Newly Formed Quire Cleveland Will Focus on A Cappella Early Music

Cleveland is about to acquire Quire Cleveland, a professional choral ensemble devoted largely to a cappella works from the late medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras. The group’s music director will be Peter Bennett, a British-born music faculty member at Case Western Reserve University and a conductor-scholar with extensive experience in early music.

The 18-member Quire, whose name is a 16th-century spelling of choir, will make its debut Wednesday, Sept. 24, at St. John Cathedral in downtown Cleveland with “Sing Joyfully!” The free program will comprise sacred choral music from Tudor England, including William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices and pieces by Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Weelkes.

Quire’s second concert of the season, at Case’s Harkness Chapel in March, on a date to be announced, will be a program of Renaissance choral music. The ensemble also has been invited to sing in Schubert’s “Stabat Mater” and Mass in G major with CityMusic Cleveland and music director James Gaffigan during concerts May 5-10, 2009, at six area locations.

Origins

The ensemble is the brainstorm of Bennett and three other prominent area early-music champions: Beverly Simmons and Case faculty member Ross Duffin, founders of the university’s Chapel, Court & Countryside series; and countertenor John McElliott. As founding board members, they have supplied the start-up money for Quire.

“It became clear that there is a desperate need for a professional choir in Cleveland,” said Duffin, who coined the name Quire, as he did Apollo’s Fire for the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra led by Jeannette Sorrell.

Quire, which will embark on reading sessions in June, will include members of Apollo’s Singers, the chorus that performs with Apollo’s Fire; the Case Early Music Singers, a group Duffin leads; and soloists from area churches. Duffin, Simmons and McElliott are members of Apollo’s Singers.

The Music Director

Bennett, who has played harpsichord in Apollo’s Fire performances, said his “comfort zone” is the 16th and 17th centuries. But he said it is possible Quire someday also might perform new music.

Born near London, Bennett was an organ scholar at Cambridge University, and he holds a doctorate from Oxford University. He also studied organ and conducting at the Hochschule fur Musik in Vienna and harpsichord at Academia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy.

In 1995, he founded Ensemble Dumont, a consort of singers, viols and continuo. Bennett, who joined the Case faculty in 2005, has made compact discs, and he has several books in the works.

Although trained in British choral tradition, Bennett said Quire won’t necessarily adhere to the “cathedral-type sound” he absorbed during his education.

“I don’t absolutely detest vibrato,” he said, commenting on the vibrato-free style embraced by many early-music performers.

Instead, Bennett intends Quire to take a more expressive and flexible approach.

Aside from Apollo’s Singers, a group that only performs with Apollo’s Fire, the region has been without a professional choir since the demise of the Robert Page Cleveland Singers in 1998 after 15 years on the local scene.

To reach Donald Rosenberg:
drosenberg@plaind.com, 216-999-4269

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