Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review Of Rachmoninov's Vespers From The Tribune:

The weekend brought more Russian music, this from the Chicago Chorale, which lent its massed voices to the Eastern Orthodox Lenten celebration with a fervent performance of Sergei Rachmaninov's monumental "Vespers" — or, as it is properly called, "All-Night Vigil" — under director Bruce Tammen.
The composer's settings of 15 texts — nine based on existing chants, the other six consisting of original material he called "conscious counterfeits" — represent the crowning achievement of Russian Orthodox choral music. These a cappella hymns, psalms and prayers brought out some of his most inspired musical invention. They reveal an altogether different Rachmaninov from the composer we know from his piano concertos and symphonies.
Yet the challenges posed by the "Vespers" are great for Western choirs, standing as they do outside the music's ancient Russian sacred tradition, not to mention having to cope with the score's huge technical, musical, linguistic and expressive demands.
I cannot vouch for the absolute accuracy of Old Church Slavonic diction Tammen secured from his 64 amateur choristers but came away moved by the beauty and high professionalism of their performance Saturday at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Chicago's North Center neighborhood.
The resonant acoustics nourished a choral sound that was pinpoint of blend and intonation, yet was ever alert to rapid shifts of tempo, dynamics and register. Sonorities coalesced into a dark cloud one moment, opening into a luminous haze the next. The chorale's wholehearted engagement with the texts was never in question.
If Tammen's basses could not quite match the deep, tolling magnificence their Russian counterparts would bring to their low B flats, the bell-like pealing of the altos and tenors around the nicely reedy solo tenor of Bill McDougall made a most pleasing effect in the prayerful "Lord, Now Lettest Thou." The chorus' able finessing of the interlaced vocal parts and quick reiterations of text in "The Great Doxology" was another highlight. The Chicago Chorale will conclude its 15th anniversary season with a concert June 11 at Hyde Park Union Church.
John von Rhein is a Tribune critic.
Twitter @jvonrhein

Saturday, March 12, 2016

We Burned The Place Down In 2000

I had just finished my fourth year singing with CGMC. I was so excited to attend the festival, I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was my first GALA, and I was determined to enjoy the hell out of it.
From the second I got on the plane it was apparent that it was going to be an experience that I wouldn’t forget for my entire life. There were already a ton of guys from our chorus on the same flight. The flight stopped in Kansas City and there were at least 30 gay men that boarded the flight. It was a GALA party flight from then on!
What really sticks in my mind is the performance. I was nervous, as I didn’t know what to expect. When we filed on the stage, the anticipatory energy was palpable. I was immediately overwhelmed at seeing the entire hall completely filled for our concert. It was filled with gay men and women, all singers in choruses just like ours from around the country. That sight brought me nearly over the edge. I say nearly, because my attention was snapped quickly back to the task at hand when Patrick raised his hands for the downbeat of our first song.
What I remember most about our set is two things. Our performance of “In Whatever Time We Have” and the finale of our set. I can still remember hearing the sniffles from the audience crying as we sang in unison the last decrescendo phrase — “at least we’ll be together in whatever time we have.”‘ We were all balling with the audience.
Then came the finale. It was a “Les Miserables” mashup with uniquely relevant lyrics that only Patrick could write. It culminated with the triumphant “Do You Hear The People Sing?/One Day More” medley with the familiar choreographed steps and the rainbow flag raised high, flying side to side in the background. The audience went nuts! Applause like I’ve never heard in my entire life. It was overwhelming. It’s still overwhelming writing this nearly 16 years later.
It’s memories like these that last a lifetime and I can’t encourage you strongly enough to do everything you can to attend the Festival in Denver. I promise you’ll make memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
 . Here is the track of us singing "In Whatever Time We Have"

Monday, March 7, 2016

Senate #FAIL

March 7, 2016

Mr. William Rosen
Lombard, IL 60148-1176

Dear Mr. Rosen:

          Thank you for contacting me about political spending by fossil fuel companies and Senate Amendment #3125 to the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012).  I appreciate hearing from you.
          This amendment, offered by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, would require companies that generate more than $1 million in revenue from fossil fuel related activities to disclose spending, over $10,000, intended to influence the political process. 
          I voted in favor of this amendment, which would help bring more transparency to our political process.  The amendment ultimately failed in the Senate.
          Thank you again for contacting me.  Please feel free to keep in touch.


      Richard J. Durbin
      United States Senator