Aria Women’ Chorus presented the program “Missa Femina “on at 3:30 pm on November 12 at First Presbyterian Church, Monterey. Two major works, one newly composed in 2012, and one, Gabriel Fauré’s “Requiem” newly arranged for women’s voices, provided the audience with many beautiful and uplifting choral moments. Terre Johnson’s 2012 work “Missa Femina” filled the first half. This work follows the traditional order of the Catholic Latin mass form using five movements. Because this was written as a women’s mass, references to “father” were changed to feminine or “mother.”
Under Sean Boulware’s very solid and capable direction, and with continued amazing piano support from Michelle Galindo, the women gave us a most cohesive and satisfying performance. The Kyrie began with a clearly flowing unison melody and then morphed into a fanfare like Christe Eleison before returning to the flowing beginning theme with the sections blending seamlessly.
As if that weren’t enough joyful sound, Julie Posey stepped forward as soloist in the Gloria. Sung mostly in Latin with an overlay of English, Julie’s voice was definitely in her “sweet spot.” It is a delight to hear a work that sounds as though it were written for a particular voice –- and a voice that glows with such clarity. The chorus more than rose to the music by absolutely melting from a clear unison into more chordal structure. The third movement of the Credo featured soloist Jenna DeDominici. She demonstrated an infectious charm and a very secure command of the vocal range needed for this movement. In the Sanctus, there was a definite undercurrent of the feel of waves and water smoothly rendered. The final movement, Agnus Dei, brought forth the vocal talent of Michelle Boulware offering a very motherly soothing comfort that everything will be okay.
The second half of the program paid tribute to Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem as restructured for women’s chorus by Malcom Bruno. Galindo switched effortlessly from piano to organ in her also restructured arrangement of the full score accompaniment. It never seemed as though any shortcuts were taken, which continues to speak well of Galindo’s many talents. While the SATB version is a warhorse and staple of choruses large and small, this SSAA version is certainly no stepchild. A skeptic would have a hard time denying the value of this female version. Yes, the familiar male “bottom” is mostly missing, but there is no argument with the depth within this arrangement and of the women who were so ably performing. Bass lines had been woven into other parts in a refreshing but non-intrusive way. Familiar Fauré main themes continue along with the format of the Catholic mass. Fauré himself alluded to the lack of Sturm und Drang by seeing the requiem as a “happy deliverance” to eternal rest.
An Introit is part of the Kyrie, which precedes the Offertoire. The alto section beautifully led in and supported Anna Hallock as the featured soloist. Hallock’s considerable vocal talent can make a difficult line seem like a vocal walk in the park. The “Hosannas” in the Sanctus were absolutely delicious. The Pie Jesu is generally performed as a solo and Michelle Boulware beautifully performed this lovely movement. The Agnus Dei again demonstrated the depth, strength, and sonority of the women’s voices. The full and rich sound led back to the return of the first theme “requiem in aeternam.” Posey returned to solo in the Libera Mei, again demonstrating her vocal facility in pleading “deliver me.” The final movement, In Paradisum, is the loveliest of transcendence to that eternal rest.
Boulware certainly takes the best advantage of his choristers by his programming these two Requiems back to back. He has continued through his work with this group to provide extra ordinary musical experiences. The continuing accompanying support provided by Galindo’s nimble fingers adds to and consolidates the overall ensemble work. The overall rating of this program is an unqualified WOW!
Be sure to mark calendars for the next two Aria programs – SHE SINGS – on March 24, 2018 at 7:00p.m. and March 25, 2018 at 3:30p.m. with locations TBA, and DIVA AGAIN on June 9, 2018 at 7:00p.m., and June 10, 2018 at 3:00 both performances at the New Wharf Theater, Monterey.