Monthly Archives: July 2012

Summer Benefit Concert and Tour Wrap-up

Thanks to Sarah Z., here is concluding post about the Women’s Voices Chorus summer concert and tour:

Our European tour had its true coda on Saturday, July 14, when the chorus held its annual summer benefit concert back home. For an enthusiastic crowd of approximately 140 people at the United Church of Chapel Hill, we performed music learned especially for the tour—including pieces in Hungarian and Slovene—plus American favorites from our repertoire.

Allan prefaced each song with informal comments, clueing the audience into our unique experiences abroad. Of particular note: the Hungarian national pride we felt so keenly in Budapest, perfectly expressed in Zoltán Kodály’s “Huszt”; the special pleasure of working with Slovene composer Damijan Močnik on “Blagri,” his setting of the Beatitudes; and the extra appreciation our foreign friends showed for American spirituals like “Deep River” and “Ain’t No Grave.”

The richness of our adventures—musically, culturally, and socially—brought a palpable energy and maturity to this final performance. But we were equally excited by the organization we sang to support: Arts for Life, a nonprofit that provides art activities and education to chronically ill children in four hospitals across the state.

After seeing so much of other places, it felt good to return our vision to the local community. Mary Margaret Fulk, the AFL program director at Duke Children’s Hospital, spoke movingly of how art projects give kids a break from the unrelenting demands of illness management. For cancer patients, transplant recipients, and other sick children undergoing specialized procedures, Arts for Life is an essential program: It helps them express hope and happiness through painting, drawing, sculpting, and other hands-on activities.

What better way to conclude our own artistic journey than to support this incredible organization? If you missed the chance to contribute, you can still do so online via the “Donate” button on the AFL website. And if you want to see what lies ahead for Women’s Voices Chorus, sign up for our mailing list here.

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More from our Venice concert

Here are a few more videos from our concert in Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, thanks to Darrell.

“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” arr. Nina Gilbert

“Deep River,” arr. Alex Blake

“Wade in the Watah,” Ysaye Barnwell, soloists Judy Moore and Rachel FitzSimons

“Daemon Irrepit Callidus,” Gyorgy Orban

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Concert in Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli

For our last concert of the tour, we sang in Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Venice. This small, beautiful, 15th-century church is entirely built from marble, with an ornate ceiling containing many portraits of biblical figures. There are over a hundred churches in Venice; it seems like there’s another lovely Renaissance chapel every time you cross a bridge. Here’s a little more information about Miracoli, as well as a resource about Venetian churches in general.

We had a small, but enthusiastic, audience for this last concert, and we ended the tour with an hour of music both American and Italian, concluding appropriately with Allan Friedman’s arrangement of “Nunc Dimittis,” a piece about departing. Below are recordings of three pieces from the final concert, provided by our resident videographer, Darrell Edgley.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with Women’s Voices Chorus as we’ve made our way through central Europe! Our travels have ended for now, but we hope that this marks only the beginning of exciting new ventures for our group.

“Sweet Prospect” by William Walker, soloist Virginia Kraus

“Ave Maria” by Paula Tillen, directed by Laura Delauney

“Followers of the Lamb,” a Shaker hymn adapted by Allan Friedman, soloist Mary Greenwood

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Singing in San Marco

On Friday, July 6, we had the honor of singing in the evening mass at San Marco in Venice. Here’s a recording of our performance of Giovanni Gabrieli’s Jubilate Deo in San Marco with a slideshow of some of my personal Venice photos from our tour. A special thank you to Darrell Edgley, husband of choir member Jo, who recorded our concerts throughout our travels! I hope you enjoy the sights and sounds of Venice with Women’s Voices Chorus:

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The Sala della Musica and Acoustic Mapping Project

(Our tour is now over, but I will continue posting for the next few days with more photos and recaps of our time in Venice.)

On the morning of our second day in Venice, Women’s Voices Chorus went “behind the scenes” in a tour of a lesser-known, but musically fascinating, locale: the Ospedaletto of Santa Maria dei Derelitti. The Ospedaletto was a charitable institution famous for its tradition of instructing orphan girls in music. We visited both the church and the Sala della Musica, the sites of the girls’ sacred and secular performances.

Painting in the Sala della Musica

Painting in the Sala della Musica with the orphan girls represented by muses surrounding the figure of Apollo. The girl on the right holding a ring is actually holding a Venetian cookie of a variety that’s still sold today.

In the Sala della Musica, the girls would sing from an upper gallery behind a “chastity screen” while potential patrons (or potential husbands) would listen to them in the chamber below while enjoying chocolate, tobacco, and other delicacies. Renowned Venetian composers such as Niccola Porpora were affiliated with the Ospedaletto and wrote music specifically for the girls.

Some Women's Voices Chorus members visit the upper gallery in the Sala della Musica

Some Women’s Voices Chorus members visit the upper gallery in the Sala della Musica

The view that the musicians would have had from behind the screen in the Sala della Musica

The view that the musicians would have had from behind the screen in the Sala della Musica

Our visit to the Venetian Ospedaletto was not only an interesting musical tourism destination: we were also helping out an interdisciplinary research project at Duke University. The Acoustic Mapping Project is organized by professors and graduate students from the disciplines of Art History, Computer Science, Physics, and Visual and Media Studies, and it involves using software to create digital models of acoustic spaces. Through computer modeling of the acoustics of a space, special software allows a recording to be processed so that it sounds as though it was performed in a particular room. For instance, singers could be recorded in a room at Duke University, and that recording could then be made to sound exactly as if they were singing in the Sala della Musica in Venice.

The unique shape and properties of the Ospedaletto Sala della Musica made it an interesting subject for this research project. While Women’s Voices Chorus visited, we made a recording of eight members singing selections from Niccola Porpora’s Magnificat in the gallery to compare with a similar recording that those same singers made at Duke, and a researcher took laser measurements of the space to enable more accurate digital mapping.

We were excited both to see this historically-interesting  venue and to help expand the boundaries of acoustic technology. In the next few days, keep an eye out on this site for a recording of WVC members singing in the Ospedaletto, as well as more photos and reminiscences from our performances and tours in Venice!

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Touring Venice and Singing at San Marco

Today Women’s Voices Chorus spent all day in Venice, first taking a tour and exploring the city on our own, then providing the music for an evening mass in San Marco. In the morning, we had a tour of St. Mark’s Square, San Marco Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace, after which the choir members had several hours of free time for lunch and wandering through the city.

We met up in the early evening to sing at the 6:45 mass in San Marco, which was an amazing experience. The mass was held in a side chapel, and the four pieces that we sang were perfectly chosen for the occasion and space. We performed Giovanni Gabrieli’s Jubilate Deo and Adrian Willaert’s Regina Coeli, both of which were composed specifically for San Marco. As Allan noted, San Marco is a fascinating and important site for those interested in the history of European music. We also performed two beautiful American pieces, Randall Thompson’s Alleluia and selections from Lana Walter’s Magnificat. The final movement of Walter’s Magnificat has the double choir arrangement that’s characteristic of Venetian music like Gabrieli’s works, so it was particularly appropriate for this venue. It was a great pleasure to sing in such a historic and monumental space!

Here are a few photos taken during our visit to Venice today:

St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Square

View down a Venice canal

View down a Venice canal

Choir members Rachel, Laura D., and Laura G. wander through the Venice streets

Choir members Rachel, Laura D., and Laura G. wander through the Venice streets

The view from the boat leaving Venice after our performance

The view from the boat leaving Venice after our performance

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Piran, Slovenia

Buongiorno from Venezia! En route to Venice, Women’s Voices Chorus spent most of the day in Piran, a little Slovenian town on the Adriatic coast. We will be singing quite a bit in Venice, so today was a small respite before our more intensive performance schedule over the next few days. The central plaza in Piran is named after Giuseppe Tartini, an 18th-century Italian composer who was a native of the town. Piran is Slovenian, but for centuries had a close connection with Venice, so it’s reminiscent of an Italian coastal town.

The statue of Tartini in the plaza in Piran

The statue of Tartini in the plaza in Piran

There was enough time in Piran for everyone to pursue their own interests. Some people went to the beach in the nearby town of Portorož, a Slovenian seaside resort.

Choir members enjoying themselves on the beach at Portorož

Choir members Virginia, Jackie, Deborah, Shelley, Sarah, Judy, Janet, and Katie enjoying themselves on the beach at Portorož

Others explored Piran, climbing up to the Church of St. George for a panoramic view of the coast, taking a dip in the sea right there, or having a leisurely seafood lunch.

The harbor in Piran

The harbor in Piran

Piran is full of picturesque winding alleyways. As you wander through the streets, you see fresh laundry drying above you, and hear the sounds of family meals wafting it from open windows.

One of the winding alleys of Piran

One of the winding alleys of Piran

In the next few days we will be singing in the magnificent San Marco and the Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli, as well as visiting the Ospedaletto, so look for accounts of our upcoming performances soon. If you happen to be in Venice right now, please check out our performance schedule and come listen to us!

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Freshly arrived! Near Venice

As soon as we arrived at the hotel in Monastier di Treviso (about 25km northeast of Venice), some of us just had to go out onto the balcony right away.

I love my camera’s zoom so very, very much.

Jen G on the balcony

“Jen! Look this way!”

Katie on the balcony

“It’s your turn, Katie! C’mon!” Katie: “What?”

We Three Women

Diane, Jan, and Sue R. hanging out together

Grey on the balcony

For Grey, I just waved, and this was his response.

Alana on the balcony

Allan’s mom is so cute.

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Day Trip to Lake Bled

Today Women’s Voices Chorus followed up our concert in Ljubljana with a day trip to Lake Bled, a vacation destination in northwestern Slovenia. Lake Bled is an azure blue gem nestled amidst beautiful mountains, with a little island in the center containing a charming and historic church. We boarded three small boats rowed by local guides, who took us on a smooth and breezy ride across to the island. The acoustics in the chapel were so beautiful that we tried them out with a song. Here’s a video taken by Darrell, the husband of choir member Jo, of us singing an impromptu “Followers of the Lamb” in Bled Chapel:

After visiting the island, we spent a couple of hours in the small town of Bled, which was a great opportunity for each choir member to pursue their favorite activities: swimming in the cool, fresh water, a leisurely lunch in a café, a walk up to Bled Castle for a great view of the landscape, or even a hike the entire 6 km. around the lake.

A view of the island in Lake Bled from a boat

A view of the island in Lake Bled from a boat

A view of Lake Bled from Bled Castle

A view of Lake Bled from Bled Castle

Last, but definitely not least, there’s a very important person whose presence has so far gone unrecognized on this site. Our guide Andreas is traveling with us for the entire tour, and he has truly been our organizational rock. He has kept track of our busy and detailed schedules, and made sure that every choir member understands where and when she’s supposed to be. He’s gone above-and-beyond in terms of flexibility, arranging extra activities for us that weren’t initially on the schedule, like our delightful Danube dinner cruise. Not to mention, he’s so cheerful and laid back that he puts everyone at ease. Here’s a photo of Andreas chatting with Allan in a cafe on Bled Island:

Andreas and Allan

Andreas and Allan

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Photos from the Ljubljana Concert

Thanks to Franzi, here are some photos of our rehearsal with Damijan Močnik and concert in St. Nicholas Cathedral, Ljubljana. Franzi unfortunately wasn’t feeling well (get better soon!), but she sat in the audience and took some excellent pictures:

Damijan Mocnik working with the choir on his piece, "Blagri"

Damijan Močnik working with the choir on his piece, “Blagri”

Damijan Močnik consulting with Allan

Composer Damijan Močnik consulting with Artistic Director Allan Friedman

The choir listening attentively to Allan right before our Ljubljana concert

The choir listening attentively to Allan right before our Ljubljana concert

Singing in Ljubljana

Singing in Ljubljana

Allan conducting us in Ljubljana

Allan conducting us in Ljubljana

As Darcy said in her post, singing this concert was really a pleasure! It was a great experience to meet Damijan Močnik, the composer of one of the pieces we performed both here and in our spring concert – “Blagri,” a Slovenian setting of the Beatitudes text. We learned after the concert that another Slovenian composer, Jakob Jež, whose piece “Igraj Kolce” we performed, also attended our concert! This concert felt like a fortunate confluence of great energy, a beautiful space, an amazing conductor, and special circumstances, and it was an honor to sing here tonight.

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