Thrilling concert bridges centuries

The Spiritus Chamber Choir delivered a devotional program for the ages Saturday night at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.

The Spiritus Chamber Choir delivered a devotional program for the ages Saturday night at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.

From the holy minimalism of contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Part, to the baroque ebullience of Antonio Vivaldi, a program spanning three centuries was performed by 39 singers to mark the 20th anniversary of their Calgary choir.

Led by Spiritus music director and conductor Timothy Shantz, the celebratory concert included a 11-musician chamber orchestra and was presented as part of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra season.

Also on the program was the world premiere of Benedicte Dominum, a new 10-minute piece written by former Spiritus member Zachary Wadsworth.

Although the young composer now teaches music at Williams College in Massachusetts, he was back in Alberta this weekend to help the choir pull off his commissioned work in Red Deer.

“Being a composer’s great fun. You get to borrow and steal sounds,” said Wadsworth, who won an international competition to have his previous piece performed at Westminster Abbey in front of Queen Elizabeth II. ”But one of the challenges is going head-to-head with Vivaldi,” he admitted, to chuckles from the audience.

Vivaldi’s Gloria — a remarkable composition that’s never lapsed in popularity over the past 300 years — is undoubtedly a hard act to follow.

On Saturday, this 12-part sacred Italian baroque work was brought to life by the Spiritus Choir, featuring five talented soloists, and a mostly string orchestra that also included one trumpet and one oboe. Written for the hymn Gloria in excelsis Deo, whose words date likely from the 4th Century, Vivaldi’s choral piece from about 1715 swings from proclamations of joy to quieter passages that remain powerful, despite their peaceful timbre.

A lone trumpet heralded rejoicing, while the oboe helped create a sense of spiritual serenity. And soprano and alto soloists took turns performing between choral movements to add more shimmering colours to Vivaldi’s tuneful and brilliant work.

Gloria was a scene-stealer. But Wadsworth’s Benedicte Dominum was also embraced by the near full-house crowd.

Wadsworth’s modernist piece grabbed the audience’s attention from the start with bold strokes of violin bows. Rich choral voices were soon melding with calm, pastoral tones produced by the chamber orchestra (including some members of the RDSO).

Although Wadsworth kept the same D Major key as Vivaldi for his original composition, he chose not to use soloists. Instead the colourful verses were written for the whole choir to perform. But just as in Gloria, Wadsworth’s Benedicte Dominum alternated in mood, from serene to impassioned. And it ended in celebratory style.

The appreciative audience gave Wadsworth a standing ovation.

The evening started with Part’s Te Deum, a contemporary composition influenced by ringing bells. While the 30-minute work wasn’t as melodic as the other two compositions, its simple style, created with three-part choral arrangement, plinking piano and other and idiosyncratic instrumentals, was mesmerizing and hypnotic.

There was a meditative quality to the Gregorian-like chants and an ecstasy evoked by sweeping, piercing string parts. Unlike Vivaldi’s Gloria, which is purely devotional, Part’s Te Deum appears to juxtapose eternal divinity with a restless kind of humanity — which is more reflective of our time.

The Spiritus Chamber Choir and orchestra successfully bridged the centuries with this thrilling, contemplative concert.

Just Posted

Updated: Police seek driver who struck and killed mother of five

The pedestrian hit and killed on the Sunchild First Nation on Friday… Continue reading

Stettler county issues stop-work order to Paradise Shores

The County of Stettler says its municipal planning commission has issued a… Continue reading

Sylvan Lake improving its monthly water billing

The Town of Sylvan Lake is streamlining water billing for residents with… Continue reading

Red Deer campers make the best out of chilly start to May long weekend

A chilly start to the May long weekend didn’t stop Red Deer… Continue reading

May long weekend off to cold start in Red Deer

Central Albertans are kicking off the May long weekend with a chilly… Continue reading

WATCH: First Red Deer Market of 2019

The event is held every Saturday in the Servus Arena parking lot

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Stone scores hat trick as Canada dumps Germany 8-1 at world hockey championship

Canada 8, Germany 1 KOSICE, Slovakia — Canada extended its winning streak… Continue reading

Quebec credits new gun registry for huge jump in number of voluntary surrenders

MONTREAL — The Quebec government is crediting its new gun registry law… Continue reading

Two N.L. Independent say they look forward to minority government

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador’s recent election resulted in a… Continue reading

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

MONTREAL — A team of Montreal university researchers has developed an audible… Continue reading

Female lawmakers speak about rapes as abortion bills advance

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For more than two decades, Nancy Mace did not… Continue reading

Biden rejects Democrats’ anger in call for national unity

PHILADELPHIA — His party may be enraged by Donald Trump’s presidency, but… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $22 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $22 million jackpot… Continue reading

Most Read