from the Santa Barbara NewsPress (December 26, 2014)
JOSEF WOODARD: “Palestrina and well beyond: For its annual Christmas concert, the Quire of Voyces spanned the Renaissance to the Brand New
In one sense, the annual concerts by the wondrous a cappella group Quire of Voyces this time of year supply a centering force on our calendars and sense of alert presence: if the Voyces are singing in St. Anthony’s Chapel, this must be Christmas time in Santa Barbara. But in another way, the concerts, such as last weekend’s “Song of Songs” program, has the quality of being an out of time and place experience — and, in certain sublime moments, a touch out-of-body.
To hear the refined and 21-year-old choir offering up radiant readings of music of the Italian Renaissance master Palestrina — whose work was generously interwoven throughout the recent concert program — in the utterly apt, reverberant space of this high-ceilinged Romanesque chapel is something to savor, year after year. All was not Old Worldly, however, last weekend. This particularly dense but enjoyable mosaic of short-ish works spanned centuries, and bumped up against the now, with world premieres by Australian composer Daniel Brinsmead and also Santa Barbaran composer-in-residence Michael Eglin (his new and lovely “Prayer,” set to text by Sara Teasdale).
Founder and director Nathan Kreitzer arranges his singers in a circle, the better to blend voices as a unified whole and allow the naturally rich and open acoustics of the space to do its sonorous bidding. The scene and acoustic/ambient setting once again amplified the inherent beauties of the musical entity, from the anchoring force of 16th-century liturgical music by the great Palestrina to items of comfort and also challenge — particularly the fascinating and modernist designs of Norwegian composer Torbj¯rn Dyrud’s “I Am the Rose of Sharon (Lovesong, I),” a vibrant, occasionally edgy and altogether stirring highlight of the program.
A poignant aspect of this concert came towards the end, as the choir performed noted American composer Stephen Paulus’ “Pilgrims’ Hymn,” lifted from his 1997 opera “The Three Hermits.” This reflective work was made all the more emotionally coated by its official dedication to the composer, who passed away in 2013, and was a great boon to the choral world. His ongoing legacy carried forth in his lasting musical output, kept in circulation by groups such as this one.
In the main, Quire of Voyces concerts focus on the all-for-one weave of its component parts, but this concert did feature solo flights by individual voices, including tenor Temmo Korisheli and soprano Becky Hoffman stepping out of the collective mesh for British composer William Walton’s “Set Me as a Seal.” Elsewhere, soprano Nichole Dechaine impressed with her spotlight moments in Georgy Sviridov’s “Sacred Love” and as a showcased voice in Mr. Brinsmead’s premiering piece, “Love Bade Me Welcome.”
A moving new choral work, “Love Bade Me Welcome” (which followed on the heels of David Hurd’s setting of the same text, by poet George Herbert) is a mostly consonant piece, but with points of tension folded into the language, in terms of its harmonic shifts, clenched voicings and structural cliff-hangers. Mr. Brinsmead, an Australian presently based in Wales, has delivered a striking, fresh and engaging contemporary choral score, and we heard it here first.
from The Montecito Journal (December 25, 2014- January 8, 2015)
RICHARD MINEARDS “Voyces Carry”
St. Anthony’s Chapel was heaving when the talented Quire of Voyces, under founder and conductor Nathan Kreitzer, performed a Song of Songs concert.
The treasured Santa Barbara tradition featured Christmas choral gems by composers both ancient and modern from prodigious Italian Palestrina to Durufle to more contemporary works by award-winning composers Michael Eglin, music director at El Montecito Presbyterian Church, Australian Daniel Brinsmead whose version of “Silent Night” had its US premiere, William Walton, and David Hurd.
It was traditional Yuletide music to everybody’s ears….
from the Santa Barbara News-Press (December 19, 2012)
JOSEF WOODARD “Quire of Voyces masters the sound of transport”
On the sizable and growing list of cultural events firmly affixed on the “it wouldn’t be Christmas in Santa Barbara without…” index, there is no denying the importance of the dynamic and profound choral group known as Quire of Voyces.
Followers of the group….know to expect a kind of ritual and satisfying glow from beautifully-sung programs, and the mission of achieving transcendence was accomplished once again. Quire of Voyces generates a glorious an resonant ensemble sound, surely enhanced by the reverberant and reverent ambiance of the old seminary’s magical chapel space. As is the pattern and aesthetic agenda of the group, based in the Santa Barbara City College music program and founded by director Nathan Kreitzer in 1993, this year’s Christmas concert was rooted in Renaissance music — with its timeless 500 years of aging — along with some more contemporary elements–e.g. the last century — in the mix.
What is it about music a half-a-millennium old that so captivates the modern ear, and wins friends and influences people among contemporary composers, as well as early-music-loving musicians and listeners?
The question was again raised as the group, starting with an octet of singers in the round, sang Michael Praetorius’ “En! Natus est Emmanuel,” an Alic Parker/Robert Shaw arrangement of the ancient tune-based “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
But the real pinnacle of the concert came courtesy of the early 16th century, and the “Western Wynde” Mass of British composer John Taverner (the 1490-1545 vintage composer, not to be confused with the very alive choral composer Jon Taverner.”
For this Mass, Mr. Kreitzer pointed out that the group was changing its traditionally a cappella game by adding the period voice of the “sackbut,” a precursor to the modern trombone, its spare parts and tones played here by Eric Heidner. The Mass is a polyphonic wonder, given a gorgeous but controlled performance by the “Quire” on Saturday night.
After intermission, the women’s ensemble of the group perched in the choir loft and sent Tomas Luis de Victoria’s “OSacrum convivium” afloat in the chapel, ,before the full group entered to usher us into the 19th century, and Francois-Auuste Gevaert’s “Le sommeil de l’enfant Jesus.”
It’s funny how the ear quickly detects the shift in harmonic and musical atmosphere, moving from the Renaissance to the Romantic era, and shudders a bit.
Moving further toward the here and now, the piece, “Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child” by Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988) illustrated this group’s keen attention to dynamis and textural purity, while also giving a ripe showcase moment to the fine soprano Nichole Dechaine.
In-house composer-in-residenc (and tenor in the group) Michael Eglin, who has had larger works premiered by the Quire int he patst, was here represented by two shorter pieces, “the Cherry Tree Carol” and “In Judah’s Land,” and the program closed with a non-traditional outfitting of a traditional “Silent Night,” as arranged and enriched by Malcolm Sargent.
As evidenced by the group’s elegant take on “Silent Night,” Quire of Voyces is one of those cultural entities in town that manages to warm the cockles of our Christmastime spirits, but in ways that run both deeper and wider than the norm.”
from the Santa Barbara Independent (May 18, 2011)
CHARLES DONELAN “Choral Concert of the Week” From the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Renaissance Venice to the modern concert halls and churches of Oslo and Stockholm, polychoral music (defined as multiple choirs singing both antiphonally and together) has come to occupy a special place in the hearts of singers and audiences, both for its considerable beauty and its amazing, dynamic stereo effects. Quire of Voyces, the Santa Barbara-based organization led by Santa Barbara City College’s Nathan Kreitzer, specializes in challenging polychoral music from the Renaissance and the 20th century. For its upcoming concerts at St. Anthony’s Chapel (2300 Garden St.) on Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22, the group will present an entire program of this type, titled (appropriately enough) “Polychoral Music.” The show, which was researched and conceived by the irrepressible Kreitzer, ranges widely and includes some particularly fascinating contemporary work that has never been heard here before.
After an opening “Ave Maria” by 16th-century Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria, the Quire will jump into Kreitzer’s latest finds—a cache of extraordinary works by 20th- and 21st-century Norwegians. It’s possible that some in the audience will already be familiar with the “Kyrie” by Knut Nystedt, but what follows—the Lovesongs I, II, and III of Torbjørn Dyrud—should be a delightful discovery for everyone. Kreitzer found them in that most early 21st century of places: Myspace. He described them to me as “an absolute showpiece based on the ‘Songs of Solomon.’”
After the intermission, the Quire will return to some of what it is best known for singing: 20th-century neoromantic music from England. Of particular interest is “Blessed Are the Dead” by composer Herbert Howells. The Quire has recently recorded a beautiful requiem that Howells wrote for his son, who died an untimely death at age 10, and now they will take on this piece, which was written to honor the passing of the composer’s father. For those who want to preview the concert, myspace.com/quireofvoyces is a great place to start. Shows take place Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
from the Santa Barbara NewsPress (October 20, 2005)
JOSEF WOODARD “Chamber Orchestra’s serious-minded gala” October 20, 2005 2:00 AM
In launching a new season strongly devoted to Mozart, in his 250th birthday year, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra stepped away from the norm on Tuesday night. Performing Mozart’s masterful “Requiem” with the Santa Barbara’s fine choral ensemble, Quire of Voyces, in the suitable environment of the First Presbyterian Church rather than the Lobero Theatre, the Chamber Orchestra’s usual home, the musical evening ended up being a gala of profound and serious — but not sober — proportions.
Of course, in the cavernous acoustics of this large chapel, the instrumental and choral forces found themselves in a much more reverberant space than the Lobero. That situation proved to be beneficial to the “Requiem,” but detrimental to Mozart’s Symphony No. 29, in the first half of the concert.
Despite the apparent clarity of the Symphony No. 29 performance led by maestro Heiichiro Ohyama, the room added a softening gloss to the orchestral sound, which isn’t necessarily what you want for those crisp classical phrases, but it did manage to give a luster to the slow movement.Nevertheless, Mr. Ohyama coaxed the orchestra into a fit and balanced reading, illustrating the ensemble’s known skills in Mozartean splendor.
Naturally, this sold-out crowd packed into the church mainly for the “Requiem,” which has earned new heights of popularity in recent years following its key role in the film “Amadeus.” Here is an extremely rare occasion when Hollywood fueled interest in classical music for its own sake, rather than exploiting existing classical works for filmic ends (as with “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Richard Strauss or “Platoon” and others with Samuel Barber). Popular or not, Mozart’s “Requiem” remains one of the more powerful and, arguably, the greatest “Requiem” in the repertoire, with Verdi’s coming in a close second. When performed with the right emotional, technical and sonic means, as it was Tuesday, the opus verges on the transfixing, despite its ragged unfinished quality (incomplete when the composer died, the score was finished by composer Franz Sussmayr).
A glorious, integrated ensemble sound between orchestra and chorus was nicely achieved here, especially in the glowing power of the “Sanctus” section and the “Agnus Dei.” In “Confutatis,” the stern heft of male voices was answered by the ethereal air of female voices, both elements conjoining in the “Lacrimosa,” a pivot point in the overall structure of the piece.
The vocal soloists for the “Requiem” — soprano Elissa Johnston, mezzo-soprano Christina Wilcox, bass Jinyoung Jang and tenor Michael Lichtenauer — added their own extra layer of allure to the performance. Ms. Johnston and Mr. Lichtenauer, in particular, sang with an impressive purity of tone and clarity of expressive intent, coming to the fore with a notable presence on “Benedictus.” It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that, in the end, Mozart’s masterpiece started the Chamber Orchestra’s season in a grand and deep fashion. The “Requiem” form, after all, besides being an acknowledgment of the gravitas of death’s role in life — timed eerily, at the very end of Mozart’s own short-lived chronology — is also a rich affirmation of life itself. And what better way to celebrate life than with great music played accordingly?
from the Santa Barbara NewsPress (December 16, 2005)
TOM JACOBS “The sound of the sacred” The Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces has two distinct groups of fans. There are the sophisticated listeners who enjoy the ensemble’s unique mix of Renaissance and contemporary classical music. And then there are the video gamers.
Nathan Kreitzer can explain. Several years back, the chamber choir performed and recorded an a cappella vocal arrangement of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” The composer adapted his best-known work into a setting of the “Agnus Dei” section of the Catholic Mass.
The CD somehow reached the creative staff of a video game company, which contacted Kreitzer, the choir’s founder and director. He agreed to rerecord it to their specifications. “It’s now heard in the video game ‘Home World,’ which is a space adventure,” he said. “The game starts up, and you hear the opening chords.”
Kreitzer’s reaction to this is, basically, bemusement. He was happy to make some money on the project, and happier still by the calls he started getting from gamers trying to find the group’s other recordings. But the experience did not change the 25-voice choir’s essential mission: to give world-class performances of engaging, enjoyable music that audiences are unlikely to hear elsewhere. That effort continues this weekend, when the group performs its annual “Mysteries of Christmas” concert 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the chapel of St. Anthony’s Seminary.
“I try to choose music that is interesting and challenging and fun,” Kreitzer said in a recent interview. “I think that’s why people stay, and why we get a steady audience.”
The a cappella choir performs both Renaissance and contemporary music, often on the same program. It exclusively sings sacred music, although Kreitzer’s definition of that term is fairly loose. “We’ve done stuff by Los Angeles composer Eric Whitacre that is spiritual in a very general sense,” he noted.
The son of a church organist, Kreitzer, 38, was born in Iowa but raised in the small California town of Porterville. “I grew up singing,” he recalled. “For fun, my family would get together around the piano and sing out of the Reader’s Digest songbook. At Thanksgiving, we would sing chorales.” He enrolled at Fresno State as a computer engineering major, but gradually realized he was having a lot more fun singing in college choirs than he was learning calculus. His junior year, he switched his emphasis, ultimately earning a degree in vocal performance. Looking for “a way to be surrounded by choral music,” he enrolled at UC Irvine, where he earned a master’s degree in choral conducting. Soon thereafter, in 1993, he moved to Santa Barbara with a former wife who was pursuing a doctorate at UCSB.
“I looked around for work for about six months,” he recalled. “There was nothing. I decided I had to do something, or I would wither away. So I thought, ‘OK, I’ll start my own choir.’ I put an ad in the paper and put up fliers. I made it sound impossible to get in — and all these people showed up! I got some really incredible talent. Three members of that original group are still in the choir today.”
The first Quire of Voyces concert was in the Presidio Chapel in 1994. “I paid for everything myself,” Kreitzer said. “I think it cost me $1,000. That was my rent money! We were in the black by our second concert, and we have never gone under budget since. We started getting bigger audiences, and a steady stream of devout donors.”
Kreitzer joined the Santa Barbara City College music faculty part-time in 1994. In 1996, when he got a full-time position, he took the choir with him.
“We get no funding from the college — we have to raise all our own funds — but they help us out in a lot of different ways,” he said. “We get a rehearsal space, an accompanist and administrative support.” Part of Kreitzer’s salary as a teacher is used to pay him to conduct the group. “There’s a nice symbiotic relationship.”
The choir began a new relationship this fall, when it performed the Mozart Requiem with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra in the First Presbyterian Church. “That looks like it will be an ongoing relationship,” he said. “I would like that. We’ve been wanting to collaborate with an instrumental group. We’re talking about doing the Bach B-minor Mass, which would be a huge ordeal. The last time it was done here was in the 1970s!”
The choir’s own concerts take place in the chapel of St. Anthony’s Seminary, which Kreitzer calls “the best place to sing within 100 miles of here. It’s all hard surfaces — stone and wood. It’s built like a small Gothic cathedral. It fits the music we do to a T. “You’ll freeze in there,” he warned, “but people bring blankets and pillows for the Christmas concerts. They have radiant heating in the floor, which they always tell me is on, but it never seems to matter at all.”
The main work on this weekend’s program is the “Missa Brevis,” by contemporary British composer Richard Rodney Bennett. A brand-new piece (written in 2004), it is “very British, with a French influence in some of the chords,” Kreitzer reported. “It’s beautiful music.”
Kreitzer will follow that up on March 18 and 19 with an intriguing program he calls “The Eclectic Mass.”
“(Veteran choral conductor) Dale Warland has done this for many years,” Kreitzer noted. “He takes movements from different masses and pieces them together. He creates a work out of movements by six different composers.”
So which composers will be represented in Kreitzer’s postmodern mass? “I’m still trying to decide,” he said. “We’ll probably hear movements from (Renaissance masters) William Byrd and Josquin Dupres. It’ll be mostly 20th-century, including the Sanctus from Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Chorus.” It will most likely conclude with Samuel Barber’s “Agnus Dei” — albeit without the flashing lights and high-tech graphics of a video game. Chances are they will not be missed. If Kreitzer and his singers are doing their jobs, the audience should be transported to a different place by the sound alone. “Music is my communion (with the spiritual), more so than religion,” the conductor said. “It’s a way to reach a higher level of being — a way to tap into a better part of ourselves. I try to choose music that is interesting and challenging and fun. I think that’s why people stay, and why we get a steady audience.” …
from The Santa Barbara Independent (March 20, 2003)
GERALD CARPENTER A bright, clear, and blustery day. Quire of Voyces does not achieve its greatest effects by the massing of singers- there aren’t enough of them for that- but by a laser-like focus and attention to detail; by weaving a delicate, transparent web of music through the screen of consciousness. This is spirituality for the connoisseur, where the various settings of the sacred texts can be savored like fine vintages. (“Fetch me up another bottle of Tallis ’85.”) Sometimes, this subtle, voluptuous tapestry of sound seemed to emanate directly from Saint Anthony’s fantastic altar screen. The core of the program consisted of three settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah by Roland di Lassus. Neither as intricately beautiful as the Misereres of Robert White and Gregorio Allegri, nor as inspiring and transcendent as Thomas Tallis’s Candidi facti sunt (“the music goes up forever,” I wrote on my program during the Tallis), the Lassus settings were the ground, the rich velvet backdrop, for the other pieces. Each setting used different passages from Lamentations- no doubt pertinent to the occasions for which they were originally composed- and concluded with the same verse from Hosea: “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thy iniquity.” [14:1] Lassus, one of the supreme musical geniuses of all time, made a dark mirror of these somber texts- it was impossible not to see ourselves and our current situation reflected there. Similarly, it was hard to keep from adding one’s own inner voice to the plea of the Miserere- a setting of Psalm 51 (not 50, as mistakenly identified in the program notes): “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness; according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” Edwin London’s amazing Come, Sweet Death, with which the Quire soared to a close, is a brilliant contemporary restructuring of the Bach chorale of the same name, “de-composed” into a peacefully atonal Pendereckian mantra.
from Goleta Valley Voice December 13, 2003
MARGO KLINE “Saint Anthony’s echoes with crystalline Voyces of Christmas” The vocal purity of the Quire of Voyces flooded St. Anthony’s Seminary Chapel Sunday afternoon, the third day of the group’s exquisite Christmas concerts of English music. The men of the Quire entered the Chapel by the side aisle, singing the “Noel” by Steven Sametz, a four-part canon based on a medieval Christmas carol text. Under the sensitive guidance of artistic director Nathan J. Kreitzer, the women then joined the men and began the first half of the diverse program. Outstanding short pieces included “Laudate Dominum” and “O nata lux” by sixteenth-century composer Thomas Tallis, who served the Tudor court through four monarchs and the backing and forthing of as many Reformation and Counter-Reformation movements. The text is in Latin, but, as the program noted, “This does not automatically mean Tallis was targeting a Catholic audience: Queen Elizabeth favored Latin for her Chapel Royal.” “The Rose, A Christmas Song,” by John Paynter, was composed in 1969, but its text echoes early music with reference to Mary: “The rose of floweres she is the flower …” The music was austere at the beginning, then bloomed with warmth as the piece soared to its culmination. The first half closed with a setting for the antiphon for Maundy Thursday, “Ubi caritas,” by Imant Raminsh, a Latvian-born Canadian composer. This work used chants, modal harmonies and changes of meter to describe the Christian ceremony of foot washing. After an intermission, the Quire returned to perform Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor, featuring soloists Elizabeth Kinsch, soprano, Kristin Aylesworth, alto, Temmo Korisheli, tenor, and Mark Andrew Steketee, bass. This unaccompanied work for double choir was premiered in 1922 at Westminster Cathedral, and is a shining example of how Vaughan Williams imbued his compositions with his own English identity. After his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Royal College of Music, the composer turned away from the dominant German models and began to move towards his own unique synthesis of British folk idioms and 16th century polyphonic masters like William Byrd and Thomas Tallis. The gorgeous Mass in G minor is an early product of this synthesis, which became his trademark sound. The afternoon came to a close with two versions of “Silent Night”: the original by the Austrian Franz Xavier Gruber, followed with the popular modern arrangement created by British conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent in 1948. The full-house audience stood to applaud the singers as they filed out via the main aisle, into the last rays of the afternoon sun.
from The Santa Barbara News-Press (May 23, 2000)
GREG HETTMANSBERGER “A Fitting Finale for Quire of Voyces.” The Quire of Voyces presented its final regular season performances last weekend, but it was far more than just a fitting conclusion to a seventh season. The performances also marked a sort of dress rehearsal for its summer tour of northern Europe, highlighted by their opening of the Medieval Festival of Gotland, Sweden in August The major work of the first half of their concert Sunday afternoon in the chapel of St. Anthony’s Seminary is a staple of the repertoire the ensemble specializes in: “Missa Pange Lingua” of Josquin des Prez. Written in the early 1500s and a crowning achievement of the High Renaissance style, the work was also featured on the Quire’s first CD in 1997. Nathan Kreitzer’s leading of the masterpiece was a potent reminder that live performances still prove more moving than even the best recordings – and that the current 25-member incarnation of the group he founded may be the finest. While the sopranos are free of even a hint of shrillness – as they must be in this literature – it is the richness of the altos that gives a special quality to the sound of the women. As for the men, it is simply a matter of personal taste whether one prefers a clear, ringing yet blended sound on top or a bass section that filled the chapel with a warm and velvety cushion of sound for a foundation. The short follow-up was a pristine reading of Josquin des Prez’s motet setting of “Ave Maria.” Kreitzer prefaced the second half offering of Herbert Howell’s “Mass in the Dorian Mode” with a comment that this was the work for people “who wondered whether there really is a link between music of the Renaissance and the 20th century. The “Kyrie” section alone convinced the packed house that there was virtually nothing 64 modem” about the piece at all. But it was easy to hear why Kreitzer (who programs such works regularly) was so attracted to the piece: Howell’s used the vocal polyphony and ancient church mode as a point of departure and created music which is not a pale imitation or even a cleverly crafted homage. Howell’s “Mass” also featured a solo quartet from within the group, heard at once in the central portion of the “Kyrie,” and to great effect in the “Credo.” It is not a simple thing for voices so carefully trained to blend seamlessly to sing out even in a small group of four which demands a fine balance between a glimpse of solo quality without completely sacrificing a blended quality. Soprano Liz Kinsch, alto Kathy Kamath, tenor Steve Swearer and bass Ken Ryals did an impressive job throughout. Howell also provided a couple of major climactic moments that cross the boundaries of Renaissance expression, and in the closing”Amens” of the “Gloria” and the “Credo,” the Quire was heard to truly full effect Only in the “Resurrexit” section of the “Credo” did the textures ever turn muddy; everywhere else Kreitzer’s group was the model of transparency. Sweden and its neighbors are in for a treat this summer.
from The Santa Barbara Independent (May 25, 2000)
GERALD CARPENTER May 25, 2000. When I remember this evening the whole experience is suffused with the Sublime sound of the Quire of Voyces singing Des Prez, yet I was in a different world from the moment I turned off Garden Street into the drive up to Saint Anthony’s. The warm air, soft and tranquil and still full of late-afternoon radiance, seemed to constitute a separate atmosphere, generated discreetly from somewhere within the seminary grounds. The verdant ravine, with its graveled terraces, beckoned me for a stroll. I descended one level, then another, paused in front of a statue of the Virgin, leaned on the rail, and listened to the sound of water rising from the depths of the ravine up though the leaves and branches-“caught,” as Dylan said, “by no track of hours, for they hanged suspended… ” Sure enough, as I walked up the beautiful cloister alongside the chapel, I heard the first, ethereal strains of Des Prez’s Missa Pange Lingua, and decided to listen to it right where I was. Perhaps that was what I secretly wanted: to hear this perfect music alone, from another room, or an empty colonnade that looked across a small, exquisite garden at the seminary proper, with the late afternoon shading gently into evening. Once inside the impressive chapel, for Des Prez’s Ave Maria … virgo serena, I thought that I might hear more imperfections in the Quire’s performance- under the assumption that the thick stone walls of the chapel had served as a filter. But the Ave Maria was as flawless and luminous as the mass. During the break, I watched everyone wander around slightly dazed, bewitched like me by the dispensation of this experience. Herbert Howells’s serenely beautiful Mass in the Dorian Mode which comprised the second half of the program, sounded virtually contemporaneous with the Des Prez, though some 438 years separated the two compositions. It was the right work to sing at that time, in that it seamlessly maintained the enchantment and kept the whole magical evening in one piece. An extraordinary group, an extraordinary concert. Nathan Kreitzer and Quire of Voyces are the answer to a prayer I had not thought to pray.
MICHAEL SMITH Under the direction of its founder, Nathan J. Kreitzer, the Quire of Voyces gave a rare performance last weekend of Rachmaninoff¹s 1915 All-Night Vigil, Op. 37, in the welcoming acoustics of the chapel at St. Anthony’s Seminary. It was a satisfying, uplifting concert as the 22 singers negotiated this fascinating score. It sounded nothing like the lush, romantic Rachmaninoff we know and love. Here he was writing for the Russian Orthodox Church, within the constraints of a tradition little known in the West. The 15 settings in this liturgy are comparatively austere and formal; their harmonic language is modal, drawn from centuries-old chants, their musical content based directly on traditional melodies or employing what Rachmaninoff called “conscious counterfeits” of them. It is easier to say what this music is not than what it actually is. It is neither melodic with accompaniment nor contrapuntal. It is not dramatic in the sense of using tension and release to structure the experience. It does not have a four-square beat, does not neatly resolve its harmonies. In a way it is all the same, foreign (sung in Russian), contained within its hermetic world. Yet Kreitzer’s flexible, energetic direction and responsive singers gave the music shifting balances and dynamic variety that made each of the sections interesting and engaging, even if not comprehensible. Generally, the voices blended so that individual lines were not distinctly heard. No. 3 (“Blessed is the man”) began with weird harmonies, then used the middle voices for the verses, the ensemble for the repeating Alleluia; the ending was exquisite as the sound grew more and more gentle. No. 4 (“Gladsome light”) had a single sinuous line floating up and down, unresolved. No. 5 (“Mine eyes have seen thy salvation”) piled up simple phrases to a rocking rhythm. Sometimes there was a burst of power, sometimes an unearthly purity. In the second half the music seemed more complex, the structures more ambitious. No. 9 (“Blessed art thou, 0 Lord”) was especially intricate, tying diverse elements together with drones and building up great rhythmic energy. No. 10 (“Having beheld the resurrection of Christ”) contrasted a smooth vocal texture with forceful dramatic episodes. No. 11 (“My soul magnifies the Lord”) alternated low grumbling with high danc-ing sections, then mixed them together into a big, powerful sound. No. 12 (“Glory to God in the highest”) built to ecstasy. All praise to Kreitzer and the Quire of Voyces for their adventurous programming and meticulous preparation.
MICHAEL SMITH The Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces’ exquisite program of mostly English, mostly unfamiliar Christmas choral music at St. Anthony’s Seminary erased seasonal distractions and transported one to a place where harmony is meaning and time stops. The performances in the chapel’s flattering acoustics were balanced and alert, the perfect intervals ringing like the music of the spheres, and the programming was thoughtful and imaginative. Like the Cappella Cordina last month, the Quire of Voyces showcased the modern premiere of a rediscovered mass. The Missa “Mater Christi” of John Taverner, not heard for centuries, featured a tenor part beautifully reconstructed by musicologist David Skinner at Oxford, where it was written between 1525 and 1530. This is thus very early Renaissance music, but it is by no means dry, reaching upward until it is ecstatically floating, highly expressive in its canonic energy. Nathan Kreitzer, founder and artistic director of the Quire of Voyces, spread the five parts of the mass through the program, framing them with a variety of shorter pieces from both the Renaissance and the 20th century. The contrast was not as great as you would think; although the moderns go in for lusher harmonies, all of the composers express a sense of illumination, a yearning toward transformation, an imminence of blessing. Benjamin Britten’s luminous “A Boy Was Born” and Franz Biebl¹s expansive “Ave Maria” followed persuasively out of Taverner’s fervent “Credo.” On the second half, “The Lamb” by another John Taverner, born in 1944, and William Walton’s rollicking “What Cheer?” fit naturally between a “Sanctus” and “Benedictus” written almost 500 years before. There was a gorgeous Russian Orthodox prayer setting by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Malcolm Sargent’s 1948 arrangement of “Silent Night” sent us home with a fresh sense of the relative timelessness of Christmas. The Quire of Voyces is amazingly good at bringing all this music alive. Kreitzer conducts the 11 women and eight men with a forward moving, spacious sense of rhythm, and he has trained them to produce a remarkably flexible balance among the four or more parts, blending or singing out as the moment demands, stylish and precise in attack and finish. This was the first of three programs by the Quire of Voyces in the 1998-99 season; their concerts of Russian liturgical music in, March and English cathedral music in May are not to be missed.
Quire of Voyces “The Latin Mass” compact disc recording
GREG HETTMANSBERGER Apparently, three seasons is not long enough to have discovered every local treasure, for the evidence on this disc is that the 5-year old Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces is a major choral force waiting to happen. The group has been featured on the nationally syndicated radio program “The First Art” and this CD — even without major distribution — should help spread the word.
Thoughtfully conceived and brilliantly and understandably linked by Temmo Korishelli’s uncommonly incisive program notes, this set of masses by Josquin des Prez, William Byrd and Tomas Luis de Victoria is a miniature 150-year tour of the Catholic mass in the Renaissance period. Lovingly recorded at St. Anthony’s Seminary Chapel in three sessions spanning March 1996 to March ’97, the disc preserves the 24-voice ensemble’s readings with a freshness rarely captured even by the “major” recording studios and choirs.
A can’t-miss label should be on the cover for those already enamored of this repertoire — and another that reads “you’ve got to hear this” should be next to it, for those who have yet to really give this kind of music a chance. You don’t ever have to had set foot in a church to testify that something divine has occurred in this creative process — and not just from the composers who first conceived the music.
If you can’t find the disc easily, call 965-0581 ext. 2230, at Santa Barbara City College, the Quire’s sponsoring institution.
The Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces, directed by Nathan Kreitzer, will perform at 7pm Saturday, and 3pm Sunday at St. Anthony’s Seminary Chapel, 2300 Garden St. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Garvin Theater Box Office at 965-5935. They will also be available at the door.
from The Santa Barbara Independent (December 14, 1995)
DAVID RUBENS Nathan Kreitzer has established his Quire of Voyces as the most elegant choral ensemble sound in the Santa Barbara area. Last Sunday’s concert had the audience around me literally holding their breath, then sighing with satisfaction at the end of each selection of the attractive Christmas program. The artistic director has chosen to develop his choral sound with pristine acoustics like those of St. Anthony¹s Chapel, where every sound is magnified beyond any sound studio’s capacity. The same acoustic properties that complemented on Sunday also hindered the understanding of text. But, for the audience, the Chapel’s mushiness was a justifiable trade-off for the exquisite organ-like timbre of the 15-voice ensemble in the hall. Kreitzer has shown an affinity for Russian and 20th-century literature in previous concerts. Sunday’s outing didn’t contradict that history but went considerably further in extending the effective scope of his group’s professionalism. Not only did Grechaninov’s “Song of Simeon,” the two 20th century settings of “The Lamb,” and Herbert Howell’s “A Spotless Rose” prove to be musically satisfying. The conductor also included smaller ensembles pulled from the group. Hildegard von Bingen’s 12th-century “De Virginibus” was sung from the chapel’s Transept by Kimberly Labor, Elizabeth Kinsch, Melanie Jacobsen, and Theresa Roys. It proved as beautiful as the men’s singing of an anonymous 15th-century medieval carol, “Nowell, Nowell, Out of Your Sleep” was lusty.
from The Santa Barbara Independent (December 11, 1994)
DAVID RUBENS The Quire of Voyces is the newest choral ensemble in town, but their founder and conductor, Nathan Kreitzer, has already established high musical standards for the 12-voice ensemble. Beauty and refinement were in evidence throughout “In Dulci Jubilo”, their Christmas concert of a cappella music last Sunday at St. Anthony’s Seminary. Kreitzer programmed challenging literature from six centuries, including medieval chants, Renaissance and contemporary motets, some of the best 20th Century arrangements of early carols, and some rarely heard Russian liturgy by Rachmaninoff. He ended the evening with a stunning reading of Gruber’s “Silent Night” and offered one encore, Randall Thompsons’ famous “Alleluia.” The choir sang in clearly articulated Latin, German, French, Spanish, English, and Russian. The young conductor has a singular vision of choral style and sound, and he has gathered a group of intelligent, attractive singers who are willing to use their voices to create evocative sound pictures to achieve it. Who could argue with Kreitzer’s choice of the St. Anthony’s chapel as a concert venue? It enhanced the ensemble’s already distinctive sound, and it provided us with an elegant visual environment, with the stone relief behind the altar and the red, gold and green cloth swagging that framed the apse for the holidays. The most important thing, though, was the singing. It was beautiful, varied, and full of color. Kreitzer paid close attention to choral ensemble and achieved wonderful results all evening, particularly in the second half, where musicological matters of exotic tunings and rhythmic prolation were not central to authenticity. The three pieces from Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers” were exquisitely performed and could become signature pieces for this group. Sunday’s concert became doubly interesting because the conductor cast the individual singers for their vocal personalities. As each began to emerge, we heard more than just a superbly controlled ensemble. Kimberly Labor’s emulation of a boy soprano was diverting. Steve Reading’s alto falsetto work created afffective sonorities in the treble. Ted Rau’s basso filled out the bottom of the ensemble in truly Russian character. Alfredo Paredes’ solo in “Riu, riu, chiu” had a Mediterranean lilt to it, rather than a picaresque quality. Elizabeth Kinsch’s voice had a distinctive color. And Coke Morgan’s solo in Rachmaninoff’s “Nyne Otpushchayeshi” was an expressive highlight.