The 40 singers of the Choral Artists of Sarasota lift their voices to celebrate the organization’s 40th season in “From the Heart,” a concert featuring Johannes Brahms’ “A German Requiem,” one of the one of the most inspirational works of the 19th century. The concert also features William Averitt’s “Over Jordan,” a setting of four spiritual pieces that contemplate the ecstatic journey into eternity. The concert is Feb. 16, 4 p.m., at First Church, 104 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. $5 student tickets are available with ID at the door.
A free “Coffee and Concerts Insights” preview with Dr. Joseph Holt, the group’s artistic director, and soprano Jenny Kim-Godfrey, is Feb. 5, 10 a.m., at the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, 1226 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. In addition, the public is invited to two open rehearsals, Jan. 27, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, 2050 Oak St, Sarasota, and Jan. 28, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., at Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. Ragnar Bohlin, director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, will be at both rehearsals. For tickets and info, visit www.ChoralArtistsSarasota.org or call 941-387-4900.
Brahms composed “A German Requiem,” a large-scale work for chorus, orchestra, a soprano and a baritone soloist, between 1865 and 1868. It comprises seven movements which, together, last 65 to 80 minutes, making this work Brahms' longest composition.
“As a chamber ensemble, we don’t typically program the large-scale choral works but have, on occasion, partnered with other choruses to participate in these monumental musical works,” says Joseph Holt, Choral Artists’ artistic director and conductor. “This concert is possible because a chamber orchestra version of the work was created about 10 years ago and I knew it was time, during our 40th anniversary, to finally present the most beloved work of the master Brahms.” Holt explains that this version has two quintets as the instrumental ensemble; one string and the other woodwind. It also includes timpani.
This performance also includes the voices of two soloists, baritone Marcus DeLoach, and soprano Jenny Kim-Godfrey. “Both are well known to our audiences,” says Holt. “Jenny lives in Parrish and has been a member of Choral Artists for several seasons. She teaches at University of Tampa and is on staff with the Sarasota Pops Orchestra. Marcus has performed with Choral Artists several times and is on the faculty at Temple University in Philadelphia. He was one of the handpicked singers that Marilyn Horne chose for her vocal institute.”
Holt says that, for him, Brahms is one of the most comforting of all the romantic composers of the 19th century. “This work is also dramatic, containing musical moments that are thrilling, and it’s one of the most expressive choral works—the yearning lyrical quality has moments of exquisite poignancy. It opens with a setting of the Beatitudes: ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and from that moment you know that you are in a different place spiritually, one of compassion for the living.” Holt adds that this requiem is unusual in that it is set in German, not Latin, and the texts are chosen specifically by Brahms for the work.
Holt also chose a set of four pieces by the American composer William Averitt for this concert. The four pieces are from the shape-note tradition, which is a variant system of Western musical notation whereby the note heads are printed in distinct shapes to indicate their scale degree and solmization syllable. These pieces are “Wayfaring Stranger,” “When I Can Read My Title Clear,” “Let Me Go,” and “The Promised Land.” “All four poems form a joyous and ecstatic yearning for the glories of the promised land,” says Holt. “All four deal with a positive attitude towards being a part of the afterlife or heaven. And, as the ‘Requiem’ is a comforting work for the living, as opposed to mourning the dead, these four pieces are a positive affirmation of the end of physical life, transitioning to the unknown and mysterious afterlife.”
Holt says that the concert reflects “recognition of all those who have made an impact and a difference for Choral Artists/Gloria Musicae, including the founders, the musical directors, the singers, the instrumentalists and the board and administrative staffs. It’s the combination of all those people who have given so much that allows us to be who we are today. The title of the concert, ‘From the Heart,’ speaks to the compassion we have for each other as human beings. It not only implies a gift of one’s heart towards another, but the universal humanity which unites us all.”
For more information, visit www.ChoralArtistsSarasota.org.