Review: The Singers' 'Requiem' is simply heavenly
Special to the Pioneer Press
Since the dawn of the species, humans have been using their voices to explore their experiences in song. But it's the prayers that seem to last. When words addressed to a higher power have been set to memorable melodies or inspiring harmonies, they've become some of the most enduring music ever created.
To open its season, the Twin Cities-based chamber choir known as the Singers is presenting three of the western classical music tradition's most popular and powerful prayers. At Wayzata's St. Bartholomew Catholic Church on Saturday night, conductor Matthew Culloton and the Singers suffused each work with not only the spirit of salve and solace written into each by its composer, but also a sense of striving to touch the infinite. And one should feel fortunate to experience as strong a sense of the sacred as the Singers offered in Maurice Durufle's "Requiem."
While that work has received fine recent interpretations from such elite tandems as the Minnesota Orchestra and Minnesota Chorale, as well as the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and its Chorale, there was something more intimate and involving about Saturday's performance by the Singers, their accompanying chamber orchestra and organist Aaron David Miller.
Maybe the feeling of being immersed in emotion was partially attributable to the resonant interior of St. Bart's. But, more likely, it was the musicians' obvious investment in the interpretation, particularly the Singers, who treated every chord with care, eachharmony with balance and beauty. It was a transporting performance.
But that's not to say that there wasn't much to admire in the two works that preceded it. Seventeenth-century composer Gregorio Allegri's "Miserere" was a masterful slice of the Vatican choral tradition given great voice by the group, at its most thrilling when a quartet held forth from the rear of the sanctuary, Diane Koschak's soaring soprano floating ethereally above all.
And J.S. Bach's "Jesu, meine Freude" was full of contrast in mood and dynamics, a tempestuous chorale about fear and death giving way to the lovely layers of a spirited fugue and a lush lullaby of farewell to the cares of the world. As with all of Saturday's program, the Singers made it an exciting experience.
Who: The Singers with conductor Matthew Culloton and organist Aaron David Miller
What: Works by Gregorio Allegri, J.S. Bach and Maurice Durufle
When: 3 p.m. today
Where: House of Hope Presbyterian Church, 797 Summit Ave., St. Paul
Tickets: $30-$10, available at 651-917-1948 or singersmca.org
Capsule: A heavenly mix of music.