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February 19, 2011

Singing between dark, light

Seattle News Tribune (WA):

The Esoterics are coming back to town with a harmonic bang. The Seattle a cappella choir’s concert Saturday night includes one of the most difficult choral pieces ever written, plus two more that explore the edge not just of vocal complexity but philosophy as well.

Called “Chiaroscura,” the concert features music that goes between light and dark, both musically and emotionally. The choir performed “Chiaroscura” in Tacoma in December 2009, and it’s a good show to mark the choir’s return to Tacoma after a year’s absence, said founding director Eric Banks. “We had such a good response to the concert (last time), and the music is so compelling. It’s always better the second time around,” Banks said.

At the center of the program is Richard Strauss’ “Deutsche Motette.” Strauss – known for his challenging orchestral tone poems such as “Ein Heldenleben” – wrote the piece in 1913 on a dare from the Berlin Radio Choir to write as difficult a piece as he could. The result is a 20-part motet set to a poem by Friedrich Rckert about dreaming and wakening that stretches the choir’s technical abilities more than almost any other piece and is rarely sung for that reason.

“The Strauss is impressive because the chromaticism is complex and unidiomatic today. It’s hyper-Romantic. And the range is huge. It’s very rare to hear a choir where the sopranos sing high C and D-flat and the basses a low B-flat,” Banks explained.

Banks has rearranged the parts – originally for 16-part chorus and four soloists – to a more workable 12 parts. For the 48-strong choir, this still means just four singers per part. Even that divides into two occasionally. The new arrangement is also less top-heavy than the original, Banks said. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at February 19, 2011 12:00 AM

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