Musings from the Artistic Director

“Symphonic A Cappella” with St. Martin’s Festival Singers

In almost two weeks, St. Martin’s Chamber Choir opens its season with a roar – “Symphonic A Cappella” features the St. Martin’s Festival Singers – almost 70 voices – on a cappella works that were conceived on a grand scale.  The group sounds magnificent, and I enjoin and entreat all to plan to come!  It will be a treat.

The main works are as follows:  Three of Mendelssohn’s “Sech Sprüche,” (Six Sayings) written for the Lutheran Cathedral in Berlin.  All three are four double choir, and are vintage Mendelssohn (I can think of few composers whose music so readily pleases on first hearing, and yet has the quality to continue pleasing the more you hear it).

“A Pageant of Human Life” by Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946), a Scottish contemporary of Vaughan Williams.  This has become the choir’s favorite, and I hear at least five times a rehearsal, during a break, what a revelation Bantock has been to this choir member or that, and all seem astonished that Bantock is not more of a known quantity, given the sheer beauty and majesty of the music.  It is an 8-movement Choral Suite with a text by Sir Thomas More (he of “A Man for All Seasons” – executed by Henry VIII) that is quite clever, as well as poignant.  The style of music is sort of late-Romantic bordering on Impressionistic.

And a single work in the second half, Mass for Double Choir, Op. 54, of Louis Spohr (1784-1859).  This is a brilliant work with a very creative concept:  One choir of 45, another of 15, and 5 soloists (so, a 3-to-1 relationship between each).  This allows Spohr to exploit the antiphonal differences between them.  Spohr was, incidentally, thought of extremely highly in his time – on a par with Beethoven, who was 14 years his elder – yet his reputation did not have the buoyancy of the latter after his death, and he is not now so well known.  He was considered harmonically adventurous for his time, so there’s a bit more chromaticism and tonal ambiguity than one might find in Beethoven.  He wrote quite a number of symphonies and operas, and is now principally remembered (by violinists, at least) for his six or seven violin concerti.  In the middle of his life he made a study of Renaissance and Baroque choral music, and this Mass was the principal product of that scholarship.  Indeed, a cappella choral music was pretty rare from the period 1700-1830, so this is an unusual piece, historically.

We perform this work twice, as found below.  Get tickets at www.StMartinsChamberChoir.org/tickets, or call our office at (303) 298-1970.

  • Fri., Sept. 22, 7:30pm – Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village
  • Sun., Sept. 24, 3:00pm – Montview Blvd. Presbyterian Church, Park Hill