with Placer Pops Chorale under Lorin Miller, where she also serves as corporate sponsorship chair for the newly-formed non-profit organization.
Dena Kouremetis may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.