Camerata’s program on Sunday afternoon, March 4, at First Presbyterian Church, Monterey, was a special one indeed. The idea behind the program was to give a program for benefit of outreach in Monterey County. Unlike presentations of this caliber, admission was free – with donations encouraged but not required. John Koza, Artistic Director and Conductor, conceived a program of music complementing the main work – Henry Mollicone’s Beatitude Mass (for the Homeless). The first half included works by a number of the usual top choral arrangers. Ed Lojeski’s arrangement of Amazing Grace began with a clear, clean vocal line almost in the traditional vein before morphing into a jazzier feel. Bring me little water, Sylvie as arranged by Kirby Shaw featured Liz Baseman as soloist. This is definitely a cool work. St. Francis’ Lord, make me an instrument took on new meaning as composed by M. Roger Holland. Holland is known for Gospel arrangements and this one definitely hit the mark. The final “instrument of peace” fairly floated.
Linda Mehrabian’s exquisite cello led into the Craig Hella Johnson arrangement of The water is wide and the women’s voices appeared as if by magic. The tenor/bass support was no less sublime. This was definitely an elegant version of a familiar folk tune. Another familiar text, My shepherd will supply my need, as arranged by Mack Wilberg utilized the plaintive strains of excellent oboe played by Peter Lemberg to weave in and out of the tenor/bass vocal line then joined by the again equally excellent flute line played by Monica Mendoza. The soprano/alto clarity with the flute then both instruments and all voices was a most delicious treat for the ear.
Lord, I know I been changed as arranged by Bruce More and Jim Regin featured Laurie Anderson as soloist in this absolutely kicking Gospel version. While Khumbaya might be most associated with sing-alongs and campfires, this was definitely not that version. Lucas Rok of the Soweto Gospel Choir has made this arrangement a mover and shaker. Featured soloist was newcomer to the area Aprille Lucero exhibiting enthusiasm and vocal chops felt to the back of the church. Added support was the fine percussion of Judi Moncrief on djembe. Rounding out this first half and a perfect lead in to the Beatitude Mass was Mollicone’s version of Hear me, Redeemer. If the “Redeemer” did not “hear” this, especially with Leberta Loral as soloist, then one would wonder what does get heard.
As a choral singer who was privileged to sing at the premier of the Beatitude Mass St. Joseph’s Cathedral in San Jose, getting to be in the audience for the Camerata presentation was beyond a treat. With the superb instrumental ensemble made up of Mendoza on flute, Lemberg on oboe, Beth Zare French horn, Mehrabian cello, Plamen Velikov bass, and Stuart Langsam and Gregory Messa percussion, the vocal and instrumental blend was terrific. Add to this the always-inimitable piano accompanying of Pauline Troia, and the combination hit all the right marks. Then, if all this were not enough, Leberta Lorál and Bob Bogardus sang the solo parts of Evelyn (Eve) and Adam. Each explained their “homeless” circumstance within a semi-traditional Mass form. Opening the work was a version based on the original beatitudes including “Blessed are the eyes that see not a band of homeless but a noble company.” A Kyrie melted in from the opening and led directly to Lorla’s solo explanation of Eve’s lot in life – “…a homeless woman with no more options for tomorrow…” A mostly traditional Latin Gloria followed with “Eve” interspersing a glorious vocal accompaniment. “Adam’s” turn came by explaining, “…I am lost between a hard place and a stone, but I got plans and I got dreams to get to heaven on my own.” Further explanation included having had a job but “…I messed up somehow.” After a more traditional Sanctus, a beautiful and restful instrumental Meditation followed using themes from the opening that had also been woven in and out of the other movements. The next solo exchange was “Adam” and “Eve” relating hearing the “holy Messenger” in the depths of their circumstances – “A singing voice within the storm, a hymn within the heart.” Agnus Dei was followed by the Finale – an exhortation to Mary –“Mother of God, mother of pity, mother of hope, and mother of grace.” Closing went back to the beatitude form with “…blessed are the poor, those who have no roof, no room, but still endure…”
Mollicone has truly given the choral world a timeless work reminding us who are lucky enough not to be homeless to remember those who have a tougher lot in life. It is hoped that not only is there respect for this composition but thought toward helping those who by whatever circumstance are homeless and without hope. If you were lucky enough to be at one of the three performances this past weekend and have given more thought to perhaps giving a little extra to programs in Monterey county, specifically Dorothy’s Place and Gathering for Women, please do so.
Again, kudos to Koza for conceiving this out of the box idea, that from all appearances has been overwhelmingly received. In addition to Camerata Singers, add in all who donated services, time and talent in support of an ever-present local as well as global problem.