What: Vocal Art Ensemble concerts
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 2620 Capitol Ave. in Sacramento; 7:30 p.m. Saturday at United Methodist Church of Davis, 1620 Anderson Road; 4 p.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, 27074 Patwin Road
Tickets: $6-$20 donation, collected at the door
Info: www.vaetrug.com or (530) 757-2396
Question: On whom do choral composers depend for inspiration, for meaning, for the very backbone of many of their compositions?
“I feel choral music is richer than many other types of music,” said Tracia Barbieri, director of The Vocal Art Ensemble, “because it has lyrics — which bring additional meaning and beauty to already beautiful music.”
Celebrating the fact that these lyrics are frequently famous poems, Barbieri has crafted the program “Inkspell: Choral Music Inspired by Masters of Poetry,” to be presented by the a cappella chorus this weekend, including two performances in Davis.
The program will invite audiences to “encounter choral wizards such as Claude Debussy, Eric Whitacre and Ralph Vaughan Williams” as they created music in response to verse, Barbieri said.
“Obviously, lyrics can be considered poetry,” she said, “and these lyrics are by people who have made a name for selves as poetry: Lord Tennyson and Rainer Maria Rilke, for instance. And of course, one can’t have a poetry concert without Shakespeare.”
In this program, the concert will begin with three songs in which Shakespeare’s words were set to music by Finnish composer Jaako Mäntejärvi.
“I like to program a concert starting with one piece of music as the kernel, embodying the theme and the feel I’m looking for,” Barbieri said.
Barbieri also has engaged the assistance of local theatrical director and teacher Russell St. Clair. Collaborating with choir members who will lend their voices to the spoken word, Barbieri and St. Clair are developing dramatic-poetic interludes to “conjure an alchemy of song and stage,” Barbieri said.
St. Clair has directed the teen casts of Winters Shakespeare Workshop for the past 10 years and taught theater in community colleges up and down California. As artistic director of Daedalus Performance Company and lover of poetry, he has put together shows involving dramatic presentations of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Poetic and theatrical interests from within the auditioned chorus of 23 singers are diverse. The group includes English teachers, published and unpublished poets, a Mondavi scene technician and multiple poetry enthusiasts.
“I like to see how people put their feelings into words,” said alto Cheryl Covert. “If it’s fun poetry, I can let my inner child escape and play.”
The group started rehearsing in January for the May concerts. “We memorize the full concert,” Barbieri said.
Molly Petrik, who plays piano on one piece, is the only instrumentalist.
“Everything else is voices; there’s not any percussion this time. The emphasis is on words,” Barbieri said.
“I strive to create a multi-dimensional experience in my programming, combining varied musical flavors and textures that have a common theme,” she added. “This time, poets like the American New Englander Robert Frost and the Persian poet Rumi are some of our main ingredients. Through them, we hope to create magic!”
Three performances will take place — at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 2620 Capitol Ave. in Sacramento; at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at United Methodist Church of Davis, 1620 Anderson Road; and at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, 27074 Patwin Road.
A suggested donation of $6 to $20 will be collected at the door.
For more information, visit www.vae.trug.com or call (530) 757-2396.