Upcoming Performance: Westminster Kantorei

Westminster Kantorei in Boston

On April 28th, 2018, two of my Magnificat Antiphons will be performed by Westminster Kantorei, Amanda Quist, conductor. Kantorei will be recording them the following week for release on Westminster Choir College’s imprint (distributed by Naxos).

I have been at Westminster since 2004. I am thrilled that, for the first time, my work will be featured by one of the choirs.

You can hear Lumina, the choir’s superb debut recording (long-listed for last year’s Grammys), here.

Concert Details: Bristol Chapel, Westminster Choir College (101 Walnut Lane, Princeton, NJ 08540), 8 PM. $20/$15 students/seniors.

Bach Christmas Oratorio – the Dunedin Consort

J.S. Bach

Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248)

Mary Bevan and Joanne Lunn, sopranos; Clare Wilkinson and Ciara Hendrick, mezzo-sopranos; Nicholas Mulroy and Thomas Hobbs, tenors; Matthew Brook and Konstantin Wolff, bass-baritones. Dunedin Consort, conducted by John Butt.

Linn CKD 499 (2xCD)

First, I’ll admit that at Christmas Messiah has most often been my jam; I have several recordings, have performed it as soloist, accompanist, and conductor, and find it to be one of the most uplifting pieces out there. This year the Dunedin Consort, led by John Butt, has changed my tune. I’ve listened over and over again to their new recording of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. 

The oratorio is actually a collection of six cantatas that were performed during a particularly festive Christmas in 1735. They cover Sundays from the beginning of the Christmas season to the Feast of the Epiphany. Butt has chosen to perform them with eight soloists, four each alternating between the successive cantatas, and four ripieno singers. The use of a relatively small complement of vocalists lines up with current Bach scholarship. Butt primarily employs soloists with two to a part in passages like the chorales. This emphasizes the contrapuntal character of the vocal parts, treating the cantatas as chamber music rather than the large choral works that they are sometimes presented as in less period-informed settings. (Butt’s notes on the history of the Christmas Oratorio and his particular performance choices for the recording make for fascinating and enlightening reading).

Chamber music yes, but the instrumentation is both varied and vivid. Part One features virtuoso trumpet parts and timpani, the second extensive writing for woodwinds, the fourth buoyant horn duos and an “echo aria” with an extra soprano, and the last cantata returns to the use of brass and timpani in its climactic passages (it also features an oboe solo during the standout soprano aria “Nur ein Wink von seinen Händen,” beautifully sung and played by Mary Bevan and Alex Belamy, respectively).

Butt elicits a performance from the soloists and Dunedin Consort that is fleet-footed yet flexible, cleanly rendered yet never overly cool. Indeed, some of the recitatives and solos are quite emotively delivered. The conductor has also wisely chosen soloists who complement both the textual and textural aspects of each of the cantatas. For instance, Nicholas Mulroy is the more forceful of the two tenors. He balances well with the defiant music and ebullient orchestration of Part Six, while the more sweet-voiced Thomas Hobbs is sure-footed in the fluid recitatives and arias of Part Four. While each singer brings a different timbre and demeanor to the table, they blend seamlessly in the ensemble passages and to a person share exquisite tone and abundant musicality.

This is a recording that made me completely rethink my impressions of the Christmas Oratorio. Now, instead of writing it off as the lightweight cousin of the Bach Passions, I am ready to consider alongside the composer’s best known choral music, going toe to toe with them both in terms of ambition and quality. Recommended holiday or anytime listening.

 

“O Emmanuel,” performed by the Wesley Singers (Soundcloud)

Cheekwood, Nashville, TN.
Cheekwood, Nashville, TN.

Last year, the Wesley Singers, conducted by Dr. Gareth Bond, recorded my set of Magnificat Antiphons for SSATB chorus.  To interested choir directors out there, I would say,”Advent is coming!”

Aquarius Sings Arvo Pärt

500x500

Magnificent Magnificat

Arvo Pärt

Aquarius chamber choir, conducted by Marc Michael De Smet

Jade Music

 

This collection of choral music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt celebrates his eightieth birthday. It is programmed to emphasize his interpretations of Marian texts such as the Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, and O Antiphons, all of which are central to his choral output. It also includes an excerpt from the totemic Kanon Pokajanen, his largest choral work, as well as shorter excerpts such as The Deer’s Cry and I am the True Vine. (The latter is particularly beautifully performed.)

Aquarius, a group of twenty-four voices, seems “right-sized” for these works, with enough voices to provide the requisite heft and majesty where necessary while still being able to create diaphanous pianissimo passages elsewhere. Conductor Marc Michael De Smet does an exquisite job of shaping phrases, balancing chords, and, a very important consideration in the performance of Pärt, pacing the proceedings. I will be on the lookout for their complete recording of Kanon Pokajanen.

 

 

Hymn for Harvard Chapel Service

On November 24th at 8:45 AM, Carson Cooman will be playing a chapel service consisting entirely of my music at Appleton Chapel of Memorial Church at Harvard University. In addition to performing the solo organ piece “Chanson Variations,” he will be joined by the Harvard Choral Fellows to premiere my Psalm 103 anthem and the hymn setting Add One More Seat.
The latter piece I wrote with my wife Kay Mitchell. We have dedicated it to our Pastor Jeffrey William Mays, who is retiring after many years of service at Christ Congregation in Princeton.

Here is a MIDI demo:

 

I know it is a bit on the early side, but I would love to see some of my Boston friends there if you can make it.

Performances of Magnificat Antiphons

The Wesley Choir of Wesley United Methodist Church in Vienna, Virginia, conducted by Dr. Gareth H. Bond, will be premiering my cycle of Magnificat Antiphons throughout the 2015 Advent Season. Here are the performance dates and a bulletin insert that discusses the pieces.

11/15 Offertory “O Sapientia” by Christian Carey

11/15 Anthem “O Adonai” by Christian Carey

11/22 Anthem “O Radix Jesse” by Christian Carey

11/29 Anthem “O Clavis David” by Christian Carey

12/6 Offertory “O Oriens” by Christian Carey

12/6 Anthem “O Rex Gentium” by Christian Carey

12/13 Anthem “O Emmanuel” by Christian Carey

 

Seven Magnificat Antiphons

Christian Carey, Composer

World Premier performed by the Wesley Choir November 15 – December 13, 2015 Wesley United Methodist Church Vienna, Virginia

Directed by Gareth H Bond, DMA

Translation by Brendan C Muse

Antiphons began in the Ancient Grecian Age as main actors/speakers would lead conversations and two vocal choruses on either side of the stage would engage each other sometimes repetitively, other times as question‐answer, yet others as differences of opinion.

As time progressed, this form found its way into the church as separate smaller choirs or choirs of voice qualities (e.g. men’s versus boy’s timbres), more along the ‘question‐answer’ arrangement.

In this very interesting composition, Mr. Carey invites yet other forms of antiphonal writing: 1) Intertwined choral and quintet (five voice) options and antiphons imbedded within the composition itself without the exclusivity of the individual voice and 2) By using the color (timbre) of the voice part development by “high‐low” arrangements rather than any one type divisi.

Eclectically influenced these works house styles of Chant, Renaissance, pre‐Baroque, Baroque forward.

Perhaps the SMAs best format of performance might be with a choir of 32 to 40 equally divided members and voicing. But the smaller size of the Wesley Choir and its quality of vocal talent retains its inclusion as a viable performance medium for this wonderful composition and collection of seven antiphons each based on one of the verses of a favorite Carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.

About the composer:

Christian Carey is an Associate Professor of Music at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in

Princeton, New Jersey. He serves on the Board of Directors of the League of Composers/ISCM and as Managing Editor of the contemporary classical website Sequenza 21. His music has been performed by ACME, Atlantic Chamber Orchestra, Cassatt String Quartet, C4 Choral Ensemble, Chiasmus, Ionisation New Music Ensemble, League of Composers, loadbang, Locrian Chamber Players, Manhattan Choral Ensemble, New York New Music Ensemble, Righteous Girls, St. Dunstan’s Choir, and St. Gregory’s Choir and appears on New Focus Records and a Perspectives of New Music/Open Space CD. He has published articles and reviews in Perspectives of New Music, Tempo, Integral, Musical America, Musicworks, Playbill, and Time Out NY. He has a book chapter in Hommage a Elliott Carter, published by Editions Delatour.

1. O Sapientia

O wisdom, which comes forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end of the earth to the other,
firmly and gently ordering all things: come to teach us the path of prudence.

2. O Adonai

O Lord and leader of the house of Israel
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave the law to him on Sinai: Come to save us in your outstretched arms.

3. O Radix Jess

O offspring of Jesse, who stands under the banner of the peoples, before whom kings will close their mouths
Whom the peoples will pray for: Come to free us; do not be late now.

4. O Clavis David

O key of Daivd and scepter of the house of Israel,
who opens, and no one closes; who closes, and no one opens;
come, and lead the conquered out of the house of imprisonment sitting in the darkness and the shadow of death.

5. O Oriens

O rising sun, splendor of eternal light, and sun of justice:
Come and illuminate those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.

6. O Rex Gentium

O king of the races, and their desire,
and the keystone that joins them together:
come and save mankind, whom you have shaped from mud.

7. O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and law‐bringer, awaited by the nations, and their savior: come to save us, lord our God.

The Song of the Stars (Naxos CD)

The Song of the Stars

British Music for Upper Voice Choir

Naxos CD 8.573427

Wells Cathedral School Choralia, conducted by Christopher Finch; Eleanor Turner, harp; Elliot Launn, piano

Occupying as it does an important niche in choral literature, the CD Song of the Stars demonstrates the vitality and importance of Naxos Records’s “no stone left unturned” recording ethos. Apart from A Ceremony of Carols, A Survivor from Warsaw, and a few other well known works, many often think of SATB – soprano, alto, tenor, bass – groupings as the default vocal ensemble for which truly meaningful choral literature is created. Here we find a number of gems for upper voices – many of them in their debut recordings – that provide a strong case for inclusivity.

The program contains well known composers such as Gustav Holst, James MacMillan, and John Tavener, who rub elbows with some of the finest contemporary British composers: Paul Mealor, Tarik O’Regan, and James Whitbourn. A find for me was the music of Cecilia McDowall (b. 1951), represented on the disc by her Regina Caeli. The piece alternates lustrous polychords with sprightly counterpoint in an attractive blend of elements that makes me want to delve deeper into McDowall’s output. There are also works by composers familiar to me, such as O’Regan’s Alleluia, Iaus et gloria, that are impressive compositions made even more appealing by their authoritative performances.

This is the recording debut of the Wells Cathedral School Choralia. Conducted by Christopher Finch, this is a fine group that demonstrates strong technical skills, beautiful tone, and excellent musicality throughout Song of the Stars. Indeed, the title work, composed by former King’s Singers member Bob Chilcott, has a perilously demanding tessitura that conventional wisdom would suggest disqualifies some groups from attempting it. The Wells Choralia make it sound eminently attainable. One hopes that conductors and composers take a careful listen to this CD. It provides many ideas for possible programming and the creation of new works for upper voice ensembles. Recommended.

Video of Tarik O’Regan’s “Alleluia, Iaus et gloria”