The Sacramento Choral Calendar


Concert Review

Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra

Songs of Eternity - May 9, 2015

by Nancy Bramlett

SCSO's "Songs of Eternity" concert on Saturday, May 9th, was as heavenly as the title suggests. The chorus was glorious with 138 singers joined by 58 singers from Sacramento State University Chorus, for a powerful 196 singers. The orchestra of 53 professional instrumentalists completed the sublime experience.

It is tradition with the SCSO to honor veterans in their spring concert each year, providing tickets to veterans and performing music which will undoubtedly resonate with our brave men and women.

(To view the program, you can click here.)

The first half of the concert was devoted to Dan Forrest's Requiem for the Living. Three soloists added to the texture and beauty of this piece. Though the piece was published only 2 years ago, it has been performed all over the world. And now I understand why it has taken the world by storm. It is an incredibly rich and wonderful work of art. The music is in five movements similar to a traditional requiem, but with a few twists: Introit-Kyrie, Vanitas Vanitatum, Angus Dei, Sanctus, and Lux Aeterna.

The Introit-Kyrie pleas for rest and mercy. Sweet dissonance was underlying the soaring and shimmering melody, enhancing the text, while the ethereal and exquisite harmonies, intensely dramatic dynamics and steadying drum created an intoxicating and serene atmosphere. At the beginning of the Kyrie, chills ran throughout my body proving that this music thrills more than the ears and the mind. Oh, how I wished I was singing! Hints of heaven.

The Vanitas Vanitatum replaced the usual spot for the Dies Irae. This powerful and evocative movement is a comment on the "Vanity of Vanities" in this life, a plea for rest from their tears (Dies Irae) and a desire to have never been born. The amazing rhythm in not only the orchestra, but also in the voices themselves, created an emotional picture to perfectly capture the words used by Forrest in this Requiem for the Living.

The Angus Dei poignantly prays for deliverance and rest. "Lamb of God, have mercy," growing in intensity, carries with it the soul. In this movement we were treated to Jaimes Milson's clear and strong boy soprano solo. Born in Melbourne, Australia, he is now living in the States. At 12 years old, he has already performed for television audiences worldwide. Best wishes for what seems to be an amazing future. Mezzo soprano, Beth Ann Homoleski, also graced us with her gifts for this movement ó a dramatic, resonant and expressive voice. She is a welcome recent transplant to California. I will be excited to hear more of her.

The Sanctus was radiant. It sparkled and lifted the soul as it proclaimed "Holy, Holy, Holy." I love the inspiration for the three sections: the view from the Hubble Telescope, the view from the Space Station and a view from the teeming masses here on earth. Such a powerful piece of music so perfectly performed with a thrilling climax!

The Lux Aeterna, featured Jaimes again. A wonderful performance. The movement was much in keeping with the "Eternal Light," suggesting in the music the perpetual light shining on us all. Nephi Speer, tenor, was also featured in this movement. His exquisite tone and expression thrilled. As the movement continued, the waves of sound crashed over us, cascading throughout the room... and ending in a peaceful whisper.

After intermission, Songs of Eternity was performed in the presence of the composer, James Hopkins. Professor Emeritus of Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music. Besides his undergraduate work at USC, he also studied at Yale and Princeton. I'm jealous. SCSO's Music Director, Dr. Donald Kendrick, read the lyrics of each section before it was performed. This intimate piece, written in 1992 is in more of a traditional 20th-century style, using more dissonance and unusual voicings, to convey the emotion of the message, written by Nobel Prize-winning author, Rabindranath Tagore. "My Song," wherein "this song of mine will wind it's music around you" begins the three movements; "When Death Comes," a perfectly peaceful movement shares "when I sang I found my eternity"; and "Peace My Heart" asks "let it not be death, but a completeness."

The last of the piece for this evening was written by Howard Hanson, American composer and conductor and director of the Eastman School of Music for 40 years. The text was based on a poem by Walt Whitman.  "Lo! The Unbounded Sea" created a perfect swelling of sound spilling over into white foam. Then peaceful, sparking water, followed by a wave building as if to welcome a king. Wave after wave spilling down into more gentle waves. "Untold Want" was an adagio movement of great intensity yielding to a hush. "Joy! Shipmate, Joy" was full of energy in the fabulous orchestra, then adding men and then women to the texture of the waves. Waves of ecstasy building, building, as our ship sails from this life into the joy of Eternity.

Thanks to the SCSO for this incredible evening once again. Godspeed on your journeys to Paris and Normandy, and London this summer! Congratulations on your grant from Raley's, you deserve it! May you continue to bless this community with excellence in artistry and programming.

Nancy Bramlett is a Dramatic Coloratura Soprano from Kansas City, MO.  She graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a Bachelorís of Music in Vocal Performance. She has most recently studied with Marla Volovna in San Francisco and Zoila Munoz in Davis.  Nancy has had the honor of traveling all over the US and to Europe with the Bradley University Chorale.  She has sung in several choirs since then, as well as performing in opera and musical theater productions and singing solos for local churches, as well as weddings and memorial services.  Nancy has directed choirs; taught voice, piano and Kindermusik; and has been a music director for musical theater. She is currently busy with Classical Music for Christ and as a regular soloist for Cottage Way Christian Church in Sacramento and the Placer County Youth Orchestra. Nancy resides in Rocklin with her husband Scott and three sons: Patrick, Riley and John.

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