Choral Society of the Hamptons Previews Spring

The Choral Society of the Hamptons is presenting their latest concert this Sunday, March 30, at 5 p.m. at East Hampton’s First Presbyterian Church. The group will perform under the direction of guest conductor Walter Klauss, and will be joined by soprano Mary Hubbell, mezzo-soprano Barbara Fusco, tenor Nathan Siler, and baritone Michael Maliakel. The South Fork Chamber Ensemble will provide instrumental accompaniment.

The concert, titled “Viva Vivaldi,” will feature Vivaldi’s Gloria, a perennial favorite, as well the cantata Gott ist mein König by J.S. Bach and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ravishing Five Mystical Songs. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. The youth rate, for children 18 and under, is $10.

The concert promises to be a crowd-pleaser: the balance of highly accessible works for the uninitiated  along with a seldom-heard early work by the German Baroque master J.S. Bach offers a great opportunity for music-lovers to share their love with someone who may not know how great this music can be.

On an imaginary Top 40 list of the most popular choral repertoire (there probably is one out there somewhere!), Vivaldi’s Gloria would be near the top. It’s a textbook example of a Baroque-style choral work. Full of energy, downright danceable in its rhythmic vitality, and full of memorable tunes, Vivaldi’s setting of the Gloria from the Mass expresses all of the joy and wonder of the text.

If you were eager to introduce a young person to the beauties of classical music, you couldn’t do much better than Vivaldi’s Gloria. It is divided into 12 relatively brief movements—perfect for those who aren’t used to concentrating for long stretches—and most of the movements are quite lively. Many of the movements also have wonderfully distinctive and striking elements that make them memorable. Number 5, for example—the “Propter magnam gloriam,” for those keeping track—combines an incisive pulse with a chromatically descending tune that qualifies as an “earworm” of the first magnitude. Then there are the irresistible galloping rhythms of number 7, the “Domine, Fili unigenite.” Even when the piece becomes more somber, as in the sinuous number 2 “Et in terra pax,” there’s an urgency in the music that keeps the mind from wandering.

Somewhat less familiar, though equally compelling in their own way, are the Five Mystical Songs by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. These settings, of religious poems by the great Welsh-born English poet and priest George Herbert, were composed between 1906 and 1911. The songs partake of Vaughan Williams’ uncanny ability to write melodies that sound at once fresh, and yet as if they had always existed, drawing on the modal scales of English folk song and reflecting a deep understanding of what feels natural to the human voice. While the songs are quite brief, some of them—especially “Love Bade Me Welcome” and “The Call”—are so stunningly beautiful that they have the capacity to reduce even the most jaded listeners to tears in very short order. Bring tissues.

The Choral Society is taking their German out for a spin with Bach’s cantata Gott ist mein König. In recent years, Hamptonites have been the beneficiary of our local choral society’s determination to delve into the less familiar repertoire. In the U.S., this typically means, among other things, avoiding music in the German language, as amateur groups tend to shy away from the pronunciation issues that crop up. Not so the Choral Society of the Hamptons! It seems like ever since they tackled Brahms’ German Requiem they’ve been fearlessly diving into the deep end of the German choral repertoire. Gott ist mein König is among the earliest extent cantatas of Bach, and as an early work it is somewhat shorter and simpler than later cantatas became. I look forward to hearing this infrequently performed work.

Presale tickets are available on the Choral Society’s website, choralsocietyofthehamptons.org, or by calling the Choral Society at 631-204-9402.

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