A Voice from Heaven: music of Howells, Stanford, Parry, and Elgar

After the death of his son Michael in 1935, Herbert Howells reworked sections of an earlier composition for his Hymnus Paradisi, a large-scale work for chorus and orchestra. We present the original version, a Requiem for unaccompanied double choir and soloists, composed in 1932 but not published until 1980. Not restricted to the traditional order of the Anglican burial service or of the Latin Missa pro defunctis (Mass for the Dead), Howells sets this collection of psalms and antiphons in both Latin and English. 

We also present selections from Hubert Parry's Songs of Farewell, in which the composer seems to meditate on his own mortality by selecting poetry with themes ranging from absolution and purification to comfort and consolation. The program is rounded out by Edward Elgar's "They are at rest," and Latin motets by Charles Villiers Stanford.

Friday, October 28 at 8pm at 2325 Union Street, San Francisco

and Sunday, October 30 at 4 pm at 2325 Union Street, San Francisco

A Time For Harmony: Distler's Die Weihnachtsgeschichte

Hugo Distler places great emphasis on the role of Mary in his 1933 setting of The Christmas Story by interweaving seven choral variations on the familiar carol "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming," with the traditional Gospel narrative. Distler follows the structure of the earlier Passion settings of Heinrich Schütz, with the Gospel story framed by opening and closing choruses and with character roles sung to chant-like melodies by soloists. For the variations themselves, Distler uses a wide variety of textures from simple 4-part harmony to a movement for double choir. The centerpiece is the Magnificat, in which Mary freely chants the canticle "My soul magnifies the Lord" to an unmetered  melody over the choir's strictly measured hymn-like chorale harmonization. 

In a sort of Biblical prequel to the Christmas story, we also present Arvo Pärt's Which was the son of..., which recounts the genealogy of Jesus through seventy generations back to Adam and Eve. Pärt uses his minimal, "tintinnabulous" style to evoke a meditative quality through the litanic text.

Friday, December 9 at 8 pm at 1751 Sacramento Street, San Francisco

and Winter Gala (selections only) Saturday, December 10 at 11 am

A Birthday Bachanalia

Help us celebrate Johann Sebastian Bach's birthday with music by J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn, Herzogenberg, and Brahms.

The highlight of the program will be Bach's motet Jesu, meine freude, one of his most beloved a cappella compositions. 

Other works on the program show Bach's profound influence on music of the 19th century: English canticles by Felix Mendelssohn—the composer-conductor credited with the modern Bach revival, contrapuntal motets by Johannes Brahms, and a setting of Psalm 116 by Heinrich Herzogenberg.


Friday, March 17 at 8 pm at 1111 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco

and Saturday, March 18 at 8 pm at 1661 15th Street, San Francisco

Madrigals of Passion & Despair by Monteverdi, di Lasso, and Lauridsen

Like his groundbreaking opera l'Orfeo (Orpheus), Monteverdi's l'Arianna (Ariadne) turns again to the subject of classical mythology. Arianna is weeping over her lost love Theseus when Bacchus (Dionysus) happens upon her and instantly falls in love. Rejecting his advances, Arianna sings the famous aria "Lasciatemi morire" (Let me die). This Lamento d'Arianna (Ariadne's Lament) is the only part of Monteverdi's now lost opera to survive, in part because it existed in many versions including a 5-voice madrigal cycle and even a reworking to a religious text as Pianto della Madonna (The Blessed Virgin's Lament). We present the 5-voice version along with the madrigal cycle Standomi un giorno by Orlando di Lasso.

Each of the poems in Madrigali: Six Fire Songs by modern choral superstar Morten Lauridsen deals with some aspect of the "fire" of passion and love, which Lauridsen represents with his "fire chord" (B-flat, D-flat, F, C). Published in 1987, these songs for unaccompanied 8-part chorus draw heavily from the Italian settings of Renaissance and Baroque madrigalists like di Lasso and Monteverdi. 

Friday, May 19 at 8pm at 544 Capp Street, San Francisco

and Sunday, May 21 at 4 pm at 1924 Cedar Street, Berkeley