Regina Coeli — Aria’s Debut at the Carmel Mission

 

Sean Boulware Conducting Aria 

(Photo by Frank Bellafiore)

It is no secret that classical music presenting organizations on the Monterey Peninsula have been feeling the pinch during the present economic downturn as audiences, donors and grants have been difficult to sustain at their former levels. It is therefore heartwarming to observe that the Monterey Peninsula Choral Society seems to be healthy and flourishing. As evidence of this, we heard at the Carmel Mission last night an outstanding performance by “Aria,” the new women’s choir under the direction of Sean Boulware with some fine soloists and the participation of a small orchestra. We can assume that this is only a preview of what we can expect to be hearing from this group in coming months.

The Saturday evening concert at the Mission was the second of three performances of this concert by Aria, and it was an ambitious program. The first half featured bits and pieces of briefer works for women’s choir in attractive arrangements, some of which were a cappella and liturgical, while a few, like the Ubi Caritas by Ola Gjeilo and “I Am The One” by René Clausen were more contemporary arrangements appealing to a broader audience. The Randall Thompson Alleluia, in which Boulware challenged the audience to determine how many words were in the text — most of us guessed only one word, Alleluia, but that was because we overlooked the “Amen” at the end — was dramatically colorful and achieved a lovely cumulative effect by the time it reached its beautiful quiet ending. Boulware yielded the baton to guest Abby Hoeck as she conducted the choir and soloists Chie Roberts, Corrie Pogson and Lynn Chiment, in Eugene Butler’s beautifully arranged Glorificamus Te. One of the most interesting works on the first half of the program was an arrangement of Schubert’s Psalm 23, Gott ist mein Hirt, with a very fine piano part played by Michelle Galindo. Speaking to the audience, Boulware told us that O Magnum Mysterium by Tomas Luis de Victoria had a special meaning in his life, for it was the first choral work he had ever heard at the age of five, and which had such a spiritual effect that he knew at that moment which direction his life was destined to follow.

Soloists Anna Hallock, Michelle Boulware, Mary Clifford and Diane Ehlers

(Photo by Frank Bellafiore)

The second half of the concert was more ambitious as the Aria Women’s choir and orchestra presented Antonio Vivaldi’s Kyrie and Gloria in a newly-discovered version for women’s voices rather than in its usual SATB arrangement. By any standard and in any arrangement, Vivaldi’s Kyrie and Gloria is a great work that never fails to make a powerful impression, and so it did on this occasion. The enthusiasm and spirt projected by members of the choir and the soloists was truly evidence of “The Joy of Singing” and how it can transform our lives. There was for me one very special moment during the second half of the program, and that was the spectacular performance of Domine Deus, Rex coelestis by soloist soprano Abby Hoeck. Not only was her singing spectacular, but so was the great oboe obbligato by Shelley Phillips. This was a moving performance that I wanted to hear over and over again.

During this concert we had to be impressed with how Sean Boulware motivates and excites outstanding singers in our community to come together and create beautiful music. Observing Boulware address the audience to speak about the music the choir was to perform during the evening, we heard in his voice his passion and conviction about music, and it can be very infectious.

Amen

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