One of my favorite performing groups, the Bay Choral Guild, began a three-night series of concerts featuring choral music written by living, West coast composers. This unusual format produces what I think is one of the richest and most deeply-textured performances by BCG in recent memory. The unifying motif for the music we heard this evening encompassed a wide range of musical styles, as well as different kinds of texts set to music. However, most of the pieces were based on either some kind of love poetry or sacred verse or hymn. The work of thirteen composers, including BCG Artistic Director Sanford Dole, was represented on the program.
There were several pieces that were remarkable, and some that were simply thrilling. One that I rather liked was “The Dimensions of Love” composed by L. Peter Deutsch, who is also a member of BCG. This piece is based on a poem of the same name by E. E. Cummings. However the piece immediately following by Morten Lauridsen was, for me, the highlight of the evening. “Soneto de la Noche” is an incredibly powerful and touching meditation on love, desire, parting, and death. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a piece of music with such emotional force and content, and ably sung. The lyrics are in Spanish, but the program provided a haunting translation by Nicholas Lauridsen.
The second half of the program began with Robert Kyr’s “Canticle of the Brother Sun” by St. Francis of Assisi. Sung in Latin with a translation provided by Kyr, this was one of the longer pieces but did not seem so. St. Francis was also represented by the famous “Prayer of St. Francis” adapted to music by Sanford Dole. I also personally enjoyed Kurt Erickson’s “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” from the liturgy of St. James, a very moving setting for this well-known standard.
There will be two more performances of this program: Saturday, 19 March at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal church in San Francisco, and on Sunday, 20 March in Palo Alto at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Tickets are available at the door, and please do consider making a generous donation to this excellent member of the Bay Area cultural scene.