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: