Review of The New York Virtuoso Singers Celebrating Women Composers – Part 1 at New York’s St. Ignatius of Antioch Church

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March 27, 2012 by Admin

By Theresa Sauer

The New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, Conductor and Artistic Director Celebrating Women Composers – Part 1 – Sunday, March 25 – 3:00 PM – St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, West End Ave. at 87th Street in Manhattan

The New York Virtuoso Singers offered a bounty of the most intelligent, stunningly inspiring music in celebration of women composers. When entering St. Ignatius of Antioch Church last Sunday afternoon, I became aware of the scent of incense, the soft buttery lighting emanating from the spectacular stained glass windows and the ethereal sounds surrounding me, setting the stage for the magic of the performance to come.

Harold Rosenbaum

Harold Rosenbaum, Artistic Director and Conductor opened the afternoon’s journey into nourishing thought and feeling with Ellen Taffe Zwillich’s uplifting, A Simple Magnificat. The voices soared with clarity and verve and it was anything but simple. Zwillich is the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and I mention this because this is the first time I have heard her work played in a live concert. It was a privilege to hear it performed in such a manner by this rightfully prestigious group.

Jenece Gerber’s je me delacé was inspired by a letter written by a 16th Century French poet-courtesan Louise Labé. The letter “elucidates the legitimacy and even the imperative for women’s study and the implementation of the higher arts and sciences.” The score, beautifully translated into aural glory by soprano Julie Morgan and alto Suzanne Schwing was transfixing and quite intriguing, whetting my appetite for more.

I must say, this concert was delicately and thoughtfully curated. The final work before intermission, Still Falls the Rain, a work by British composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, showcased the substantial versatility and expression of these amazing singers. This powerful work that left the audience hushed for just a moment before thunderous applause.

We returned from break to a group of delightful young singers (The Canticum Novum Youth Choir) performing The Lord to me a Shepard Is written by Judith Bingham with a unique but quite meaningful organ accompaniment played by the wonderful Christopher Creaghan.

But Thea Musgrave’s For the Time Being: Advent was the perfect choice for the finale. With David Barron’s highly riveting narration and the singers emoting the words of W. H. Auden in such cruel beauty, it was hard not to be completely engaged, losing sense of time and space. It was a gift to have Thea Musgrave present to share her personal meaning of the work, her experiences of war and how these experiences are still relevant today.

A powerful and memorable afternoon to nourish the mind and ear.

 

Theresa Sauer is the director of the Notations 21 Project, and author of Notations 21, the book. This is a compendium and anthology of alternative music notation systems, deriving its inspiration from Cage’s seminal work. It profiles the work of 160+ composers from around the world, each one using a unique or graphical notation style. More about her and the book at http://notations21.net/.


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