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Vocal Art Ensemble marks fifth anniversary with ‘Godai’

Vocal Art Ensemble will performing May 24-26 in Davis and Sacramento. Courtesy photo

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From page A9 | May 17, 2013 | Leave Comment

Check it out

What: “Godai,” presented by the Vocal Art Ensemble

When and where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 2620 Capitol Ave. in Sacramento; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, 27074 Patwin Road; and 4 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at the Davis United Methodist Church, 1620 Anderson Road.

Tickets: $6-$20 donation suggested

Info: www.vae.trug.com or 530-757-2396

Over the past five years, Davis resident and music director Tracia Barbieri has led the Vocal Art Ensemble, an a cappella chorus, in creating a dozen musical programs. In addition to giving concerts locally, the group has performed in Ireland and has produced CDs and DVDs of their concerts.

And in 2012, the Vocal Art Ensemble received national recognition, in the form of a “special citation for unique collaborative programming and performance” from a Connecticut-based organization known as The American Prize.

So how will The Vocal Art Ensemble celebrate these achievements in a fifth anniversary concert? The answer is with “Godai: Choral Music Summoning the Ancient Elements,” a musical depiction of the five Japanese elements of Earth, air, fire, water and void.

“ ‘Godai’ literally means ‘Five Great,’ ” Barbieri says, “which is why I chose it to represent the five great years we have enjoyed presenting our vocal art to this supportive community.”

The choral pieces selected to invoke the properties of these ancient elements are not limited to the Japanese tradition, but rise from various cultures and time periods.

“The women of the chorus will allude to the breezy and unpredictable nature of wind with the scintillating ‘Las Amarillas’ and the soothing Renaissance piece ‘Con El Viento,’ ” Barbieri explains, “while the men will evoke the power of fire and water with Z. Randall Stroope’s impressive ‘Dies Irae’ and the rapid-fire Gaelic of Michael McGlynn’s ‘Dulaman.’ ”

The program also will include favorites from past seasons, such as Eric Whitacre’s “Cloudburst,” which combines sounds of a thunderstorm with Octavio Paz’s evocative poetry.

“The audience will be able to hear the rain and feel the electricity of a storm,” says Jeanine McElwain, one of the chorus’ founding members. “I think their hair will stand on end!”

The Buddhist philosophy represented by “Godai” refers not only to the elements in their pure forms, but also to sentiments and properties of those elements that allude to a larger whole, such as plants or animals or aspects of the human psyche.

“I find it interesting that choral music is much the same,” adds soprano Laura Sandage. “We aim for the individual elements of pitch, rhythm, words and timbre to be pure, but they find their meaning when they are meticulously combined into the larger wholes of melodic phrase, song and concert.”

“Godai” also boasts an impressive roster of returning past collaborators. Sonja Brodt from Ecokinesis and three dance instructors from Fiesta Dance N’ Fitness (Denise Mathieu, Ariana Rundqvist and Nicole Naar) will personify Godai elements through ethnic and modern dance elements.

Matthew Grasso will offer accompaniment and an original composition on his classical guitar, and pianist Molly Petrik will present a composition by local student Jacob Dunaway. The Juuliebells handbell choir will be returning into the fold, as will the Dolanc String Quartet.

Guiding the audience on the journey will be the voices of spiritual director Gerry Hair, former Davis poet laureate Allegra Silberstein and theatrical director Russell St. Clair.

The concert finale will be Eric Whitacre’s “Alleluia,” published in 2012. Not only is this likely to be the first time audiences in this area have heard this work performed, but the Vocal Art Ensemble will be presenting a custom arrangement crafted by Barbieri that incorporates the guest performers’ instruments.

“Godai” will be heard three times: at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 2620 Capitol Ave. in Sacramento; at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, 27074 Patwin Road; and at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at the Davis United Methodist Church, 1620 Anderson Road.

The suggested donation is $6-$20. The group is fundraising for its next international tour, which is slated to take them to Sweden and Scotland in April-May 2014.

For more information, visit www.vae.trug.com or call 530-757-2396.

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