Tuesday, September 16, 2014

OXFORD MUSIC: Schola Cantorum in NYC at Trinity Church

The backdrop of Trinity Church is hard to beat for this
music. All photos by JT Marlin.
Oxford's Schola Cantorum is on its U.S. tour and Alice and I agree it was well worth our taking the time to hear them yesterday at Trinity Church.

The 27 singers are drawn from current students at different colleges at Oxford, and they rehearse during the 24 weeks of term-time.

The Schola is committed to "the development of young talent". A large number of them go on to professional singing careers.

The composers are mostly Oxonians, or the songs were first performed at Oxford.

The program yesterday opened with two composers spanning the century from 1525 to 1625, John Sheppard and Orlando Gibbons.

The audience did not fill every seat
of the large church, but was enthusiastic.
The choir then went to four deceased 20th century composers - Michael Tippett, William Walton, Herbert Howells and Charles Villiers Stanford.

The other two, living, composers were Roderick Williams and Thomas Adès, whose "Fayrfax Carol" was at the end of the program and excited the audience.

The conductor is James Burton, a graduate of St. John's College Cambridge and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, associated with Johns Hopkins University.

He has been Music Director of the Schola Cantorum at Oxford since 2002.

He has conducted a range of operas, from Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute and Cosi fan tutte, to Wonderful Town.

He is also a composer and was commissioned to write music for a baritone, chorus and orchestra to memorialize the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. He composed an album of orchestral arrangements for Arlo Guthrie that were performed by the Boston Pops and at Carnegie Hall.

The spire of Trinity Church at right is now echoed by the Freedom
Tower, far left, on the World Trade Center site nearby.
The program notes for the U.S. Tour make clear that the Adès carol was commissioned by King's College Cambridge for its annual Carol Service. It was written when the composer, now 43, was only 26.

It displays a wide range of emotions relating to the Christmas Story, until the climactic ending at the birth of Jesus, bringing the audience to its feet in applause.

Stanford's "Latin Magnificat" that followed was beautiful in its own way, with a crisp Gregorian-chant sound from the male voices and a bell-like quality to the women's voices.

It was beautiful, but after the "Fayrfax Carol" it was a bit anti-climactic. Every audience is a different, but for this one, I think the program should have ended with the Adès Carol.

For those who didn't get to hear the Schola in New York, you will now have to travel to another city to listen to them.  Make the trip, or pay more attention when they come to New York again.

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