The Vocal Art Ensemble has earned a reputation for its worldly music, presenting ethnic pieces alongside historic and modern repertoire at every concert since the group’s inception in 2008.
The Davis-based choral group even received national recognition for its unique style of programming, winning the American Prize for creative programming and collaboration in 2012.
This season they will be traveling the world through music in a more literal sense, embarking in early May on a second European performance tour that will take the Vocal Art Ensemble to historic venues in England and Scotland.
In preparation, the ensemble will present three local “expedition” concerts on April 25, 26 and 27 as a preview of its tour program. Titled “Compass — From the Four Corners of the Earth,” these concerts (each featuring the same program) will explore varied geographical locations as well as the four seasons associated with each of the cardinal directions, forming one all-encompassing musical journey.
An example: The West section of the concert will reflect American music that sets poetry about autumn, fading light or living each moment to its fullest. On the other hand, the East section includes rich and beloved choruses, all which herald the heart of the European continent.
Tracia Barbieri, the Vocal Art Ensemble’s director, added that “ ‘North’ delves into the mystery and wonder of long winters with transcendent music from Sweden and Russia, while ‘South’ explodes with dance and energy from music born in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The ensemble’s tour of England and Scotland will have it performing in cathedrals and historic village churches, some being the actual places where the composers of their pieces worked and lived.
“We plan to perform William Byrd’s ‘Sing Joyfully’ in Lincoln Cathedral,” enthused Barbieri. “Byrd grew up in Lincoln, and Lincoln Cathedral is where he had his first post as organist and choirmaster back in 1563.”
VAE also will have a joint concert with the Scottish chorus Cadenza in Edinburgh, and plans to sing in a village church listed in the Domesday Book dating back to the 11th century and built of ironstone and limestone.
The VAE’s first tour was of Ireland in 2010, where it performed for local and visiting audiences in places like Kylemore Abbey, St. Canice Cathedral in Kilkenny and the 12th-century St. Kevin’s church in Glendalough. VAE also sang in an Irish Catholic Mass and at a joint performance with two Irish choirs.
The group’s final performance at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin was attended by Dr. David Mooney, whose arrangement of the Irish folk song “Dulaman” was performed in Gaelic by the group throughout the tour.
The “Compass — From the Four Corners of the Earth” program will be performed three times in the local area:
* Friday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2620 Capitol Ave. in Sacramento;
* Saturday, April 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 27074 Patwin Road in Davis; and
* Sunday, April 27, at 4 p.m. at the Davis United Methodist Church, 1620 Anderson Road.
A suggested donation of $6 to $20 will be accepted at the door. For more information, see www.vae.trug.com or call Barbieri at 530-757-2396.