Sunday, November 18, 2012

Florilegium Chamber Choir - Tallis, Byrd, Ives, Whitacre, Cage & Barber - 11/11/12

Music Director: Nicholas DeMaison
Thomas Tallis: Why fum'th in fight
Thomas Tallis: If ye love me
William Byrd: Mass for Five Voices
Charles Ives (arr. Nicholas DeMaison): He is there!
Charles Ives (arr. Nicholas DeMaison): In Flanders Fields
Eric Whitacre: Nox Aurumque
John Cage: 4'33"
Samuel Barber: Agnus Dei

After Adès' much eagerly awaited Tempest had memorably come and gone on Saturday afternoon, my musical weekend was still in full gear with two other concerts lined up for Sunday, both of which revolving around the wondrous possibilities of the human voice. Of course, taking that much time off while slaving over a very large project did not feel very reasonable, but on the other hand, working at the computer all day is not the healthiest lifestyle either. So I decided to join some like-minded friends and support the arts.
The first concert would be performed by Florilegium Chamber Choir, who were starting yet another season in their usual home, the pretty Trinity Lutheran Church on the Upper West Side. Predictably enough, "The Eleventh minute of the Eleventh hour" was dedicated to the Armistice that was declared on that very day, and also to the dichotomy between sound and silence that consequently happened on the battlefields, when suddenly human beings were allowed to stop killing one another. At the stroke of a pen. Just like that.

The two opening numbers were coming to us straight from the Elizabethan period courtesy of Thomas Wallis and his church music, and soon enough the whole space was filled with peaceful harmonies. More Renaissance sacred music followed with William Byrd's sprawling "Mass for Five Voices", which came through as very pleasant, very elevated, and pretty long.
Things became decidedly more secular after intermission with Ives and his perky "He is there!" as well as more subdued "In Flanders fields". But all of those pieces suddenly became mere warm-ups when the singers and their conductor got to Eric Whitacre's immaculately beautiful "Nox Aurumque". In just over six minutes, the Florilegium choir masterfully channeled the mysterious angel musing over gold into the night, reminding us all that music does not have to be religious to be spiritual. After this mystical journey, John Cage's environment-focused 4'33" went relatively quickly and incredibly quietly. Barber's "Agnus Dei", the composer's own arrangement on his popular Adagio for Strings, was the other undisputed highlight of the concert, when in lieu of instrumental strings, we had human voices magnificently reaching out to the heavens. Since nothing could have surpassed this gorgeous conclusion, everybody wisely just left it at that.

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