The UCSB Chamber Choir, under the direction of Michel Marc Gervais, and the UCSB Women’s Chorus, co-directed by Helena von Rueden and Michael Vitalino, will share a venue but not a program at 8 p.m. Friday in St. Anthony’s Seminary Chapel, 2300 Garden St. in Santa Barbara.
Though it is not specified in the material I have seen, I would imagine that each ensemble will have half a program to themselves.
The Chamber Choir’s half is called “Transcriptions” and features, as one might have guessed, transcriptions for eight to 16 voices from a wide variety of works — none choral and a majority not even vocal. We will hear transcribed movements from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Johann Sebastian Bach’s French Suite No. 1 in D-Minor, Franz Schubert’s Winterreise (Winter Journey), Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), Mahler’s Rückert Lieder and Maurice Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose).
While the Vivaldi and Bach selections might evoke shades of the Swingle Singers, the Mahler set me immediately to deciding which of these melancholy masterpieces would sound best as a choral ode. The one I came up with, “Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz (The Two Blue Eyes of my Beloved),” is the final of the Songs of a Wayfarer.Mahler wrote the words to all four songs. The last song makes a memorable orchestral appearance in the middle of the sardonic funeral march that comprises the third movement of his First Symphony.
In all, Mahler set 10 poems by the German Romantic poet Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866), who had enjoyed some vogue during his life but had all but completely vanished by the time Mahler took him up.
Five of the songs Mahler gathered as Kindertotenlieder (in 1833-34, Rückert had written 428 poems mourning the death of his two children from scarlet fever; both of Mahler’s daughters were alive and well when he composed the cycle, though the subject was near to him, since half of his 13 siblings had died in childhood). The other five songs are simply collected as the “Rückert songs,” and they are not always performed as a set.
The UCSB Women’s Chorus’ half of the program is called “Musica Sacra” and features a cappella sacred music of the 20th century, including works by Maurice Duruflé (1902-86), André Caplet (1878-1925), Corey Keating and Miklós Kocsár (born in 1933).
Caplet is known today as Claude Debussy’s friend and the man who orchestrated a number of Debussy’s unfinished works. He was a composer in his own right, however. I don’t know the program, but his best-known sacred work is the Messe à trois voix of 1920.
Keating, still in graduate school, has already impressed his peers and musical professionals. In 2008, his choral piece, Hidden is the Sky, was selected for premiere at the Society of Composers. Keating is also an editor and writer in the rarified field of Beethoven studies.
Admission to this concert will be $15 for the general public and $7 for students, with donations collected at the door.