March 8, 9 and 10 are important dates for your calendar! The second of our 40th Anniversary season concerts, The Divine Liturgy, presents Schnittke’s Concerto for Choir and selections from Rachmaninoff’s Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. BCG performed the Liturgy a decade ago and Rachmaninoff’s other major sacred choral work, the All-night Vespers, three times before that.
While a few choristers read Cyrillic, most rely on the Musica Russica English transliteration to pronounce the words and a translation to grasp their meaning. For those who’ve performed the Liturgy or Vespers, singing in Church Slavonic, the traditional language of the Russian Orthodox Church, is a challenge, but at this point not much more so than singing the standard Latin and German texts of the classical repertoire. Those singing in Slavonic for the first time are on a steep learning curve but are drawn forward by the transcendent beauty of the music, which becomes more evident at each rehearsal, and by the skill of our Musical Director, Sanford Dole.
Schnittke’s Concerto, premiered in 1986 and regarded as one of the choral masterpieces of the 20th century, poses even greater challenges! Because the text was written before the year 990 by the Armenian mystic, Gregory of Nartek, the language is ancient Russian. In some places, as many as 16 voice parts – rather than four (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) or eight (double choir) are singing. Moreover, the Concerto uses the full vocal range, from soaring soprano to the lowest bass, giving it exceptional power and beauty. You won’t want to miss the rare opportunity to hear this masterpiece.
We’re now halfway through our ten weekly rehearsals, plus separate sectional rehearsals for the men and women. In an upcoming all-day workshop, Seattle-based composer, choral conductor, and ethnomusicologist Eric Banks will coach us on Russian and Slavonic pronunciation and performance practice, particularly for the Concerto. The remaining rehearsals will polish our performance. We will be ready and eager to share this wonderful music with you!