Instant Karma

Listening to the presentation of Quire, the new professional a capella choir during their premiere performance, one had the impression that the joyful sounds could easily have soared to the very heavens, had not the beautifully ornate gothic roof of St. John’s Cathedral stood in the way. The concert was titled “Sing Joyfully,” appropriate as the first work performed was a piece by that name, from the composer William Byrd. Several other pieces by him were also presented, as were songs by Thomas Tallis, Thomas Weelkes and Orlando Gibbons. Englishmen all, they lived between perhaps 1505 to 1625. It is the sort of music that this sort of edifice displays in all its glory.

The program was subtitled Sacred Choral Music from Tudor England. Byrd and Tallis survived the trauma of Henry VIII and the rise of the Protestant faith, rather than the Catholic church in which they had been raised. This change also promoted the use of English texts rather than the previously used Latin.

The eighteen crystalline voices (with no vibrato at all) filled the huge space with ease, as they sang with the effect of one multi-voiced instrument. The long reverberation time allowed the pure sounds to slowly drift off into the distance, leaving the listener filled with a strong sense of peacefulness.

Some of the songs were in English, but most were in ecclesiastical Latin. Still, one didn’t need to discern the words for the meaning, so careful was the intonation and emotion expressed by singers and conductor. British-born CASE professor Peter Bennett and his new Quire are a welcome addition to Cleveland’s musical scene.

The audience in the nearly-full sanctuary was enthusiastic in responding to the music. Everyone — performers and audience — seemed to be wearing large and contented smiles at the conclusion. For information about the remainder of its busy season, visit the website http://www.quirecleveland.org.

This concert was part of The Helen D. Schubert Concert Series presented at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist during the year. For more information, visit http://www.saintjohncathedral.com.

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