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by Daniel Hathaway

Blue-Heron-Choir

Scott Metcalfe will bring 14 singers from his Blue Heron Renaissance Choir in Boston to the Helen D. Schubert Concert Series at St. John’s Cathedral in downtown Cleveland on Friday evening, April 11 at 7:30 pm to sing music associated with Canterbury Cathedral in the last decade before the English Reformation.

The program will include an elaborate plainchant Kyrie (Deus creator omnium), a five-part mass by Robert Jones (Missa Spes nostra), and a votive antiphon by Robert Hunt (Stabat mater). “I’m quite sure that none of these pieces have ever been sung in Cleveland before,” Metcalfe said in a recent phone conversation.

The repertory is taken from the Peterhouse partbooks, a set of manuscript scores each containing music for a single voice part, which were probably copied around 1540 at Magdalen College, Oxford, for use at Canterbury Cathedral and now held at Peterhouse at Cambridge University.

They help fill in our knowledge of what was being sung in important English choral establishments between Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1541) and the Protestant movement that led to huge changes in musical styles by the end of that decade — after the Church of England cut its ties to Rome. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

West-Shore-ChoraleWhat to do about the Brahms Requiem? It’s one of the most beloved extended works in the choral repertoire, but what amateur choral society has the resources to put it on with full orchestra? Some settle for organ accompaniment, some for Brahms’s own arrangement for piano four-hands, but a lot of orchestral color goes missing.

For the West Shore Chorale’s performance of the Requiem at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Friday evening, March 14, conductor John Drotleff presented another solution: German flutist Joachim Linckelmann’s 2010 reduction of the orchestra score for just eleven players — string quartet plus double bass, standard woodwind quintet and timpani.

If that would seem to put the well-fed sonorities of Brahms on a drastic diet, consider a few other cases where composers have trimmed their resources and produced wonderful results — the chamber operas of Benjamin Britten come immediately to mind. Read the rest of this entry »

by Timothy Robson

TrotterThomas Trotter, for the past thirty years the Birmingham (England) City Organist, appeared at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland on Tuesday evening, November 19, for a recital sponsored jointly by St. John’s Cathedral, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and the Cleveland Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. It was an elegant and satisfying concert from beginning to end.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, before the invention of electronic recording devices, cities in Europe—especially in England—and the United States built large pipe organs in public auditoriums. These city-funded facilities were for the purposes of the musical education and entertainment of the citizens, especially in places where there was no symphony orchestra.

The city organist was expected to perform transcriptions of orchestral and chamber works, light and “novelty” music and patriotic marches, as well as literature written for the organ. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Stile-AnticoWhile Stile Antico, the twelve-voice, conductorless U.K. Ensemble, sings a variety of music from the Renaissance, the repertory for its outstanding program on the Helen D. Schubert Concert Series at St. John’s Cathedral on Friday evening came from a single source and was brought to you courtesy of Andrew Carnegie, the steel industry, and early twentieth-century philanthropy.

The source was the ten-volume collection, Tudor Church Music, inaugurated by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, one of over twenty foundations established by the Scottish-born industrialist, whom we also have to thank for the restoration of The Book of Kells, and a lot of public libraries and church organs.

Before “TCM,” the repertory of Tudor polyphony languished in cathedral and university libraries, pretty much forgotten because the music was written in one-for-each-voice part-books, rather than in score form where it could be seen as a whole and studied. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Stile-AnticoThe twelve-member British vocal ensemble Stile Antico will return for its second visit to the Helen D. Schubert Concert Series at St. John’s Cathedral in downtown Cleveland on Friday evening, October 11 at 7:30. The program this time, entitled “Phoenix Rising,” is devoted to church music of the English Renaissance, including William Byrd’s, Mass for Five Voices & Ave verum corpus, Thomas Tallis’s Salvator mundi & In ieiunio et fletu, Thomas Morley’s Nolo mortem peccatoris, Orlando Gibbons’s O clap your hands together & Almighty and everlasting God, Robert White’s Portio mea & Christe qui lux es, Thomas Weelkes’s, Gloria in excelsis Deo & John Taverner’s O splendor gloriae. The concert is free.

Most of Stile Antico’s singers — Helen Ashby, Kate Ashby, Rebecca Hickey, Emma Ashby, Eleanor Harries, Katie Schofield, Jim Clements, Andrew Griffiths, Benedict Hymas, Will Dawes, Tom Flint & Matthew O’Donovan — grew up in the choral tradition of the Anglican Church and many still sing professionally in cathedrals and parish churches. The ensemble operates without a conductor or artistic director, making Stile Antico unique among vocal ensembles of its size. The group also boasts three sisters among its members, two of them twins. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Fed-Church-ChoirThough The Ensemble from Federated Church in Chagrin Falls was the ultimate winner of the 2013 Jubilation! Elizabeth Stuart Church Choir Festival jointly sponsored by WCLV, 104.9 FM and the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, all six choirs took home a cash prize and a plaque as well as the invaluable experience of appearing with each other in a warmly supportive festival. The well-attended finals were held at St. John’s Cathedral on May 9 and 10 and judged by Robert Page, Frank Bianchi and Peter Jarjisian.

On Thursday evening, the Festival Choir of Gesu Parish in University Heights (27 singers) drew the opening slot. Directed by Joseph Metzinger with instrumental assistance from pianist Julia Russ and violinist James Thompson, the ensemble sang a range of music from repurposed Handel choruses to African Chants, a famous Sistine Chapel motet and a Mozart mass movement. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

St-Noel-ChoirIf you’re a church or synagogue-goer, your house of worship probably comes equipped with a choir. Whether they’re made up of amateur or professional singers or a mixture of both, hard-working choirs don’t get out to hear each other very often and have the opportunity to be inspired by other ensembles.

Half a dozen years ago the late Elizabeth Stuart, a WCLV account executive and a fine church choir soprano and soloist herself, decided to fix that. She came up with the idea of a choir festival to be sponsored by Cleveland’s classical FM station. Intended to foster quality choral singing in houses of worship in Northeast Ohio, the festival would also be a competition with prizes attached. After Stuart’s untimely death in December, 2010, WCLV renamed the church choir festival in her honor.

On Thursday and Friday, May 9 and 10 at 8 pm, the six finalists in the 2013 Jubilation! Elizabeth Stuart Church Choir Festival will sing their final rounds, three choirs each night, as part of the Helen D. Schubert Concert Series at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland. Both evenings will be broadcast live over WCLV, 104.9 FM and emceed by Bill O’Connell. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Broken-ConsortMusic from nunneries is the source for two fascinating concerts of early music by distinguished ensembles this month. On March 20, the Newberry Consort will celebrate the new gallery organ at the Church of the Covenant with late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century music from Spanish and Mexican convents.

Last Friday evening, the Boston-based Broken Consort visited the Helen D. Schubert concert series at St. John’s Cathedral in Cleveland to present a program of medieval Spanish music called “Burgos, 1275” featuring music from the royal Las Huelgas Convent, selections from the monophonic collection of Marian songs, the Cantigas de Santa Maria, and improvisations on Sephardic and Arabo-Andalucian tunes that brought all three of the prevailing Iberian cultural streams into the mix. It was an era in which three religious traditions flourished side by side and seem to have gotten along well. Their respective music certainly meshed perfectly during this concert, providing the five excellent singers and instrumentalists with a wealth of built-in variety and contrast. Read the rest of this entry »

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