Quire’s ‘Sacred Love’ of Singing
With public performances back in vogue now that the pandemic has eased its stranglehold, at least for the time being, Quire of Voyce’s director Nathan Kreitzer is thrilled to be programming performances at St. Anthony’s Seminary again. Following a special Christmas recital, the a cappella choir is returning to the acoustically stunning hall at the Garden Street Academy for its annual spring concert.
“It’s still scary, but to get to hear people singing together, there’s just nothing like it,” he said. “I don’t have to tell you there’s something really special about choral music.” But Kreitzer is under no illusions that the COVID crisis is completely kaput. “We’re basically participating in the most dangerous possible profession right now where we’re basically blowing air on everyone,” he said. “I’m acutely aware of that at all times.”
Programming the concert becomes a problem, he said, because it’s hard to predict just how many singers in each section are going to be available. “I’m used to having at least six people in every part, and usually seven or eight in the lower voices because it creates a good foundation,” said Kreitzer, who founded Quire of Voyces — an audition-based choir officially stationed at SBCC that channels choral music from the Renaissance and, even more, modern compositions – almost 30 years ago. “But we’ve lost some members, and I’m never sure who’s actually going to show up to rehearsals each week… With [our full group] you can program anything you want, including multiple-part pieces and double-chorus works, which are a challenge, but so fun for everyone. But now the repertoire choices are more limited and it’s harder to find music that is still great but not more than six parts.”
To top it off, the upcoming concerts are centered around a theme of “Sacred Love,” which is also the focus of Quire’s next CD project that began a couple of years ago with recording Sviridov’s piece of the same name featuring Quire member Nichole Dechaine, who Kreitzer called “our hot shot soprano soloist.”
“It’s a spectacular piece, hauntingly beautiful, but it’s just sitting there waiting,” he said. “This was our perfect chance to get ready to finish up that recording and do an entire concert on this theme. But then I did a Google search for ‘sacred love,’ and mostly what you find are people trying to sell music for massage.”
Tomas Luis de Victoria’s setting of the Song of Soloman passage “Nigra Sum” became the concert’s centerpiece, and the only selection actually composed during the Renaissance, but Kreitzer didn’t want to overly rely on hymns and other Tallis Scholar repertoire. So he ended up with almost all modern composers and new music that fit the theme. Specifically, one born in the ‘60s, three in the ‘70s (including Becky McGlade, who Quire first visited in the December concerts – here she contributes “Come My Way, My Truth, My Life” and “As the Hart”), and even one from 1986-born composer Jake Runestad, “Let My Love Be Heard,” which closes the concert.
Plus, there are two new pieces from Quire’s composer-in-residence Stephen Bombeck, a veteran singer and composer that is one of the ensemble’s great assets. Bombeck created a new composition of the “Rise Up My Love” text (“Arise My Love”) and fashioned a new setting of the George Herbert text “Love Bade Me Welcome” most famously set to music by Vaughan Williams.
“He set it for three distinct voices – two soloists and the chorus – which is fascinating,” Kreitzer said. “I’ve always loved the text, but I never considered having different voices for each of the characters, so I think it’s particularly interesting to hear.”
The dozen-works program launches with a timely if outside-the-theme new setting of the 1885 “Ukrainian Prayer” by John Rutter, which was first sung just weeks after the Russian invasion in February. “It’s very simple but very pretty, sort of like an Eastern chant, and a perfect way to open the concert,” Kreitzer said.
As with Quire’s Christmas concerts, both performances at St. Anthony’s are scheduled as a single set sans intermission. That doesn’t leave time for socializing with sweets and other goodies from the choir’s guild, but that’s one lingering after-effect of the pandemic pause the director agrees with.
“Nobody complained about either it being shorter or having no intermission,” Kreitzer explained. “Some people even said it was a relief to just go, listen to one set of music and then leave. I think COVID has also shortened people’s attention span.” Perhaps, but Quire of Voyces’ Spring Concert full of haunting harmonies in a hallowed hall with superior acoustics should soothe even the most agitated among us.
The Quire of Voyces Spring Concert will be on Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29, both at 3 pm. Visit quireofvoyces.org for tickets and more information.