educating, uniting, enriching, and inspiring through choral music
Minnesota Orchestra review: Powerful pieces build one of most memorable concert experiences in 2019
By Rob Hubbard | Special to the Pioneer Press
PUBLISHED: November 14, 2019 at 3:59 pm | UPDATED: November 14, 2019 at 5:47 pm
Why haven’t I heard this before? Audience members at Thursday’s Minnesota Orchestra concert may have asked themselves that while filing out of Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall.
They’d just experienced a powerful performance of a moving musical work, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Dona Nobis Pacem,” a 45-minute epic cantata for orchestra, choir and two vocal soloists. The orchestra was joined not only by the Minnesota Chorale, but singers with whom it collaborated on its 2018 tour of South Africa, the Gauteng Choristers and 29:11, as well as two vocal soloists, one South African, the other American.
It proved an awe-inspiring experience, a profoundly heartfelt reflection on the price of war and the value of life. Capping a program that included the U.S. premiere of a new cello concerto by one of the most distinctively voiced of contemporary composers, Australia’s Brett Dean, and a brief but very rewarding encounter with the music of Jean Sibelius that conductor Osmo Vanska and the orchestra play so well, it proved one of the most memorable concerts Twin Cities audiences will experience in 2019.
So why is it that you probably haven’t heard of this “Dona Nobis Pacem” from the pen of a 20th-century English composer best known for such involving works as “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” and “The Lark Ascending”? Well, when it premiered in 1936, the rise of fascism had Europe on edge about the prospect of impending war.
Vaughan Williams remained marked by his experiences as an ambulance driver during World War I, and he set out to fashion a large-scale plea for peace. But a text and music that convey the ugliness of war, the common humanity of the victorious and defeated, and the ensuing inescapable grief surely came to be considered the opposite of an armed forces recruiting call when German bombs starting falling on England. It didn’t fit with the tenor of the times and is seldom heard today.
Thank goodness that the Minnesota Chorale’s artistic director, Kathy Saltzman Romey, pitched it to the Minnesota Orchestra as an ideal vehicle for a collaboration with their South African colleagues. Thursday’s midday concert confirmed it to be a compelling evocation of the conflicting spirits of peace and warfare.
The contrast was never more gripping than when South African soprano Goitsemang Lehobye’s urgent pleas for peace stood defiantly after the drums of war had fallen away. Or when bass-baritone Dashon Burton sang of death with both strength and gentleness. For me, the attempted sense of triumph in the work’s final movement felt forced and not nearly as impactful as the sadness expressed in most of the piece (Vaughan Williams’ issue, not the performers’). But it lands in a sad, soft place that should touch even the hardest of hearts.
IF YOU GO
SAVE THE DATE: December 8th @ 6:30pm
PROOF IN THE PUDDING: CHOIR MATTERS
Tori Cook Apr 18, 2019
It's that time of year again when the powers that be are trying to make cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts.
Because the arts are so important to me and ingrained in my existence, it's difficult to remember that not everyone understands their value. Over the years, I've had to have several conversations with friends and family about the importance of the arts trying to convince them of their value. I'm sure many of you have too.
One thing that always stresses me out is trying to think on the spot of all of the scientific articles I've read in support of the arts and so, this time... I'm prepared. I'm just going to put it all out on the table here - a series of studies, journal articles, and defenses for the arts as well as singing itself.
This is your proof in the pudding that choir matters and arts matter.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
Join our chorus of supporters!
Your donation helps the Minnesota Chorale and our family of choirs to present concerts that enrich and inspire audiences with beauty, and enable us to offer programs that educate and unite people in Minnesota and beyond.