REVIEW: Pro Arte and Contemporary Vocal Ensemble – Music sung gloriously


Music sung gloriously

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer |
March 6, 2012


It was one of those reminder moments about how special Bloomington is as a mecca for the arts. On Sunday afternoon, the folks at the IU Art Museum kept adding chairs, and no matter how many they added, there were not enough to seat all those who came. So, the overflow visitors stood, downstairs in the atrium and up, surrounding the performers at every level and open spot.

The performers: members of both the Indiana University Pro Arte Singers and Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. Under their directors, William Jon Gray and Carmen Helena Tellez, they’d gathered to make music. And, oh, such music: music from the 16th and 17th centuries and music from the 20th; music of faith and praise; music that caressed and music with a bit of bite, all uplifting and sung gloriously.

In that museum atrium, the music rose and swirled and hovered. It whispered and shouted. It sank in and mesmerized. The two ensembles were in tip-top form, alternating between works from way back and those of our time. And what struck the mind and heart was the sense of continuity. Yes, there were differences in styles, in harmonies, in colors, but the selections merged into a current.

That current flowed from the sweet weave of Pro Arte voices in the “Miserere” of Gregorio Allegri to the heartfelt “Hear my Prayer, O Lord,” fashioned out of a Henry Purcell evocation by Sven-David Sandstrom, former member of the Jacobs School of Music’s composition department, and sung by the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, which then poured forth more of the now, Krzysztof Penderecki’s mystic, tonal homage to the past, “Ize cheruvimy” (“Song of Cherubim”).

The Pro Arte split itself in two for the Palestrina “Sanctus” and Monteverdi’s “Adoramus te, Christe” (“We adore Thee, O Christ”). And to finish the hour of song, the ensembles joined for the stirring eight-part polyphony of Thomas Tallis, his centuries-old “Spem in alium,” with its seamless offering of praise. “I have never placed my hope in any other but in You, O God of Israel,” the choristers exquisitely intoned in Latin.

The effect in the Tallis, as throughout, was as if all present had come together in a cathedral, a cathedral of art, those from every faith and, perhaps, the faithless, to revel in the glory of music. On a Bloomington Sunday afternoon, the music was, indeed, glorious. At the end, the applause rolled along with gathering intensity for what must have been a couple of minutes.

Copyright: 2012

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