Janet Podola, The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio — Dec 3, 2010
Some have the advanced Ph.D. degrees that accord them the title of doctor before their names. Others are church music ministers, college professors, or high school music teachers; and most have a surprisingly wide assortment of other professional callings, most relating to music. But all the members of Quire Cleveland are professional vocalists, organized for their second season of concerts in Northeast Ohio, and they’ll sing at 7:30 p.m. today at Trinity Cathedral, 2230 Euclid Ave., Cleveland.
They use their voices as the instruments to create their music instead of relying on accompaniment from traditional instruments, even though several of them play instruments outside the settings of Quire.
This evening’s 90-minute concert is titled “Carols for Quire from the Old & New Worlds.” The songs, many of them carols and sacred music, represent a huge variety of times, styles and lands — from works composed in New France, before it was named Quebec, to songs in the language of the Huron Indians.
“Our music director, Ross W. Duffin, is a scholar of music and has uncovered some of these works, which are centuries old, yet the music remains timeless,” said Quire spokeswoman Beverly Simmons, a mezzosoprano.
Duffin, one of the Quire members holding a doctorate degree, is a third-generation choral conductor. His grandfather was a professional countertenor in England, and his mother conducted her church choir. One of the vocal publications for which he is known is a study of all the songs from Shakespeare’s plays.
This professional ensemble of unaccompanied voices was assembled in 2008 to perform choral masterpieces of the late Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras. The name Quire is, in fact, the medieval spelling that evolved into today’s word “choir.”
Those who make a practice of taking in choral concerts will discover familiar faces among the group, the members of which forgo robes and costumes for simple black T-shirts and slacks.
Many of the 18 Quire members arrange and conduct concerts for churches, schools and other groups, so the holiday season is an extremely busy time for most of them. But their love for music is the motivating force that brings them together for rehearsals and concerts with other professionals as Quire.
“The thing I love most about singing together is that we are making music that none of us can do by ourselves,” says Simmons, adding that the Quire singers are as enriched by performing as the audience is enriched by hearing them.
Song is therapeutic, Simmons said. That’s a sentiment shared by other singers who find the very act of singing to banish anger or gloomy thoughts.
“Maybe it’s the deep breathing we do,” opined Simmons.
These professional musicians share a wide array of additional talents and earn their livelihoods in a variety of ways. Here are a few of them:
— Lisa Rainsong, a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music, also has a deep interest in nature and has incorporated that into a study of the songs of birds and insects. She’s taught classes on how to identify the different songs of creatures from katydids to cardinals and what they say with their music.
— Donna Fagerhaug lives in a 95-year-old farmhouse in Richmond Heights and serves as choir director for Celebration Lutheran Church in Chardon. She’s had classical training in languages and sings in Spanish, Hebrew, Swahili, Xhosa, Chinese, Korean and Urdu.
— Geauga County’s Wendy Duncan, a soprano, sings with the choir at Bainbridge Community United Church of Christ and serves as cantor for St. Joan of Arc Church in Chagrin Falls. She’s president of the Musical Arts Association at Kenston Schools.
— John McElliot manages the North American engagements for more than 30 concert organists and six choirs and was a choral scholar at Winchester Cathedral in England. A versatile vocalist, he sings alto, tenor and baritone parts with Quire.
Many of the vocalists teach high school and university courses in music. Ian Crane, who teaches choir and band at Holy Name High School in Parma, served as an instructor of bagpipes for Edinboro University. Tenor Peter Hampton, who teaches music for the Lakewood Public Schools, has sung in choirs all over the world, including performing at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Jonathan William Moyer holds a doctor of musical arts degree in organ from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and tenor David Simmons-Duffin, who is pursuing his doctorate in theoretical high energy physics at Harvard University, plays the Baraoque violin.
“The acoustics at Trinity Cathedral are gorgeous, and the setting is breathtaking,” Simmons said. “It’s the closest thing this region has to an English cathedral.”
She said the music of this concert transcends religious differences and that Quire members are of a variety of faiths, including Jewish. “It’s extremely moving music and important to those of all different backgrounds.”
The concert venue seats about 500 and plenty of free parking is available. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for full-time students. One child may attend free with a paying adult. Additional children are admitted for $5.
Carols for Quire from the Old and New Worlds
7:30 p.m. Saturday
2230 Euclid Ave.