Back in the saddle

A lot of water has washed over the dam, since last I posted anything here. Much of it good, cleansing, purifying water. Chorale is excited about it's tenth anniversary season, has quite a number of wonderful announcements to make, and is bubbling in anticipation of all the things this new season will hold for us. We have a new Managing Director! Megan Balderston will join our team as of July 1, and I personally could not be more thrilled. She has several years of professional, practical, hands-on experience in running performance organizations such as ours, combined with a healthy knowledge of performing, personally, from the other side of the podium. We expect some very positive changes in the way we present ourselves to our public, and in the way things run in-house.

Chorale's programming, through December, will focus on works unfamiliar to many of our listeners and singers-- works acknowledged to be amongst the very best being composed during our time, but time-consuming and difficult to produce. Most notable amongst these will be the Vespers portion of the Vigilia, by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (1971). First performed in Chicago by Bella Voce, back in 2003 or so, it is a work of surpassing depth and beauty, couched in a harmonic vocabulary reminiscent of such contemporaries as Pärt, Tavener, and Hovhaness. Chorale will be joined in this major presentation by bass soloist Wilbur Pauly, well-known to Chicago audiences through his work with Lyric Opera and the Newbury Consort.

In addition, Chorale will present the final movement of The Sealed Angel, composed in 1988 by Rodion Shchedrin, for the occasion of the millenium of the Christianisation of Russia. Our Russian section will conclude with a setting of the Our Father by Nikolai Golovanov (1891-1953).

A major aspect of Chorale's Tenth Anniversary Celebration has been the planning and commissioning of a new, a cappella work, And Give Us Piece, in conjunction with celebrated American composer Stephen Paulus. We now have this work in hand, and will begin rehearsing it in September, in time for it's world premier performances here in Chicago, December 11 and 12. No composer currently working in the field of choral music is more universally recognized and celebrated than Stephen Paulus; we are indeed honored that he has so graciously agreed to contribute to our anniversary celebrations in this way, and we are very excited to get to work on his piece.

Chorale will present its annual Advent Vespers, in conjunction with the monks of the Monastery of the Holy Cross, Sunday afternoon, December 5, at 5 p.m. Unlike many of the high-octane, celebratory Advent events which occur throughout the Chicago area during the pre-Christmas season (often in conjunction with an afternoon of shopping on Michigan Avenue), the liturgy celebrated by Chorale and the monks is quiet, contemplative, unrushed-- a series of readings interspersed with Gregorian chant sung by the monks, and choral polyphony appropriate to the readings, presented by the choir. For me, in my personal acknowledgment of the season-- this is Advent; I love this evening, and I wish it could go on and on. I am always sad when people finally stand up and start moving toward the doors.

In January, Chorale begins rehearsing J. S. Bach's Mass in B Minor. Yes, we have done this work before-- but one cannot do it too many times-- it insults the work, in fact, even to think we could ever "do" it. Our concert will occur on Sunday, April 3, 3 p.m., at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. This year's presentation will utilize historically appropriate instruments, contracted for Chorale by local cellist and contractor Craig Trompeter. Rachel Barton Pine will serve as concertmaster. We plan to perform from the rear gallery (I have participated in numerous performances of the work from back there, over the years, and assure you, it is not only possible, but highly desirable, from an acoustic point of view), and are currently investigating the possibility of video taping the performance, and showing portions of it simultaneously. More on that later...

Sound like a full year? We are taking a trip to Spain and France in June! Not everyone, but quite a sizable percentage of the members, will fly to Barcelona on June 17, sing a number of concerts during the next two weeks, and return from Paris June 27.

A couple of years ago, we had a motto:

If not us, who? If not now, when?

And we didn't ignore it.