Dear Friend of Sacred & Profane,
In my last letter, I wrote about the works in the first half of Sacred and Profane’s upcoming program of sacred music by German and Austrian master composers – Bach’s motet Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren, BWV 231 and Brahms’ motet Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Müseligen, Op. 74, No. 1. In this installment, I’ll let you into how I came to choose the other works that we’ll perform.
I keep a running list of pieces that Sacred and Profane’s singers suggest for us to perform down the line. Several years ago, our baritone (and at one point, alto!) Gabe Fuson asked if we could sing Hugo Distler’spassion play Totentanz for choir and speakers. This dramatic work alternates aphorisms, sung by mixed choir, with dialogues between Death (spoken in our concert by ACT actor Paul Finocchiaro), and his many victims, who beg for mercy as they go to their fates. This beautiful piece (with wonderfully interesting music for the choir!) is entertaining, but also deeply dark.
When I was a teenager, I worked at art house movie theaters in Palo Alto – maybe some of you remember the New Varsity Theater, the famed theater/restaurant/café and launching place of many of Windham Hill’s jazz and new age recording artists? I worked there! In 1988, we showed the Belgian film The Music Teacher. Although I’d grown up in a house with instrumental chamber music and some vocal music, I’d never really heard anything like this, and I bought and devoured the CD of the music in the film. The piece that moved me the most, and that I credit for igniting my passion for music, was Mahler’s orchestral lied Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, masterfully sung by the Belgian baritone José van Dam. I listened to that CD, mostly that piece, until it was a skipping mess. I’ve never been the same. A few years ago, I heard a German chamber choir perform Clytus Gottwald’s arrangement of Ich bin der Welt for 16-part a cappella choir, and was awe-struck. I couldn’t believe that this rich, complex, and deeply moving piece could be reworked so perfectly for singers. As S&P has become more eager to tackle challenging works of the professional choral repertoire, I knew this piece had to be part of this concert, and part of this exciting season. I hope you are as moved by it as I am, and I hope to be able toconduct it through my sure-to-be tearing-up eyes!
I hope you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy this remarkable music with us! I’m looking forward to seeing you at one of our concerts!
Hear Director Seeman's recent interview with Jeffrey Freeman about these fabulous pieces on KDFC's State of the Arts!