Category Archives: Chorus

Atlanta Baroque Orchestra and St. Philip’s Schola celebrate St. Cecila with works by Purcell and Handel

by Mark Gresham | 20 NOV 2016

Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, St. Philip's Cathedral Schola perform Purcell's "Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day."

Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, St. Philip’s Cathedral Schola perform Purcell’s “Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day.” (photo: Mark Gresham)

On Saturday evening, November 19, at The Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, led by artistic director Julie Andrijeski, in collaboration with the Schola of the Cathedral of St. Philip, directed by Dale Adelmann, and the Friends of Cathedral Music, presented a concert of music for St. Cecilia’s Day by Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel. Featured vocal soloists were soprano Teresa Wakim, countertenor Reginald Mobley, tenor Thomas Cooley and baritone Mischa Bouvier. The program is scheduled to be repeated on Sunday, November 20 at 4:00 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roswell, Georgia.

In Anglican, Catholic and eastern Orthodox churchs the feast day of St. Cecilia is observed on November 22 each year. Public concerts of music in her honor, scheduled around that date, have been common in London since the 1683, when the first was organized by the Musical Society of London.

Saturday’s program consisted of what are perhaps the two best known examples of Baroque music which celebrate St. Cecilia, the patroness saint of music and musicians: Henry Purcell’s Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day (1692) and G.F. Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (1739).

Both works began with orchestral introductions. In the “Symphony” which began Purcell’s work, the orchestra seemed to have difficulty finding a consensus with regard to the music’s pulse. One wondered whether there might have been difficulty hearing left to right across the space between the cathedral’s transepts. By contrast, after intermission, the “Overture” to Handel’s ode was was secure, the ensemble much tighter and more sharply defined. That held true for the rest of the work.

Henry Purcell (engraving by R. White)

Henry Purcell (engraving by R. White)

The ringing sound of the Cathedral Schola, with a roster of 34 singers, filled the space easily in the louder homophonic passages without overextending. Like the instrumental intros of the orchestra, the contrapuntal singing was more clearly defined in the Handel, with the Schola’s polyphonic choral skills most exuberantly displayed in its busy, energetic finale.

Of the guest vocal soloists, only Wakim and Cooley sang in both works. Wakim did better and sang more extensively in the Handel, where she demonstrated an amiably clear and liquid soprano tone. Cooley’s appealingly lyrical tenor was also more prominently displayed in the Handel, although there were fine moments in the Purcell as well.

George Frideric Handel in 1733, by Balthasar Denner

George Frideric Handel (portrait by Balthasar Denner. 1733)

The others sang in the Purcell ode. Bouvier, with his deep-toned baritone voice, was the most prominent among them in that work, consistently heard well against the orchestra. Mosley’s flute-like countertenor was suited to style but translucent enough to nearly disappear in the texture at times in context of the Cathdral’s resonant acoustics — a notable exception being in a trio (“With that sublime Celestial Lay”) between himself, Cooley and Bouvier, who lightened up a little to better balance with his higher-voiced colleagues. Although uncredited in the program, bass Timothy Gunter stepped out of the ranks of the chorus for a credible duo with Bouvier near the work’s end (“Let these among themselves contest”).

The goal of “period” groups like Atlanta Baroque Orchestra is to present such music, through “historical performance practice,” in a way that Handel and Purcell might have heard it performed in their own day, on original or replicated instruments of the era. It was good to have an opportunity to hear and compare these St. Cecilia odes performed from that perspective by the ABO, the Cathedral Schola and their guest soloists. •

Fractured Atlas LogoThis post was made possible in part by funds from Fractured Atlas. Donations supporting the Fractured Atlas “Mark Gresham” project may be made online by clicking the linked logo on the right. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity; all donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra releases Leshnoff CD

NEWS | 19 NOV 2016

ATLANTA, Georgia — On Friday, Nov. 18, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra released its latest recording, entitled Jonathan Leshnoff: Zohar & Symphony No. 2 “Inner Space” — the orchestra’s eighth release on its in-house record label, ASO Media, distributed by Naxos of America.

The recording features the orchestra, chorus, music director Robert Spano, director of choruses Norman Mackenzie, soprano Jessica Rivera and baritone Nmon Ford.

In a press release from the ASO, Leshnoff’s music is described as drawing upon the composer’s “religious faith and belief about music’s unique ability to transport us to places that would otherwise be impossible to go. The authentic Jewish mystical schools outline in great length the spiritual architecture of the universe and its interaction with G-d and mankind. It is within those systems that Leshnoff draws his inspiration. These works are part of Leshnoff’s 10-piece multi-year meta-project which parallels the fundamental building blocks of Jewish spiritual thought.”

The digital release is now available for download on iTunes and the physical release may be ordered online via or Amazon.

The ASO Media label is one of the many hallmarks of Robert Spano’s 16-year tenure with the Orchestra, and the production team includes longtime Atlanta Symphony Orchestra collaborators Elaine Martone and Michael Bishop.

To date, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its recordings have won 27 GRAMMY Awards. •

Year in Review: For the Atlanta Symphony, it was a year divided and a time to assess the future [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 2 Jan 2015

ASO musicians were locked out of Symphony Hall for almost three months. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

For Atlanta’s classical music scene, the latter part of 2014 was dominated by the nine-week lockout of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians by the Woodruff Arts Center …

Preview: ASO Christmas program draws on the past as it carries the Robert Shaw legacy forward [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 10 Dec 2014

The Christmas shows have been an Atlanta tradition since the 1970s. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will perform their iconic “Christmas with the ASO” concert Thursday at 8 p.m. and twice on Saturday, …

Review: Atlanta Symphony returns to loud ovation; shows rust and effects of musician fill-ins [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 15 Nov 2014

In the first concert since the lockout ended, the ASO received a hero’s welcome. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus returned to the stage of Symphony Hall Thursday night, after nine weeks of lockout. It performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, featuring ASO concertmaster David Coucheron as soloist, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, led by ASO music director Robert Spano. …

Preview: ASO contrabassist Michael Kurth debuts two pieces from his side job as composer [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 7 Nov 2014

Composer/musician Michael Kurth in the Krog Street tunnel. (Courtesy John Fulton Photography)

Michael Kurth has been on the road again. This week, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra contrabassist and composer has been playing as a substitute with the …

Preview: Missing classical music? Locked-out ATL Symphony Musicians perform three concerts [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 9 Oct 2014

Richard Prior conducting the ATL Symphony Musicians and members of the ASO Chorus. (Photos by Mark Gresham)

With the imposition of lockout still in full force and the arrival of federal mediation into the fray of labor negotiations, the musicians of the …

Preview: The Atlanta Opera’s Walter Huff on the piano, singing and building the perfect chorus [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 12 Sep 2014

The Atlanta Opera Chorus with Huff at the piano. (Photos by Jeff Roffman)

The Atlanta Opera is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Walter Huff as its chorus master with three performances of operatic choruses tonight and Sunday at Emory …

Review: ASO and Chorus round out the season with an epic bang performing Verdi’s “Aida” [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 06 Jun 2014

Robert Spano (center) with Latonia Moore to his right, cast in the title role of Aida. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

This is the final week of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s 2013–14 season’s classical subscription concerts at Symphony Hall, and the production is a biggie: Giuseppe …

Review: ASO and Chorus give a beautiful, nuanced reading of Britten’s classic “War Requiem” [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 26 Apr 2014

The ASO has a long legacy with Britten’s “War Requiem.” (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

Thursday evening’s concert at Symphony Hall by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus featured Benjamin Britten’s monumental “War Requiem.” It was led by ASO music …