Tenebrae at Brigham Young University

Back in May, after tour with BYU Singers was over, I had the chance to attend a concert in the tiny village of Mayfield, England where I heard one of the finest performances of my life.  The ensemble performing was Tenebrae, conducted by Nigel Short.  In the course of that evening they performed masterpieces like “The Evening Watch” by Holst, “Funeral Ikos” by Tavener, and “Requiem” by Howells.  It was one of the most in-tune and expressive performances I’ve ever heard.  That evening, I was filled musically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

I’ve been a huge fan of theirs since I first purchased their Figure Humaine CD where they recorded choral works by Francis Poulenc. While they were performing in the “dry-as-a-bone” de Jong Concert Hall (a much less generous venue then they usually sing in), they absolutely filled the space.  It’s difficult to sing in Utah.  The high elevation, little oxygen and low humidity make it a challenge for residents, let alone visitors from a place like England.  Regardless, these incredible musicians stepped up to the plate and delivered with flying colors.

Their program was mostly Orthodox/Liturgical music from the great Russian masters, with a few contemporary pieces by Mealor and Pärt.  When I first saw how much Russian they were doing, I must admit that I was a bit let down.  I like Russian music, but I’m not exactly a die-hard fanatic.  However, the selections they chosen and the way that Nigel Short ordered and paced the program was stunning.  They made that literature compelling and riveting.  This choir performs Russian Orthodox music as if it was their own heritage.

In addition, two choirs from BYU, Concert Choir and Singers, were able to perform with Tenebrae.  It was a proud moment, as an alum of both those choirs, to see my friends singing along side my heros (well . . . they’re all my heros).  Nigel Short and Tenebrae were extremely gracious and generous to invite our choirs from BYU to join them, and our choirs were inspiring the way they rose to the occasion to perform so poised and professionally.  I was filled with pride (as well as a great deal of jealousy!).

This was their program:

Priidite, poklonimsya (All-Night Vigil) – Serge Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Great Litany (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom) – Serge Rachmaninoff

The Cherubic Hymn – Serge Rachmaninoff

Blazhen muzh (All-Night Vigil) – Serge Rachmaninoff

Izhe Heruvimi, op. 9, no. 7 – Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944)

I will love thee – Vasily Kalinnikov (1866-1901)

Now Sleeps the Crimson Pedal – Paul Mealor (b. 1975)

Lady, When I behold the Roses Sprouting – Paul Mealor

Upon a Bank – Paul Mealor

A Spotless Rose – Paul Mealor

Salvator Mundi (with BYU Concert Choir) – Paul Mealor

– Intermission –

Bogoroditse Devo (with BYU Singers) – Serge Rachmaninoff

The Beatitudes – Arvo Pärt (b. 1935)

Locus iste – Paul Mealor

Ubi Caritas – Paul Mealor

Svete tihi – Pavel Chesnokov

Nÿne otpushchayeshi – Serge Rachmaninoff

Legend (The Crown of Roses) – Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Otche nash – Nikolay Kedrov (1871 – 1940)

Vzbrannoy voyevode (All-Night Vigil) – Serge Rachmaninoff

If you have the opportunity to hear them live, don’t think about it, JUST GO!  You will not regret it.  If they’re not close to you in proximity, you should purchase their recordings.  If you’re going to ACDA this spring in Dallas, they are performing two concerts.  Make them a priority.  I count down the days until their next performance.

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