Voices of Ascension concert, 3/20/19
I heard Voices of Ascension in a concert called *A Voice of Her Own: Great Choral Music By Women Composers* on 3/20/19. The group, of course, was extraordinary, I've heard them many times and they always knock me out. Is it possible they're the greatest chorus I've ever heard? They have a pure, shimmering sound, full of impact and color. I adore them. Major kudos to their founder, artistic director, and conductor, Dennis Keene.
I've listed the whole program below. The first Boulanger piece was grand, it had a nice sweep to it, a great way to start the concert. Contralto Heather Petrie had a gorgeous color to her voice, and Andrew Henderson rocked the organ part on this piece and the others he played.
The first Hagen piece was almost my favorite thing on the program - - what a jewel. It had inventive harmonies, it was thrilling how it unfurled. What a treat, it's on Youtube, a performance by The Singers - Minnesota Choral Artists, conducted by Matthew Culloton.
The next Hagen piece was sung beautifully by baritone John Brancy, but the music wasn't as inspired. The cello part didn't sound fully realized or integrated. The guitar part was wonderful. This piece sounded more like church music than like concert music. I don't mean that as a slam, it's just an observation.
The Hensel and Schumann pieces were sweet and charming. The Smyth went on a little too long. The best thing in the Beach was the solo by bass-baritone Joseph Charles Beutel, who sang with a musty gravitas that was entirely appropriate to the style.
The second half started with a piece by the 12th century composer Hildegard von Bingen, "Vos flores rosarum." It was ravishing, sensual, sublime. Here's a recording by Voices of Ascension from 1997:
The centerpiece of the program was *Infinite Light,* a world premiere by Bora Yoon - - like Jocelyn Hagen, Yoon was born in 1980! Both of these women, I hope, have MANY more great years and important commissions ahead. I'll quote from Yoon's program note:
"I felt it was very important amid this movement of empowerment of women's voices, to engage and include the voices of a larger diversity beyond gender - - to race, class, orientation, and deepen classical music's commitment to diversity, and intersectionality, while employing music's power to foster empathy, and reach transcendent planes."
You really could hear that in the music, it sounded like an expression of Yoon's personal vision of beauty and faith. She wrote it for a cappella chorus and electronics - - the electronics were used sparingly and thoughtfully, they added an extra sparkle and otherworldly aura to the piece.
"Hymne au soleil," Lili Boulanger
"Beneditctus" from *Amass,* Jocelyn Hagen
"In My Soul" from *Amass,* Hagen
"Song Without Words," Fanny Hensel (piano solo by Daniel Beckwith)
"Lockung" from *Gartenlieder,* Hensel
"Gondoliera" and "Vorwärts" from *Drei Gemiscthe Chöre,* Clara Schumann
"Benedictus" from *Mass in D,* Ethel Smyth
"Let This Mind Be In You," Amy Beach
"Praise the Lord," Florence Price
"Vos flores rosarum," Hildegard von Bingen
*Infinite Light,* Bora Yoon
"Ronde du crépuscule," Cécile Chaminade
"Vielle prière Bouddhique," Boulanger
"Psaume 24," Boulanger