INSPIRARE – Church In The Forest

A beautiful, lazy fall afternoon in the tree house setting of The Church In The Forest at Robert Louis Stevenson School was home to the newest vocal group on the peninsula, INSPIRARE. This program was the third presentation of the debut program under the direction of Dr. Sean Boulware. Inspirare – to breathe, to inspire – is composed of twenty-one singers from the greater Monterey Bay area. “Voices Rising” as a program title was most appropriate for this fledgling group of talented singers. Eclectic repertoire spanned the centuries from 16thcentury Palestrina and Tomas Victoria to contemporary Eric Whitacre and Shawn Kirchner. Interspersed within the centuries was a spirited variety of African songs.

Opening the program, singers were arranged in a circle to replicate the sound of a 16thcentury cathedral setting. Boulware invited the audience to close their eyes and let the music of Palestrina and de Victoria surround them as enhanced by the acoustic of this setting. Then, Isaiah Boulware joined his father in the drum accompaniment to “Tuba,” a traditional Xitsonga song of welcome sung with great exuberance and showing off the vocal strength of Andrew Johnson as soloist. The dynamic drumming duo also added to other dance and welcome African songs through the program. Especially lively was “Tumekuja Kuimba” featuring Naomi Ruppel and Heather Calame as soloists. More welcoming exuberance was sung in “Babethandaza” in the second half.

Michael John Trotta wrote both text and music for the lovely “Make Space for Life to Live.” This was beautifully accompanied by pianist Rumiana Drumeva with assurance of being part of an ensemble. She also lent her considerable keyboard talent to David Dickau’s poignant and lovely setting of the Sara Teasdale poem, “Stars I Shall Find.” Two of the “Three Nocturnes” by Daniel Elder, “Lullaby” and “Ballade To The Moon,” were also beautifully accompanied by Drumeva. Her accompaniment so perfectly matched the swaying of the moss in the pines surrounding this setting.

Boulware’s passionate introduction, recalling hardships of enslaved people who did not lose their music and their very soul, to the Harry Burleigh arrangement of “My Lord, What a Mornin’” left no doubt as to the singers impassioned presentation. Somewhat paired with the Burleigh was Emily Dickinson’s “Will there really be a Morning?” as set by Dan Campollieta. This is poetry that began when Dickinson was only nine years old and honed well into her adulthood. Rachael DeMaster and Michelle Boulware proved their mettle as soloists on “Ella’s Song.” This Bernice Johnson Reagon gospel piece was made popular by the group Sweet Honey In The Rock. Popular choral composer Eric Whitacre provided the dissonant but lovely “Sleep” which calls for particular vocal control and tuning – seemed a piece of cake for this group of singers. Jenna DeDominici and Richard Bryant lent their considerable solo talents to Kate Rusby’s “Underneath The Stars.” The closing selection was Shawn Kirchner’s setting of the Appalachian “Sweet Rivers.” This lively and joyful piece made it hard to sit still and was a terrific send off for the audience.

Kudos to Boulware and the singers forming this new ensemble! As exhibited by the variety of selections, there are many directions for them to follow. Look for the next experience on February 22, 23, 24, 2019.

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