Saturday, March 7, 2009

Angelic voices

Matthew Gray's de Angelis Vocal Ensemble performed the third concert of its fourth season tonight in the Mission San Juan Capistrano Basilica before the three year old three story high blindingly gold and ornate "retablo." About 200 vocal music lovers enjoyed the 75 minute program entitled "Ever Ancient, Ever New," which offered 7 pairs of works: the original Renaissance piece followed by a contemporary composer's reinvention. Reinvention might be too strong a word, as most were homages to the 400 year old religious choral compositions. Indeed, the juxtapositions proved prescient as a few of the older works seemed more innovative than musty. Matt introduced one contrasting pair as having a "deep ravine between them": "When David Heard" by the most prolific English church composer of his time, Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656), followed by Bern H. Herbolsheimer's "David Mourns for Absalom," a profoundly affecting exploration of grief that showcased the talent and versatility of the de Angelis ensemble beyond the more traditional offerings. Indeed, I told Matt afterwards that I thought the group shined particularly in the contemporary pieces in the program (highly accessible works that seem to reflect the composers' ability to build upon the great traditions of choral music), and he beamed: there are several premieres coming up during this season's finale and planned for next season as well.

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