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Margo Kline: A Touch of Venice from Master Chorale

Santa Barbara ensemble is masterful in performing works by Monteverdi, Gabrieli

Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 was the crown jewel in the Santa Barbara Master Chorale’s program of early music over the weekend at First United Methodist Church.

In two performances, Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening, the Master Chorale presented this masterwork that bridged the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque eras. Steven Hodson, Master Chorale conductor and music director, led the singers, the soloists and their accompanying period instrumentalists in an array around and in front of the altar.

The soloists were tenor Grey Brothers, soprano Nichole Dechaine, soprano Mary Dombeck, tenor Bryan Lane and bass Michael Shasberger. The performance was staged antiphonally, with some of the singers placed on the balcony level, where the tenor soloists were especially effective.

Along with the Monteverdi piece, the program included works by contemporaneous composers, notably Giovanni Gabrieli. His Jubilate Deo and In Ecclesis closed out the first half, after short selections by Cesare Gussago, Claudio Merulo, Cristofano Malvezzi and Alessandro Piccinini. A standout among the instrumentalists was Jason Yoshida, playing the lute.

Monteverdi, in his role spanning the Renaissance and the Baroque, made full use of his earlier musical influences, including the Gregorian chant, modal harmonics and the separate voices of polyphony. His gesture to the infant Baroque period was the use of homody — a single line accompanied by elaborate embellishments.

The two Gabrieli works tended perhaps less to the Baroque than the Monteverdi. But both composers embellished these sacred compositions with elaborate effects, producing music of great complexity.

Both Monteverdi and Gabrieli held positions at Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, important jobs that afforded them security and a good livelihood. Both also were admired by the sophisticated Venetians for their music, which was considered cutting-edge at the time.

The concert was recorded and will be broadcast on radio station KDB 93.7 FM at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 14. For more information, click here or call 805.967.8287.

The group’s next performance is “Hootenanny: a Celebration of American Folk Songs” on June 4-5 at First United Methodist Church, 305 E. Anapamu St.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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