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- Os justi — Anton Bruckner
The Os justi by Bruckner is choral bread and butter, and one of the first pieces I remember falling in love with. On a high school choir tour, the conductor added me at the last minute to join in singing this piece with the older kids. I was so excited that I snuck out of my hotel room after “lights out” to practice it by the pool so I could sing it memorized with the others. Sorry, fellow Los Angeles travelers in 2007! I think my choral music nerdiness was made official that night.
- Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal – Paul Mealor
We sang this Paul Mealor setting at our annual Utah Chamber Artists Cathedral Collage Concert in 2017. This is one of those moments I will forever associate with being part of the UCA family: standing with my friends in a darkened cathedral, singing for what felt like just ourselves. No distractions, no flashy staging or lights, just sharing this beautifully intimate moment with one another. In moments like that, I can feel those who sang this piece before us and those who will sing it after us. It seems to live on in eternity.
- Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis), Kyrie – chant
I have been working in different capacities for the Cathedral of the Madeleine since 2014, and for about the first two years I would break into a sweat every time I had to sight-read Gregorian chant! Now I am grateful to say that it feels like it is part of me. This particular Mass setting, “Mass of the Angels,” sings to my spirit.
- Salve Rociera – Manuel Pareja Obregón
At the Cathedral of the Madeleine, this traditional piece is sung every year at the Las Mañanitas Vigil for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is one of my favorite services of all time: think joyful music with a Mariachi band, colorful traditional dress, and even Aztec dancers that ring in well after midnight.
- Ave Regina Caelorum – Philip Stopford
This simple setting of Ave Regina Caelorum by Philip Stopford allows the breathtaking text to take center stage: “Hail, O Queen of Heaven… from whom unto the world a light has arisen… Lovely beyond all others, Farewell, most beautiful maiden, and pray for us to Christ.” The downbeat of “Gaude, virgo gloriosa” feels and sounds like a beam of light connecting and grounding all of us simultaneously to this beautiful Earth and to the heavens.
- Nunc Dimittis – Gustav Holst
Holst’s Nunc Dimittis is a piece we frequently program at the Madeleine Choir School. The higher parts are sung by male and female treble voices (grades 5-8). And when their voices have changed, the young men sing the tenor/bass lines together with adult male section leaders. We are fortunate to have really talented young singers, and hearing that specific timbre of young voices (especially boy sopranos) on those moving lines near the end is out-of-this-world. Listening to those voices inside the cathedral is unreal.
- Earth Song – Frank Ticheli
This pandemic has put so much into perspective for me, and these lyrics from Frank Ticheli’s Earth Song could have been taken straight from my heart: “… music and singing have been my refuge, and music and singing shall be my light.”
- Sacred Service, mvt 1 & 3 – Ernest Bloch
Bloch composed his Sacred Service in a way that leaves you feeling as if you are experiening an actual synagogue service, from the baritone cantor to the sweeping lines that come directly from the Sabbath morning service. With the almagamation of rich harmonies and vivid texts, this work remains one of my favorites to this day. I highly recommend listening to the entire service in one go to get the full effect. You can hear the history in the harmonies; what a truly special experience it is to listen to this live.
- Spaseniye Sodelal – Pavel Chesnokov
Apart from the obviously resplendent music that is Chesnokov, this piece, and in particular this recording, are very near to my heart. In 2011 I traveled with the Salt Lake Vocal Artists to Argentina for the 9th World Symposium on Choral Music. I was in choral-music-nerd heaven, and had the opportunity to meet many of my choral composer heroes. One day we had a few extra minutes during our warm-up before a performance in a tiny, humble church in Patagonia, and this was the resulting live recording. If you listen very closely you can hear the sounds of traffic in the street, the church doors opening and closing as passersby came in to hear us, and even the sound of delight from a worshipper who had come in to pray. Having this audio snapshot has turned a somewhat ordinary moment on a busy day into one of my most cherished and vivid memories.
- African Sanctus – David Fanshawe
I remain firm in my belief that I have NEVER in my life heard music more joyful than this African Sanctus. The idea for this work was born when composer David Fanshawe was sitting in a Christian church in Egypt, and heard the call to prayer coming from a nearby mosque. He had the idea to combine the two sounds, and between 1969 and 1973 he recorded live instances of traditional African music from Egypt, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya. Since the work incorporates those original recordings, performances are quite complicated. The conductor must align exactly with a click track to make sure the recorded traditional music is in sync with the live performers. Some scholars have seen the African Sanctus as an exploitation of indigenous music, but I feel the composer has honored it beautifully, and shown the world that there is more than one way to celebrate life and praise God. It’s not all sitting in pews, singing hymns in quiet voices.
- Lift thine eyes – Felix Mendelssohn
This Mendelssohn piece is one of my favorites because although it’s quite simple and short, each voice gets a chance to shine. It is just the right level of challenging for young people still learning to be independent on their part, and it has some truly beautiful harmony. It’s sweet and lovely and one of my favorite pieces to see on an assignment music list for work at the choir school.
- Jesus Chris the Apple Tree – Elizabeth Poston
This piece stops time when I hear it – something about that octave jump and the relatively low melody throughout is just exceptionally transcendent to me, and I almost don’t dare to breathe for fear of interrupting the experience. Sometimes the quietest and most simple voice is exactly what this world needs to hear.
- Ave Verum Corpus – Colin Mawby
When I am performing this Ave Verum Corpus, I literally have to think about anything EXCEPT what I am singing, because it is so beautiful to me that emotion overtakes me and I am unable to sing. In fact, that is a bit of a performer’s secret: if I am singing with emotion but not TOO much emotion, it’s because I’m thinking about hamburgers or TV or something – anything – to not let myself go overboard. When I am fortunate enough to be in the audience and hear this work, I let the tears flow freely. This is another time-stopper for me.