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Gerald Carpenter: Quire of Voyces Closing Season with ‘Songs of Remembrance’

Founder Nathan Kreitzer will direct the Quire of Voyces in their spring concerts this weekend. (Quire of Voyces photo)

The marvelous vocal ensemble Quire of Voyces, under the direction of founder Nathan Kreitzer, will offer their spring concerts, called "Songs of Remembrance," at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 9 and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 10 in St. Anthony’s Chapel at the Garden Street Academy, 2300 Garden St. in Santa Barbara.

The featured composer of the concerts will be the Spanish master Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), whom the Quire's publicity dubs "the most important composer of the Spanish Golden Age." (I have no quarrel with their assessment of Victoria, but the Spanish age in which he lived was "Golden" only literally, in the sense that the Spanish treasury was filled to overflowing with the gold they had looted from their Western Hemisphere colonies.)

The Quire will perform Victoria's famous Officium Defunctorum (Requiem), written in 1605 for the Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa, who had died in a convent in 1603 (the same year as that other remarkable queen of the age, Elizabeth I of England). Victoria, who was an organist and priest, as well as a composer, had been her personal chaplain.

It was an age of religious wars, Catholic versus Protestant; Christian versus Muslim. The horrors and cruelties witnessed in Europe in the century between Victoria's birth and the end of the Thirty Years Wars in 1648 were not equaled until the rise of the totalitarians following World War I. None of this shows up in Victoria's music, which is serene, sublime and tranquil.

We will also hear the "Miserere mei, Deus," a setting of Psalm 50, by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), sung by a solo choir made up of Nichole Dechaine, Becky Ahern, Holly Finley and Matt Evans. As I'm sure we will be told at the concert, the Allegri piece was considered too beautiful to be sung anywhere but Saint Peter's in Rome — but they reckoned without the phenomenal musical memory of teenage Wolfgang Mozart, who heard it in the Sistine Chapel and wrote it all out from memory when he got back to his hotel. The cat was out of the bag.

Tickets to "Songs of Remembrance" are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. They can be purchased at the Garvin Theater box office at 805.965.5935 and at the door.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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