The warmth of music dispelled the gloom of the afternoon on December 22, when the formerly Hartnell Community Choir now known as Choral Artists of Carmel gave their concert at Church of the Wayfarer. Robin McKee Williams conducts this small but mighty group of singers. McKee Williams has the terrific knack of uniting wondrous voices along with using Monterey Strings, under the direction of David Dally, violin, and including Laura Burian, violin, Arlyn Knapic, viola, Margie Dally, cello, and Constantine Theodosian, double bass; Pamela Scholz, harp, Greg Bullock, percussion, and Robert McNamara, guitar. Not one to shy away from seemingly daunting repertoire, McKee Williams provides repertoire that elevates and educates musically. The gamut of this program began with the soloist, Heather Green, soprano, singing her own composition, Tomorrow Never Knows. With confident piano from George Peterson, an introduction with Margie Dally’s liquid and richly smooth cello, McNamara’s guitar, strings and quirky percussion from Bullock, there was no doubt that this would be an afternoon of extraordinary music.
As striking as the opening, the final work was Mack Wilberg’s Requiem. In seven parts utilizing the Requiem aeternam text with full chorus to open and following with a march like Kyrie with cello and viola predominant. The familiar Psalm 21, I will lift up mine eyes, was masterfully sung by Kyril Havezov, baritone. The chorus provided an assured underpinning to the strength of Havezov’s rich baritone. Anna Yelizarova, mezzo-soprano, commanded the solo in the fourth section, How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place. The 10th century Latin hymn, O Nata Lux, began with the harp confidently handled by Scholz and Peterson at the piano before full strings and percussion entered. As befits the feeling of light, the accompaniment seemed to absolutely glow as did the singers voices. The familiar Psalm 23, The Lord Is My Shepherd, was once again a solo by Haveov with harp, strings and piano. The final movement, I am the Resurrection and the Life, along with the return of the opening Requiem aeternum, was a strong finale to this major Wilberg work.
In between were shorter works including two selections from Endless Excerpts by Thomas LaVoy. As a newly composed work, McKee Williams and her stalwart singers will premiere the entire work in December 2020. Early In The Day and Art Thou Abroad This Stormy Night were the two excerpts from In That Shoreless Ocean. These were not meant to sound “finished” in the sense that the audience would know when to acknowledge. It would seem that getting to hear the entire work would not only be exciting, but would also solve the confusion and bring to conclusion. In the meantime, these selections certainly whet the appetite for more.
Rounding out the middle of the program were two selections by Ola Gjeilo. This contemporary composer is appearing on many chorus programs. The Lake Isle was an absolutely delicious choral work. The poetry of William Butler Yeats provided the description and story line of going to Innisfree and starting a life with a small cabin and garden by the lakeshore. Gjeilo’s setting of Ubi Caritas speaks of having love and charity toward each other, an apt reminder in troubled times.
While McKee’s direction is wonderfully subtle, the singers respond to maximum effect. Another hallmark of this group is the naturalness of the variety of voices melding into a cohesive choral sound.