November 29, 2015
First United Methodist Church
Join Key Chorale as we kick off the holiday season with music of Monteverdi, Gabrieli, Praetorius, and Schütz. Brass, choir and strings perform compositions from the Renaissance to early Baroque, including selections from Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610.
The program is inspired by the architecture and acoustics of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice where the chorus was invited to perform in 2009. Considered one of the best-known examples of Byzantine architecture, St. Mark’s possesses two organs in two separate choir lofts at opposite ends of the basilica. These unique features, along with a grand tradition of choral singing, led composers to experiment with placement of multiple choirs and instrumental groups apart from each other, creating antiphonal music and the 16th century version of surround-sound.
It was these majestic and stunning harmonies, combined with the reverberation of St. Mark’s, allowing each chord to linger and mix with the others, that created the opulent tonal palette that revolutionized the course of music. This new music caused a sensation, prompting composers from all over Europe to go to Venice to learn this progressive new style. “Standing under the splendor of the golden dome of St. Mark’s and hearing the ear-bathing sounds of Key Chorale is something I will never forget,” said Artistic Director Joseph Caulkins. “It was awe-inspiring to think of the transformative compositions written by Gabrieli and Monteverdi for this amazing space. With this program we want to capture the essence of this divine, innovative music that changed the path of music forever.”
Selections from Monteverdi’s “Vespers of 1610” will be highlighted. It was unprecedented for its time. No other work can compare to its grandeur and overall conception with seven solo singers, a chorus anywhere from unison to ten parts, and an orchestra of winds, brass, and strings placed in various spaces within the church. “Monteverdi’s genius is in how he contrasted these forces in imaginative ways,” said Caulkins. “One of my favorite moments is when two trumpets play a very florid line in unison, but at opposite ends of the church, while the chorus sings the expansive chant melody. This idea is then taken up by two solo violins, again playing the same music, but from a considerable distance apart. The result is cinematic by today’s standards and undeniably groundbreaking for 1610.”
Soloist Amy Jo Connours will be featured in a lavish setting of “O magnum mysterium” (O great mystery), by composer Giovanni Gabrieli. Gabrieli was so famous that Heinrich Schütz traveled to Venice to learn this new style and take it back to Dresden, Germany. He influenced another German, Michael Praetorius, who studied at St Mark’s under Monteverdi and took the idea of alternating performances with different forces to an unprecedented level. Key Chorale will perform six of Praetorius’ compositions utilizing this technique of contrasting brass, choir, organ and soloists to great effect.
Concertmaster of the Sarasota Orchestra, Daniel Jordan and his wife Chung-Yon Hong will be featured violinists in “Beatus vir” (Blessed is the man) by Monteverdi. This tuneful and jubilant composition also features six vocal soloists and the full chorale. The program will conclude with several 16th century carols arranged by contemporary composers. “Gaudete” a medieval tune published in 1582, was arranged for the King’s Singers and brass by Brian Kay. It features tenor soloist Rob Davis and celebrates the birth of Jesus with the joyful dance-like quality so prevalent in the 16th century. “I have selected a wide range of tuneful, rhythmic music all written for the holiday season, but not widely known,” said Caulkins. “This program will captivate our audience and leave many listeners thinking to themselves, ‘I think I know this piece.’ That is the magic behind the craftsmanship and inventiveness of a truly remarkable time in music history.”