Te Deum Chamber Choir, an ensemble of 35 or so singers, led by founder, Matthew Christopher Shepard, gave an a unaccompanied performance of song literature from the 16th Century to contemporary, Monday evening, Nov. 16, in Kansas City’s reverberant Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The music was scheduled in a sequence that challenged audience ears, then soothed.
The evening began with Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) and his brisk Cantate Domino a 12. It was energetic, three beats in one, but still legato.
Pavel Chesnokov’s (1877-1944) sustained “Salvation is Created,” was marked by open, blended lower voices and floating high soprano voices that augmented without dominating. The final verse of the English version was a graceful Alleluia, Amen.
Edward Elgar (1857-1934) provided “Go, Song of Mine.” The overly prominent soprano typical of English choral music was avoided. The choir moved as one in urgency and release as well as dynamics.
Steven Sametz (1852-1924) composed a lovely, contrapuntal setting of e. e. cummings’ (1894-1962) “in time of,” which abstracted the abstract text into a woven textured statement of its own. The short cantata ventured from very loud to very soft and remained as controlled by one group mind.
Another Chesnokov piece followed in Russian, his setting of Psalm 143:10, Duh Tvoy Blagiy (Let they good spirit). Its internal drive never exceeded andante, although it seemed to want to speed.
Privilege, by Ted Hearne (b.1982) is a five movement work with various sources, which, as in the Sametz piece, abstracts plain English with sound extention, ostinato repetition of individual words, both by themselves, and as a reinforcing accompaniment for additional text. He delves into various aspects of modern life: 1. motive/mission, 2. casino (really) 3. burning tv song, 4. they get it (education of our kids) and 5. we cannot leave.
Hearne writes very much in the modern idiom, dissonant counterpoint, through-composed songs with what seems little regard of a tonal center. The pieces in presentation are appropriate for the 21st Century thoughts, and were produced with clarity and unity of the whole sound.
Brahms’ Warum ist das Licht gegeben, (listed as “light”) Motet, Op 74 No 1.wmv, was a nice bit of relaxation for the ear that was done well, except for a couple of instances of baritone pressing. Sung in proper German, the text from the Bible (Job 3:20-23, Lamentations 3:41 and James 5:11) is a discussion of the values of life, concluding that devotion to God is the logical purpose of human life.
The evening was completed with Heavenly Home: Three American Songs (2012) by Shawn Kirchner (b. 1970). “Unclouded Day,”Angel Band,” and “Hallelujah,” maintained their Sacred Harp era Southern earthiness, using the built-in utility of fuging tunes with a contemporary touch. Kirchner did not challenge modern ears, but contained enough innovation to intrigue.
The good-sized crowd extended the final standing ovation. Chorus members and conductor Matthew Shepard made themselves available to speak with audience members after the program.