For our annual Winter Concert of the 2014-2015 season, Grace Chorale of Brooklyn presented a program of music for Chorus and String Quartet.
Luminous Night, began with "Elegischer Gesang" by Ludwig van Beethoven, and was followed by works by living composers. After performing Eric Whitacre's "Five Hebrew Love Songs", a smaller chamber group from within the Chorale performed Veronika Krausas' "Language of the Birds."
After a surprise rendition by the String Quartet of a lovely Beethoven piece for strings, the concert concluded with a commissioned piece by Brooklyn composer, Vince Peterson, based on excerpts from "Chamber Music," a text by James Joyce, and Ola Gjeilo's "Luminous Night of the Soul,"
The performances were held on Friday, January 23 at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Brooklyn Heights, Saturday, January 24 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Park Slope, NY, and Sunday, January 25 at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene.
Ludwig van Beethoven's Elegischer Gesang, Op. 118 represents his late infatuation with the string quartet genre. The halting delivery of these tender words by an anonymous poet recalls some of Mozart’s heartbreaking arias, while also looking forward to Beethoven’s later style in which musical ideas are allowed to develop freely, without the constraint of standard Classical forms and phrasing.
"Five Hebrew Love Songs" by Eric Whitacre was conceived as a set of troubadour songs based on a text by Hila Plitmann who was born and raised in Jerusalem. They are laced with overtones of friendship, discovery, and love and explore harmonies with somewhat full choral and instrumental accompaniment.
Veronika Krausas' "Language of the Birds" was inspired by the San Francisco artist Brian Goggin’s site-specific sculptural installation, The Language of the Birds, which he created with Dorka Keehn. The installation is an illuminated flock of twenty-three translucent, suspended open books with bindings positioned to simulate the wings of birds in flight. Words, taken from books by neighborhood authors are scattered and embedded in the plaza as if the words have fallen from the pages.
Grace Chorale was thrilled to continue its commission series of works by local composers with Three Joyce Poems. In the words of its Brooklyn-based composer, Vince Peterson: "Three Joyce Poems is a reflection on fictional and non-fictional matters. The fiction is the digest of a man in love who goes to meet his intended in the woods, all the while his instincts ringing with ominous warnings about falling in love. After he gives himself to his beloved, the two quickly realize that, like all things in life, love is transitory, living "but a day." In other words, fall in love at your own risk, and if you choose to do so, embrace it for the moments of joy it gives to you, rather than focusing on looming heartache. Joyce is a master of this sentiment in these beautiful texts from his incomparable "Chamber Music" - a set of thirty three poems - all in this vein. The non-fictional matter is one of homage to my late teacher and friend, Conrad Susa, who in the course of his life, managed to set all thirty three of Joyce's poems in a series of three cycles. Though I can only hope to hold a candle to Conrad's genius, I know that the universality of these wonderful texts lends itself well to multiple styles and interpretations - something that my good teacher would have always celebrated."
Ola Gjielo's "Luminous Night of the Soul" uses a text by Charles Anthony Silvestri as well as a stanza from the St. John of the Cross’ poem. In his composition, Ola features the piano prominently, not just as generic, unassuming accompaniment, but as an equal partner to the choir, aided and supported by the string quartet