SBCC’s outstanding vocal ensemble the Quire of Voyces, directed by founder Nathan Kreitzer, will close their 2010-11 season with concerts at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in St. Anthony’s Chapel, 2300 Garden St.
The program consists of what Kreitzer calls “great polychoral cathedral classics from the Renaissance and contemporary eras,” including the Ave Maria of Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), the Kyrie by Knut Nystedt (born in 1915) with soprano soloist Ann Dwelley; Three Lovesongs by Torbjørn Dyrud (born in 1974); Nunc dimittis by Gustav Holst (1874-1934); Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672); Blessed Are the Dead by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) with soprano soloist Nichole Dechaine; O Vos Omnes by René Clausen (born in 1953) with soprano Nichole Dechaine and tenor Temmo Korisheli as soloists; Faire Is the Heaven by William Henry Harris (1883-1973); and Pueri Hebraeorum by Randall Thompson (1899-1984).
Looking at the dates of these composers, you might get the notion that writing choral music was good for your health. Thompson, the lone American, reached age 85. Of the three Englishmen, two — Howells and Harris — turned 89 and 90, respectively.
Nystedt, of Norway, turns 96 in September and has the rest beat already, while he is still alive. Schütz — the greatest composer represented on this program, and the only true immortal of the first half of the 17th century, except Claudio Monteverdi — managed, as a German, to survive the death storm of the Thirty Years’ War; as a student of Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice, a papal interdiction; and as a resident of Europe, many smaller wars and numerous returns of the bubonic plague; into his 87th year, still lucid and composing.
The idea dies hard that the music of Monteverdi and Schütz is an esoteric taste, a secret code for the very refined. But the two composers were not at all, themselves, the kind of men to form such coteries, men at odds with their own times who, in Geoffrey Scott’s words, “cast on the screen of an imaginary past the projection of (their) unfulfilled desires.” Schütz and Monteverdi, in contrast, were not at all “retrospective,” as Scott would call it, but completely men of their times, enthusiastic about the way their art was evolving.
Being so comfortable with the age in which they found themselves, they become the natural contemporaries of anyone who listens. And they both possess, to a degree, that unsettling 17th century gravitas — realistic, unflinching, unforgettable, reborn in W.B. Yeats’ “Cast a cold eye on life, on death/ Horseman, pass by.”
Tickets to the Quire of Voyces are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. They’re available at the door or from the Garvin Theater box office at 805.965.3935.
— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.