Just as several of the programs during the 82ndCarmel Bach Festival focused on the Christmas Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach, there were two programs that focused on The Creation by Franz Joseph Haydn. We heard the entire 18thcentury work during the Saturday concert titled “In the Beginning.” On Thursday, July 25, 2019 we heard a collection of 25 works chosen by Associate Conductor Andrew Megill. The Festival Chorale performed compositions about the creation story in Genesis, especially the markers of time. The music celebrated the Sun, Moon, and Stars; Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. As I settled into my seat, I knew I was going to be captivated.
I have seen the stage at Sunset Center filled with musicians for very large orchestral works. However, when there are risers for 28 vocalists with a single piano, the musicians have a comfortable amount of room. The first half of the program included the Virginia Best Adams Fellows: Nola Richardson, soprano; Clara Osowski, mezzo-soprano; Corey Shotwell, tenor; and Will Prapestis, baritone. Each of the Chorale members sang important roles during the evening’s performance by sometimes singing solo, sometimes directing the audience in the Sing-along, sometimes providing off stage echo. They are superb singers and gave Andrew Megill a great instrument to shape and inspire. Festival Soloist, Meg Bragle, Mezzo-Soprano joined them for In the Beginning by Aaron Copland. She gave a stunning performance as Narrator/God. Pitches for the acapella works were given by Kristen Ditlow at the piano. She is an accomplished pianist and provided perfect support to the singing. All these musicians are of the highest caliber.
Of particular note to me were compositions to show just a bit of contrast. Conductor Megill grouped the pieces to represent the Life of the Day and the Life of the Year. For the Sun, he chose R. Murray Shafer’s Sun. This is an avant-garde piece in Graphic notation. This means the score has directions in text with just snippets of music. It is up to the individual musician under direction from the conductor to decide how to realize the music. Each performance is different! The audience was attentive and appreciative. During his pre-concert talk, Mr. John Coza, Assistant Chorus Director, shared a picture of the score along with a bit of a recording. This work contrasted with the lovely O schone Nacht by Johannes Brahms.
To represent the seasons, Mr. Megill chose a wide variety of music. For Spring, we heard a couple of 16thcentury motets and a Gershwin song, Sing of Spring. For Summer, the audience joined in during a mid-13thcentury motet. For Autumn, we were treated to more Brahms along with Linden Lea by Ralph Vaughan Williams. For Winter, we listened to Old French, Impressionistic French and two 20thcentury French works, one being River by Joni Mitchell arranged by Andrew Megill. To end the program, we listened to two spirituals from Shawn Kirchner along with the intriguing And I Saw a New Heaven by Edgar Leslie Bainton. The final piece, I’ll be on My Way was dedicated to former Chorale member Sanford Sylvan.
This program gave us much to think about. Even though I was familiar with a few of the pieces, the pre-concert talk, given by John Koza, with occasional comments from Andrew Megill, were most welcome and helped us focus on significance aspects of the music we were hearing. I hope to experience many more concerts in the future that include such diverse, yet connected music.