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Gerald Carpenter: Master Chorale to Hail Back to St. Mark’s Basilica

Saturday and Sunday concerts will feature grand works of Monteverdi and Gabrieli

The Santa Barbara Master Chorale will sing a pair of concerts at 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church, 305 E. Anapamu St.

Composer Giovanni Gabrieli, as painted by Annibale Carracci in 1600.
Composer Giovanni Gabrieli, as painted by Annibale Carracci in 1600.

The program is one of such grandeur that I all but had to rub my eyes to make sure I was reading correctly. The ensemble will perform Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610 (“Vespers for the Blessed Virgin 1610”) and Giovanni Gabrieli’s Jubilate Deo and In Ecclesiis.

Clever people said of Giuseppe Verdi that his greatest opera was the Manzoni Requiem. It was a kind of put-down, I suppose — a way of stating one’s conviction that Verdi’s unparalleled dramatic gifts were inappropriately applied to a liturgical setting. Yet, what makes the Requiem so wonderful is that it is not dramatic, but lyrical. For once, Verdi is freed from the exigencies of plot, the karma of pasteboard characters and can simply sing with the voice of an angel.

Monteverdi, too, composed for the stage — Orfeo is the earliest opera that is still regularly performed — though you won’t hear any jokes about the Vespers of 1610 being an opera.

On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like any other church music that I’ve ever heard, not even that of Gabrieli, his immediate predecessor as director of music at Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

In recent years, I have become convinced that Monteverdi is to Western music what Homer was to epic poetry — if not its creator then at least the first complete expression of it, its first totally integrated personality. It is not a particularly lovable or comfortable personality — dignified, intense, burning with something a little more than human — but riveting, nevertheless, and capable (as we shall hear in the “Pulcha es”) of immense tenderness and sweetness.

Above, I used a cliché of Verdi singing with the voice of an angel. I predict that, after you have heard the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers, you will feel sure that you know exactly how angels sound, and it’s a lot different than you expected.

Ticket prices are $20 for general admission, $18 for seniors and the disabled, $10 college students with ID, and children through 12th grade are free. Tickets can be purchased at Chaucer’s Bookstore at 3321 State St., Santa Barbara Sheet Music at 1036 Santa Barbara St., and at the door.

For more information or to reserve tickets, call 805.967.8287.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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