Adoring – and Adorning – the Earth: Kantorei preview
A preview by Marc Shulgold
In nature, everything turns to the good
That has oppressed one’s heart.
Those words are taken from a charming song by Mendelssohn that’s included in Kantorei’s upcoming concerts, words that nicely reflect the title of these programs – “The Earth Adorned.” Sounds like a warm, easy-going, feel-good tribute to Nature, bubbling with simple harmonies and hummable tunes, right?
That’s not the way Kantorei’s artistic director Joel Rinsema views it. “I’ve put the fear of God into the singers,” he said of these season-ending concerts. “This is difficult music, works that are outside of their usual repertory.”
The selections to be presented over next weekend (MAY 16-17) may be uplifting and pleasing to the ear – but one in particular has proven a mighty challenge for the singers.
“My colleagues think I’m crazy,” Rinsema admitted of his decision to include Aaron Copland’s rarely heard “In the Beginning.” Utilizing the words from the first two chapters of “Genesis,” this 18-minute piece required special attention for the members of Kantorei. “I gave each of them a recording of the Copland at the start of the season,” the conductor said. And, to borrow from the work’s title, that was just the beginning.
“I knew it would be a challenge for them, and for our audience, since parts of it are very close to 12-tone music” – referring to the craggy, complex style explored by composer in the mid-20th Century.
With his soloist in place, Rinsema knew he had a program that could be built around Copland’s work. “It’s the cornerstone, a piece that would also stretch the singers musically,” he said, reiterating his desire to elevate Kantorei’s performance level.
Not all of the works are Nature-themed, he pointed out, referring to Vaughan Williams’ “Three Shakespeare Settings.” The text of the Copland, too, is more about the miracle of Creation than the glories of our natural world. But the others are clearly in keeping with the program’s title song, “The Earth Adorned” (by Swedish composer Waldemar Ahlen). Mendelssohn’s “Six Songs to be Sung in the Open Air” and Charles Villiers Stanford’s serene “Bluebird” complete the program.
Those two concerts serve as the finale to a season that Rinsema proudly called “one of our most successful.” Ticket sales and contributions were up, he reported. As the conductor completes his first year at the helm, the future looks bright. Plans are being drawn up for the 2015-16 season that will feature Kantorei’s next composer-in-residence, the young Norwegian Kim André Arnesen.
“It’s so gratifying to witness the increased energy in the chorus,” Rinsema said. “We’ve raised the bar – there’s no going back.”
Kantorei will present The Earth Adorned at 7:30 p.m. Saturday MAY 16 in Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Ave., and 3 p.m. Sunday MAY 17 in Montview Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia St. Information: kantorei.org.