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by Daniel Hathaway

QuireCircleWebOn Friday evening, September 26 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, Ross W. Duffin led the 22 professional singers of Quire Cleveland in a splendid survey of music by fifteenth and sixteenth-century composers who were born in the region we now call Belgium.

In other hands, the program, titled “The Flower of Flanders: Masterpieces of Renaissance Polyphony,” might have been like sitting through a fact-filled lecture in a music history course. In Duffins’s case, it turned out to be more like visiting a beautifully-curated, special exhibit in an art museum, perhaps one where the sixteen “pictures” on the walls, like something out of Harry Potter, came alive and sang to you as you approached them, each revealing the distinct personalities of their creators as well as the surprising range of their individual musical styles. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Quire-St-Peters-Elaine-SiegelQuire Cleveland will begin its 2014-2015 season under its founder and artistic director Ross W. Duffin with three performances of “The Flower of Flanders: Masterpieces of Renaissance Polyphony.” The concerts, which will concentrate on Franco-Flemish composers of the fifteenth and sixteenth century including Josquin, DuFay, Lassus and Ockeghem, will take place on Friday, September 26 at 7:30 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, on Saturday, September 27 at 7:30 pm at Mary Queen of Peace Church in Old Brooklyn, and on Sunday, September 28 at 4:00 pm at Historic St. Peter’s Church in downtown Cleveland. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CityMusic-Schubert-Rehearsal

Quire Cleveland joined CityMusic Cleveland for a brisk, expressive performance of a gorgeous late Schubert work led by CityMusic music director Avner Dorman at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights on Wednesday, May 14. This was the opening concert of five that the two ensembles will present around the metropolitan area this week. (Rehearsal pictured above.)

Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E-flat, written during the last month’s of the composer’s life, rarely gets heard these days. That’s a great pity. Though ill, Schubert found alluring and often surprising ways to set ancient liturgical texts, and applied his recent lessons in counterpoint to some of the most inventive fugues since J.S. Bach’s. The E-flat mass offers a long sequence of gorgeous melodies, innovative textures, arresting harmonies and enthralling conversations between chorus and orchestra. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

DORMAN-Avner2“I always knew that Bach was my favorite composer,” said CityMusic artistic director Avner Dorman, “but these days I think it’s Schubert. That’s how much I like this piece!”

The work Dorman was referring to in a recent telephone conversation is Franz Schubert’s Mass in E-flat, written in 1828, the last summer of the composer’s life, on commission from the choirmaster of the Alserkirche in Alsergrund, a suburb just north of Vienna’s Innere Stadt. That church was the venue for Beethoven’s funeral the year before (Schubert served as a torch-bearer).

Alas, the composer didn’t live long enough to hear the last of his six masses performed; its premiere ultimately took place in October of 1829 under the direction of his brother, Ferdinand. This week, Avner Dorman will lead CityMusic and Quire Cleveland in five performances of the E-flat Mass around the metropolitan area, beginning on Wednesday, May 14. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hathaway

Quire-@-St-PeterRoss Duffin and the twenty voices of Quire Cleveland turned their attention to nearly three hundred years of American music on Sunday afternoon at Historic St. Peter Church in downtown Cleveland, visiting some well-known tunes in lesser-known packaging and dusting the cobwebs off some fine music that deserves to come down out of the attic and be heard once again.

Duffin led off with his own four-part arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner, probably the first time most members of the audience had heard — or even been aware of — all four of its stanzas. The arrangement was artful even if some of Francis Scott Key’s verse is overwrought (and lines like Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution challenged the normally admirable diction of the group).

The antebellum first half of the program included stern Puritan psalms from The Bay Psalm Book nicely softened and varied by Duffin’s arrangements, a set by William Billings and his circle that included the well-known round, When Jesus wept, and I am the Rose of Sharon, plus two amusing choruses about music-making, Daniel Read’s Down steers the bass, and Billings’s Modern Music. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Quire-@-St-Peter'sCWRU music professor Ross W. Duffin has made his name as a scholar in several fields, among them, fifteenth-century Franco-Flemish music, English music of the Jacobean period and the study of historical tuning systems.

Recently, though, he’s become fascinated with early American music, a subject he’ll explore with the professional singers of Quire Cleveland in “The Land of Harmony: American Choral Gems from The Bay Psalm Book to Amy Beach,” to be presented at Christ Episcopal Church in Shaker Heights on Saturday, April 5 at 7:30 pm and repeated at Historic St. Peter’s Church in downtown Cleveland on Sunday, April 6 at 4 pm.

It all started when Duffin added early American carols by William Billings to Quire’s Christmas carol programs. “The singers mentioned how much they enjoyed that repertory,” Duffin said on the phone, “Billings just permeates you for hours afterward. It’s infectious music, primitive by European standards, but the directness of emotion is wonderful for singers and audiences.”

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By Daniel Hathaway

QuireTrinityRoss W. Duffin led Quire Cleveland in the first of three concerts in its annual “Carols for Quire from The Old & New World” series at Trinity Cathedral on Friday evening — a performance that will surely be counted as one of the brightest choral highlights of the holiday season.

Taking a new tack for the series’ fifth edition, Duffin constructed an intriguing program pairing older and newer carols on the same or similar texts that brought freshness to what is becoming a cherished Cleveland holiday tradition — and setting some new challenges for his excellent, 20-voice chamber choir, founded to sing period music but which has recently been stretching its vocal wings in the direction of more modern repertoire. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

QuireTrinitySince its founding, Quire Cleveland has presented concerts that connect audiences to the past through passionate performances of choral works from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque eras, and beyond. One highly anticipated concert is Quire’s annual performance of Carols for Quire. Beginning on Friday, December 20 with performances through Sunday, December 22 at Trinity Cathedral, Quire Cleveland under the direction of Ross W. Duffin, will present the 2013 edition of this popular annual event.

This is the fifth year in a row that we’ve done this, said Quire’s founding Artistic Director Ross W. Duffin. “It’s become a tradition. I think audiences have come to expect it and I know we certainly look forward to it.” Although Quire’s programs generally focus on early choral repertoire, this year’s Carols for Quire will be a bit of a departure for the ensemble. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

CMA-Virgin-and-ChildInspired by imagery of the Virgin and Child in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s medieval collection, Mother and Child, a progressive choral event, invites audiences to experience a stunning intersection of the aural and the visual in three different museum spaces on Saturday, December 14. Performers will include Quire Cleveland, led by Ross Duffin, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth and Children’s Choruses, directed by Lisa Wong, and the sopranos and altos of Trinity Cathedral Choir with brass and organ conducted by Todd Wilson.

At 2:00 pm in the Reid Gallery, Quire Cleveland will begin with a work from the 15th century, There is no rose, followed by Josquin des Prez’s Ave Maria, which Duffin describes as one of the composer’s iconic works. The performance continues with an extended piece in carol form from the Court of Henry VIII, Quid petis, o fili? byRichard Pygott. “It’s about Mary speaking to her child,” says Duffin. “It’s an intimate, imagined conversation and very appropriate to the Mother and Child theme.” A Spanish Christmas piece from the 16th Century, E la don don, was printed in Venice in 1556 in the Cancionero de Upsala and survives in only one copy. Duffin says it’s a lively piece that will feature solos by Quire’s male singers. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

QuireJohn, son of Louis from the town of Palestrina, essentially became the official composer of the Church of Rome when he was appointed as master of the papal choir (Cappella Giulia) at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1551 and had come to represent the culmination and perfection of Renaissance polyphony by the time he died in 1594. He wrote as many masses as Haydn wrote symphonies, as well as hundreds of motets, offertories and hymns for use in the Roman Rite.

Quire Cleveland gave a large audience just a taste of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s vast trove of liturgical music on Saturday evening, May 25 at Historic St. Peter’s Church in downtown Cleveland when guest conductor Jameson Marvin conducted the 22 professional singers in what is probably Palestrina’s most famous mass setting, its movements interspersed with six motets, five of them on Marian texts. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

MARVIN-JamesonQuire Cleveland will celebrate Memorial Day weekend with an all-Palestrina concert at Historic St. Peter’s Church in downtown Cleveland on Saturday evening, May 25. Quire’s founders, Ross W. Duffin and Beverly Simmons, have invited a distinguished choral specialist to guest conduct the professional ensemble for the occasion: Jameson Marvin, who retired last year after thirty-two years as director of choral activities at Harvard, including the Harvard Glee Club, the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum and the Radcliffe Choral Society (Marvin’s last Cleveland appearance was with the Glee Club in March of 2010).

The Quire Cleveland invitation came about through personal connections, he told us in a phone call from his home in Lexington, MA. “Ross and Bev’s son David sang with the Collegium when he was at Harvard. They came to several concerts and really liked what we were doing, especially with Renaissance polyphony. Interestingly, I had met Bev at workshops I offered in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the summer of 1979 and 1980. The fact that Ross and Bev went to Stanford the same time I did means that we see things similarly, though they’ve gone much more in depth into musicological areas and I into performance areas. When they came to Cambridge, I would see Ross after concerts and he told me about Quire Cleveland and invited me to come and conduct the group at some convenient time.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

QuireTrinityThose of us who love choral music have much to be grateful for at the holidays. When else in the year do we hear so much wonderful ensemble singing?

For at least six hundred years, Christmas has been the occasion for composers to write for choirs. Last weekend, Ross Duffin and Quire Cleveland brought us a rich program of mostly unfamiliar treasures. I attended Sunday afternoon’s concert, for which Trinity Cathedral’s seats were mostly full, and during which the sun streamed through the stained-glass windows.

Quire, now in its fifth year, is an ensemble of twenty highly accomplished singers. Their sound was crystal clear, with crisp diction and uniform vowels. They sang with remarkable ease in five languages—Latin, German, French, Spanish, and English—sometimes at breakneck speed, as in Michael Praetorius’s delightful German/Latin “patter song,” Psallite, unigenito. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway & Mike Telin

AF Sacrum CDThere should be a musical equivalent of the “locavore” movement to tag those who prefer to buy and listen locally. Here are some CDs by Northeast Ohio groups or, in one case, an ensemble that sang a memorable concert earlier this Fall at Oberlin, which are well worth considering for your eleventh-hour shopping lists.

Apollo’s Fire: Sacrum Mysterium: A Celtic Christmas Vespers. As much of a liturgist as she is a music director, Jeannette Sorrell enjoys placing musical selections within a ritual structure. In Sacrum Mysterium, the floor plan is a 13th century Vespers preserved in the Sprouston MS in Glasgow attributed to St. Kentigern, the city’s patron — but before, during and after, the program takes detours to explore wonderful Scottish and Gaelic carols, lullabies, folk music and other tunes ranging from medieval chant to 18th century jigs and reels, creating an irresistible mix of Celtic-inspired music. Apollo’s Fire’s excellent collaborators are Sylvain Bergeron and his Montréal-based Ensemble La Nef, who are well-known for putting together their own programs seamlessly uniting period art and folk music (whose borders are remarkably porous). (Read a full review here). —DH Read the rest of this entry »

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STAFF
Daniel Hathaway
founder & editor
Mike Telin
executive editor
Jarrett Hoffman
assistant to the editors

CORRESPONDENTS
James Flood
J.D. Goddard
Jarrett Hoffman
Nicholas Jones
Timothy Robson
Robert & Gwyneth Rollin
Alexandra Vago
Tom Wachunas