The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Valley Choral Society & Orchestra
Fauré's Requiem & Rutter's Gloria - May 21, 2016
by Nancy Bramlett
I LOVE surprises! And this was the best kind. I had not heard much of the Valley Choral Society and Orchestra (or the Choir of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament). So I went to their concert last Saturday night with an open mind, not expecting greatness.
I was drawn to this concert by a fellow musician who was playing in the volunteer orchestra. I was convinced to go by two highly lauded pieces in choral music: the Fauré Requiem and the Rutter Gloria. Those two pieces were the Beginning and the End with several quality solos in between.
(Click here to open the program in a new window.)
The Fauré Requiem’s pianissimo entrance was exquisite. The entire Introit and Kyrie were gorgeous. My heart yearned to be one with the music. The tenors carried the beautiful melody, joined by the sopranos, and then the majestic “exaudi” brought all the voices together and the Kyrie dipped and soared and rested for a final intense pianissimo. The tone and blend of the voices in all different dynamics was extraordinary.
The Offertory began with an instrumental introduction and then brought me to tears almost immediately as the voices ensued. I can’t place the exact cause. The combination of the beautiful melody and the incredible blend? Or perhaps it was the spirit of the music that spoke to my heart. The way each of the parts intertwined was nothing less than perfect. We were then treated to a baritone solo by James Gentry, perfectly focused in tone and perfectly pitched. The complexity of the choir returned in splendor and soared into the “amen.”
The Sanctus had an aura of peace about it. The altos took most of the song off. The melody was traded between the sopranos and the men. The “hosanna” section near the end thrilled my senses and then concluded in another perfect pianissimo.
I was still writing when I heard a beautiful woman’s voice begin the Pie Jesu. I looked up to find her name is Kathy Visher. As she continued, I drank in the excellence with which she created every tone. Oh how I love perfection!
The Agnus Dei began with an impeccable performance by the tenors who were then joined by the rest of the choir before they regained the honor of singing alone. At “lux aeternam” chills again took over. I can hardly think of a way to describe the harmony that moved me so. And then a powerful quote from the opening piece tied it all together before engaging us further.
Libera Me began with James Gentry again using his talents to woo us. The choir entered and had the great honor of being both powerful and poignant.
In Paradisum began with soprano BrieAnne Welch. More beautiful harmonies and tones emphasized the prayer: “May you have eternal rest.”
The choir rested while four soloists shared their talents. Darron Flagg sang “Panis Angelicus.” BrieAnne Welch sang “Mesicku na nebi hlubokem.” Kristen Campbell sang “Vissi d’Arte” and Matt Hidalgo sang “Domine Deus.” (See the program for the sources of each solo.) The fabulous reverb of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament really made this singing under the rotunda exhilarating.
The second big show for the evening was John Rutter’s Gloria. I love almost everything Rutter has composed so I was very much looking forward to it!
The intro was pure brass and percussion delight.
Allegro Vivace was powerful and then beautiful. Perfection in the sopranos. Those high notes can get sharp or flat or too tight. Not so here. The gorgeous layering was greatly admired. Incredibly well done. Closing with more wonderful brass.
Andante had a wonderful organ intro, and began with the men in close harmony. Altos entered with decadent dissonance beautifully done. What a majestic end!
The Vivace began with another fabulous brass section. An energizing timpani and rhythm section drove the excitement. I was on the edge of my seat. Fabulous ending!
On top of all the incredible musicianship, this choir is very community minded, donating to such groups as Habitat for Humanity. Their mission is particularly laudable: “To break down barriers and create a common bond by performing music that elevates the human soul and brings God's light to the community.” They also partner with Galena Street East, another big favorite of this reviewer.
Apparently much of the community was in the dark about the Valley Choral Society, as I was. I pledge to find a way to help get the word out. Valley Choral Society concerts should be sold out! The TRULY amazing thing is that they are NOT auditioned! How do you get that sound without an audition? This I would like to see up close!!
You can see them again on Saturday, July 9 at 7:00 p.m. at the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
Nancy Bramlett is a Dramatic Coloratura Soprano from Kansas City, MO. She graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance. She has most recently studied with Marla Volovna in San Francisco and Zoila Munoz in Davis. Nancy has had the honor of traveling all over the US and to Europe with the Bradley University Chorale. She has sung in several choirs since then, as well as performing in opera and musical theater productions and singing solos for local churches, as well as weddings and memorial services. Nancy has directed choirs; taught voice, piano and Kindermusik; and has been a music director for musical theater. She is currently busy with Classical Music for Christ and as a regular soloist for Cottage Way Christian Church in Sacramento and the Placer County Youth Orchestra. Nancy resides in Rocklin with her husband Scott and three sons: Patrick, Riley and John.