Soli Deo Gloria kicks off season with a ‘Feast’ of beautiful choral music
Soli Deo Gloria, the all-woman choral ensemble, opens its season on Friday, Nov. 8, with a vibrant program titled “A Feast of Song.” The concert includes a special guest: the Central Valley Vocal Project men’s choir. The performance is 7:30 p.m. (with a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.) at University Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $15 advance, $10 students, $20 at the door, and are available at brownpapertickets.com.
I checked in with Soli Deo Gloria’s music director and conductor, Julie Carter, for a quick update.
Q: You told me you especially love the piece “Avem Verum Corpus.” Why?
A: Poulenc wrote the piece in 1952 set for SSA chorus (two distinct soprano sections and one distinct alto section). It begins simply with a very lyrical line imitated in all three voices. At first you think it will be a simple piece. Throughout the song are snippets of beautiful lyrical lines. But interspersed are single measures of more complex chords that are quite difficult to tune and sing well. It’s very expressive (the text says, “Hail true body of Christ born of the Virgin Mary, who has suffered and was sacrificed on the cross for mankind.”) The difficult measures occur on “The cross” and “of Mary.” I think listeners will just be struck by the beauty of the piece and the sonorities.
Q: What can you tell us about the Central Valley Vocal Project men’s choir?
A: They’re a rather new ensemble directed by Carlin Truong, director of Clovis East High School choirs. They recruit men from the Fresno/Clovis general area and have many members who are former or retired music teachers and barbershop singers. Formed in August of 2017, they perform an eclectic musical repertoire while integrating diverse visual and performance elements. Their mission is to promote singing among males and to support the vocal arts in the community at large.
Q: How many times has Soli Deo Gloria combined with men’s voices? As a conductor, what is it like to hear your women’s choir blended with male voices?
A: We have combined with Central Valley Vocal Project once before in one of their concerts. I think it’s enjoyable to combine with men’s voices but I really think if you’re comparing all women’s voices with a mixed choir that for me it just depends on how good they are. Just because men’s voices join in doesn’t make it better or worse. How beautiful is the tone? And what are they singing? An all-female choir can be stunning with proper tone and balance! And some altos can sing quite low, providing a great foundation for the sound as would a bass section.
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Q: One of my favorite songs on your program is “Sure on This Shining Night.” It is a beautiful piece. I know that Morten Lauridsen was the “it” composer in the choral world for a while. Is it still that way? Do you think his works will live on?
A: Lauridsen’s music is beautiful and popular. Some people have said he’s the new Rutter. His music of the past 20 years or so seems to focus around a chord with an added 2nd. People love his music. But I’ve been drawn to many of his compositions before he began to move in that style. For example, the “Chansons de Roses” is a stunning cycle for SATB choir that is very different (with the exception of “Dirait-on.”) Other examples include his “Madrigali: Six Firesongs on Italian Renaissance Poems,” which are quite different in style and are delightful. Time will tell, I suppose, but I believe Lauridsen’s music will remain popular, though in time perhaps a bit less so. Dan Forrest is a new composer who is becoming popular like Lauridsen and Rutter. I’ve programmed several of his pieces and they are well-loved by audiences and singers alike.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: I‘m excited about this concert because I love all of the music we’re doing! So much beautiful music, I love the Brahms music we’re doing (most are on topics of love). The Liebeslieder Waltzes are wonderful and I’ve found three for women’s voices. I love the two settings of Alleluia with their vibrant rhythms and varied styles. Canticum Novum is an exciting piece by Swiss composer Ivo Antognini. There’s such a variety of music and I encourage people to come to the pre-concert talk at 7 pm.
We live such busy lives. I invite people to come and relax, and treat themselves to an evening of beautiful music!