University Chorus will sing modern English music

By From page A9 | February 29, 2012


What: UC Davis University Chorus and Alumni Chorus singing works by living British composers

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: $12-$19; www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787

The UC Davis University Chorus — joined by the Alumni Chorus — will perform three works by living British composers at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Mondavi Center.

Featured will be three short works by composer John Rutter, who was born in London in 1945. Rutter’s setting of the “Te Deum,” a Christian text that has been taken up by many composers over the centuries, was written in 1988 for the Guild of Church Musicians, celebrating their centenary at a service of thanksgiving in Canterbury Cathedral.

At only seven minutes in length, Rutter’s setting clearly belongs to the Anglican tradition of “functional” Te Deums, rather than the symphonic tradition embodied in such extended setting as Handel’s, but it is also performed in non-liturgical contexts and in choral concerts — wherever, in fact, its great text of praise and thanksgiving is appropriate.

Rutter’s “Cantus” is a seven-minute anthem written in memory of the composer’s friend and publisher Donald Hinshaw, who died in 1996. The anthem’s text consists of a single word, “Alleluia,” sung many times. The composer has written that he focused on that word because “it seems to express everything I wanted to say” in the piece.

Rutter’s “Gloria” is a three-movement piece running about 18 minutes. It was commissioned by a group known as the Voices of Mel Olson, and Rutter conducted the premiere in Omaha, Neb., in 1974, during his first visit to the United States.

The association between Olson and Rutter continued over some years; Olson later would serve at Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, which hosted the premiere of several movements of Rutter’s “Requiem” in March 1985, with longtime Davis resident and music teacher Rachel Day Kessler singing the soprano solos in the final movement.

Olson died in 2001 at his home in Nevada City.

Also to be featured in Sunday’s concert are two pieces by composer James Whitbourn, who was born in Kent in 1963. Whitbourn’s “Luminosity” is a seven-movement piece than runs about 25 minutes.

“Luminosity” was premiered at the Philadelphia Cathedral in 2008, and the text, compiled and edited by the composer, centers on the transcendent beauty of creation expressed by luminaries down the ages. Texts are taken from the ancient writings of St. John; St. Teresa of Avila; Ryonen, a descendant of the Japanese warrior Shingen; St. Augustine; Julian of Norwich; and St. Isaac of Nineveh.

The music draws on Western choral and classical Indian styles. Sunday’s performance will feature UC Davis music faculty artists Rita Sahai on tanpura and Ellen Ruth Rose on viola.

“Luminosity” originally was composed as music to be accompanied by dance.

Also on the program will be Whitbourn’s “All Shall Be Amen and Alleluia,” a four-minute piece for large choir that draws on a text by St. Augustine.

Tickets for Sunday’s concert are $12-$19, available online at www.mondaviarts.org or by calling (530) 754-2787.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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