The Chattanooga Bach Choir will present Sergei Rachmaninoff’s AllNight Vigil for unaccompanied mixed choir, Op. 37, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul, 214 East 8th St. Admission is $25 and students are free. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.chattanoogabachchoir.org.
For this concert, the Chattanooga Bach Choir will be joined by members of two local ensembles: Voci Virili Men’s Consort and Voice of Reason Women’s Ensemble, Harv Wileman, artistic director. The ensemble will be conducted by David Long with featured soloists Rosella Ewing, mezzo-soprano and Blaine Tooley, tenor. These performances of the All-Night Vigil will be sung in the original Russian.
David Long, the Bach Choir’s artistic director, said, “We are thrilled to perform Rachmaninoff’s monumental All-Night Vigil, which is considered a crowning achievement of Russian Orthodox choral music. Regarded as one of the most challenging works in the a cappella choral repertory, it makes technical demands on singers’ intonation and breath control and requires a complete engagement with the language and the texts. Since its first performance in 1915, audiences have been enthralled by the sheer beauty and sonic range of this work from unique sound of the low bass voices to the softest singing exploding into the magnificent power of massed voices. The texts are taken from the Russian Orthodox all-night vigil ceremony celebrated on the eve of great feasts and lasting from Vespers at dusk through midnight Matins until Prime at dawn. Nine of its 15 sections are based on traditional Orthodox chants from various traditions – the ancient Russian Známenny chant, a more recitational ‘Greek’ style, and ‘Kiev’ chant from the 16th and 17th centuries. After the opening call to worship, the unfolding movements portray the mystery of the Creation, the Incarnation of Christ, and the Salvation of the Resurrection, along with sections praising the Virgin, the Trinity, and Christ triumphant. Rachmaninoff’s intense melodic richness expresses the depth of human spiritual desires: praise, meditation, penitence and, proclamation. Among the composer’s own compositions, the All-Night Vigil was one of his favorites (along with The Bells); one hundred years later, this reflective and deeply moving work is beloved by choirs worldwide and remains a masterpiece of Russian choral music.”
In addition to collaborating ensembles Voci Virili Men’s Consort and Voice of Reason Women’s Ensemble, featured soloists include Chattanooga favorites: mezzo Rosella Ewing, a frequent Chattanooga Symphony/Opera, Chattanooga Bach Choir soloist and professor at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock; and tenor Blaine Tooley, a frequent soloist with Voci Virili, as well as the former music director at Hixson UMC, who now resides in Memphis.
Established in 1985 by conductor James Greasby, the Chattanooga Bach Choir focuses on performing the choral works of Johann Sebastian Bach, in addition to choral-orchestral masterworks of all periods. Mr. Long was appointed artistic director and conductor of the Chattanooga Bach Choir in 2005. During his tenure, he has expanded the programs and repertoire to include a yearly series featuring Bach cantatas and performances of a wide range of music from the past to the present. Over its three decades-long history, the Bach Choir has performed the works of more than sixty composers from the Renaissance to the present, including Josquin, Telemann, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Fauré, Duruflé, Lauridsen, and Gjeilo.
The Chattanooga Bach Choir’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil is made possible in part with funds from the Tennessee Arts Commission and ArtsBuild.