BRATTLEBORO >> Susan Dedell, now in her 26th season directing the Brattleboro Concert Choir, has been putting together concert programs long enough to know to follow her gut when choosing pieces. She said, "I don't so much actively seek possible music to program — although I think I'm usually alert to what is out there. But the music seems to find me, or at the very least — we find each other. As in with this program — when it is right — it is very exciting, it is fun, and full of potential. What will happen along the way between 'finding' the music and the concert? Hopefully, a lot of magic." She loves putting these programs together, it is a form of creativity making a whole out of parts, done on a subconscious level that you just know it when it is right. And "Luminous Night" is certainly done right. "I love this music." she said, "Something about this concert is personal. It's about things that I have thought about in dark times – we have all thought about in dark times, it is moving and exciting,"
"Luminous Nights" began to take shape when she first heard a piece by up-and-coming Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo and loved it, wanting to include his work in her next concert. British composer John Tavener's spiritual piece "Svyati," a solemn Russian Orthodox piece with insight into death on a larger level of consciousness, not in a morbid way, but magical and reverent – for her – spoke to Gjeilo's "Luminous Night of the Soul." So, along with Gjielo's "Dark Night of the Soul" and "Serenity," a theme was born and she went with it.
To round out the program she included American composer Morten Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium." "Ubi Caritas," "Sure on this Shining Night," and a beautiful new composition, "Prayer," all fitting right into the theme. These four pieces were chosen by Dedell because she finds them particularly moving. "They remind me that although I don't know where music comes from, and I certainly don't know where inspiration comes from, I do know that some music has the power to melt away the ice that sometimes seems to form around our hearts and minds. And I just don't think we can get enough of that." Dedell feels Lauridsen is the greatest living composer, that everything he does is beautiful; he has his finger on the universe. His works have been recorded on more than 200 CDs, five of which have received Grammy Award nominations.
Judith Serkin, a well known performer at the Marlboro Festival, and one of the original founders of the Brattleboro Music Center School, is the featured soloist in Tavener's "Svyati," written for a cappella choir and solo cello. Svyati is a dramatic and profoundly moving work, where the solo cello and choir have a dialogue as though between priest and choir in a service. The cello also represents the Icon of Christ, and the choir functions as the 'bells of heaven.' "Both the cello and the chorus are written with a huge tonal range, with extremely low tones in the men's voices, as well as some very high writing for the cello. The writing for the cello is narrative and vocal, while the choir may function more instrumentally – for instance when they create the effect of overlapping bells. The ambient affect of this piece is awe-inspiring," Dedell said.
Gjeilo's work is being presented in Brattleboro for the first time. A new, young composer, he is making a big splash around the world. Scored for chorus, string quartet and piano, his beautiful compositions are strongly influenced by his interest in movie film scores, with the goal of creating experiences to feel alive. "Gjeilo is a truly original voice, and one of the most exciting composers on the contemporary scene today." His compositions are performed by top professional choirs around the world, and his music is featured on the bestselling 2014 album Northern Lights.
Although each of these three composers has a different style, they are similar in the way they move the audience, and their work to be performed by the 90-voice Brattleboro Concert Choir known for its moving performances. Dedell said, "I am delighted to have pianist Brian Fairley on board for the concerts." The string quartet is comprised of Moby Pearson, violin, Michelle Lehninger, violin, Barbara Wright, viola, and Judith Serkin, cello. "Luminous Night" promises to be a magical concert, sure to transport and inspire.
About her choices for "Luminous Nights," Dedell said, "I love it. I love the way the music sounds or feels; I love the possible messages, images, or meanings of each piece of music; I love imagining how it might touch both the chorus and the audience."
"Luminous Night," by the Brattleboro Concert Choir featuring the music of these three extraordinary composers will take place on Saturday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Jan. 24 at 3 p.m, at Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main St., Brattleboro. Tickets are $15 general, and $10 students, available at the Brattleboro Music Center, 38 Walnut St., 802-257-4523 or online at bmcvt.org.