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Last night I went to a concert of the professional choir known as Cappella Romana, at St. Mary's Cathedral in downtown Portland. Tickets were more than I could afford, so I asked if I might be able to check out the singers "without expenditure", and a single comp ticket was promptly offered. I took the ticket, rode the bus downtown, and attended a lecture by the composer and the concert.

The composer is a professor based in Colorado who converted from Lutheranism to Eastern Orthodoxy in 1997. He was asked "why" he converted, and initially he said he did not have enough time to answer the question, but eventually he answered it this way: he liked the seriousness of the orthodox church about "things that matter". I find the orthodox seriousness and focus on central matters also appealing, though I have some issues with the dogma.

Toensing's compositions on display were a collection of innovative Christmas carols and another work he calls Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ. I really enjoyed his compositions, especially as sung by this choir. The first half of the show was 13 singers, 6 women and 7 men, who delivered lovely clean carols that were unintelligible unless I read along in the program. In the second part the choir doubled in size, 11 women and 13 men, and the Kontakion itself was sung. It is a longer piece and they sang about half the stanzas.

I would have liked to sing along. If I had music in my hands, I probably would have been able to. The songlines were not overly difficult, though there were a few odd intervals and some absolutely gorgeous dissonant chords. I loved the way the Cathedral would ring with the sound long after the singers had quieted. There were some soloists who were quite excellent. I think my favorite was the tenor....his tone and control were spectacular. But they were all good.

The ticket price for this show was $27/head, and there were probably 200 people in attendance. It was a serious event, though I noticed I was not the only one present in blue jeans. I was jealous for my choir: wouldn't it be nice to sing serious music and be taken seriously? but this Cappella Romana is a professional choir--they are PAID TO SING, whereas in my choir I PAY TO SING.

I would like to sing for free, to offer my voice and my song and my inspiration to the world just for the love of it. I am frustrated by all the demands for money. Can we not sing for the joy of it anymore? Music has a magical livening effect on me. I crave it. I want to share it. I thank these singers and this composer for a wonderful performance. I thank the director who offered me a free ticket. And I am grateful for Portland's fantastic public transportation system.

A couple of local reviews:
http://cappellaromana.blogspot.com/2009/01/review-of-toensing-kontakion-in-seattle.html
http://localcut.wweek.com/2009/01/13/furniture-music-2-cappella-romana

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
neptunia67
Jan. 3rd, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
I have a couple of serious musicians on my f-list. One is a pianist, the other an opera singer. The singer quit because she finally became fed up with the bullshit that goes along with being a performer. The pianist gives lessons and performances. She is an amazing person, a cancer survivor who realizes she has a second lease on life and wants to live it to the fullest. She was recently lamenting the fact that there are NO more free venues in which she can perform. She lives in Minneapolis and I guess there used to be a few places where performers could do their thing just for the sheer pleasure of performing, but no longer. It bothers her that she has to pay to perform. Can't say I blame her.
liveonearth
Jan. 4th, 2009 03:38 am (UTC)
Interesting...and sad, isn't it? My choir has to pay for a space to rehearse and pay for concert space and pay for a pianist and pay for a director. I would like to rehearse in my living room and sing on street corners, and find a director and accompanists who just love to play. Today I was downtown and there were young black men jamming on pickle barrels turned into drumsets on a street corner. They sounded GREAT and everybody on that block was groovin' on their beats. THAT is the kind of music I would like to participate in.
neptunia67
Jan. 4th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
Me too!!

I have been thinking about approaching some musician friends about singing with them. I don't have time now, but I will after I've finished school.

Unfortunately for my friend, she is a classical pianist so can't do the street corner thing.
liveonearth
Jan. 4th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
Can't make a piano out of pickle barrels. =-[
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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