Brattleboro Concert Choir evokes a luminous night

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BRATTLEBORO >> On Saturday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Jan. 24 at 3 p.m,, the Brattleboro Concert Choir, directed by Susan Dedell, will present "Luminous Night," featuring the music of three extraordinary composers: Morten Lauridsen, John Tavener, and Ola Gjeilo. The concert combines the impressive Svyati of Tavener with four of Lauridsen's most beautiful compositions and introduces a trilogy of pieces from Ola Gjeilo.

The pieces in the program weave together to form a vivid musical impression, although each of the composers has a unique style. Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943) is treasured by singers and audiences alike for his ability to speak straight to the heart. In 2007 he received the National Medal of Arts "for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide." His works have been recorded on more than 200 CDs, five of which have received Grammy Award nominations.

The Choir will sing his O Magnum Mysterium; Ubi Caritas; Sure on this Shining Night, and a beautiful new composition, Prayer. In each instance, Lauridsen's musical approach is diverse, as he sensitively responds to the subject matter in the texts. But whether the inspiration is an ancient Gregorian chant or a contemporary poem, Lauridsen's sound is uniquely inspirational. 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 is particularly excited to introduce the riveting works of Ola Gjeilo to the Brattleboro audience. "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.

The Concert Choir will perform three of his recent works: Dark Night of the Soul, Luminous Night of the Soul, and Serenity. Scored for chorus, string quartet and piano, these pieces have a multidimensional sensory experience, which perhaps comes as a result of his stated inspiration and influence by films and contemporary film music.

According to Dedell, "Gjeilo's music is very 'present' – it speaks directly to us on a very physical level, and, at the same time draws us towards the mystery – and magic – of our existence." "His writing for the strings and piano is fabulous, and is really at the core of both "Dark Night" and "Luminous Night". As a pianist, I LOVE playing these pieces, and I am delighted to have pianist Brian Fairley on board for the concerts." Fairley is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Wesleyan University. The string quartet is comprised of Moby Pearson, violin, Michelle Lehninger, violin, Barbara Wright, viola, and Judith Serkin, cello.

Judith Serkin 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'. It is a truly amazing composition.

Said Dedell, "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."

Judith Serkin is well known as a frequent performer at the Marlboro Festival, and was one of the original founders of the Brattleboro Music Center School. She began her cello studies in Puerto Rico with Marta Casals Istomin and continued with David Soyer, of the Guarneri Quartet, at the Curtis Institute of Music. She is a local treasure.

This is Dedell's 26th season directing the Brattleboro Concert Choir. The 90-voice Choir is known for its diverse programming and moving performances. "Luminous Night" promises to be a magical concert, sure to transport and inspire.

"Luminous Night" will be performed at the Centre Congregational Church, Main St., Brattleboro. Tickets are $15 and $10 students. Tickets and Information at Brattleboro Music Center, 38 Walnut St. 802-257-4523; bmcvt.org


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