Cantori New York offers U.S. premiere of Dutch requiem
by Chelsea Harvey for Vocal Area Network
Posted May 13, 2018

Cantori New York at National SawdustAward-winning choral ensemble Cantori New York, led by Artistic Director Mark Shapiro, concludes its spring season on May 19 and 20 with the U.S. premiere of Dutch composer Daan Manneke’s ethereal Psalmenrequiem. Performances will also include Leonard Bernstein’s seldom-performed choruses for the 1952 play The Lark (based on the life of Joan of Arc) and a collection of luminous motets by Catalan composer Francisco Valls. The enterprising program embodies Cantori’s continuous support of musical innovation and commitment to daring repertoire. Just last month, Cantori was named a recipient of the Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the fourth time the group has received this honor.

Manneke’s haunting composition was originally commissioned by musician and choral director Paul Hameleers, in memory of his late son. It was first performed in Amsterdam in 2005. As Manneke himself has written, the composition is “not modernistic,” but evocative of Medieval and Renaissance compositions -- it’s characterized at various points by rich harmonies, canon and the layered textures of multiple choruses. Yet the piece is abundant with its own twists as well. While structured in the typical requiem mass format, the piece forgoes the traditional Latin texts in favor of selected psalms from the Old Testament, a choice that Manneke has written gives the composition “a more open, ecumenical character.” And at Hameleers’s suggestion, the choir is accompanied by harp, the biblical King David’s preferred instrument.

“As we’ve been rehearsing Manneke’s Psalmenrequiem, we have all been struck not only by the beauty of Manneke's melodies, harmonies and rhythms, but also by his exceptional command of the choral instrument,” said Artistic Director Mark Shapiro. “The writing is detailed, scrupulously attentive to spacing, register and sonority. The chords positively glow. It is a profoundly satisfying and deeply moving acoustic experience!” Cantori is proud to present the first U.S. performance of Psalmenrequiem. We hope the program will help introduce American audiences to Manneke’s prolific body of work -- not nearly as well-known in the U.S. as it deserves to be -- through one of his most moving compositions. 
The performances are Saturday, May 19, 8:00 PM at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, 487 Hudson Street, New York City; and Sunday, May 20, 5:00 PM at Saint Ignatius of Antioch Church, 552 West End Avenue, New York City. Featured guest soloists are Ashley Jackson, harp; Nicholas Tamagna, countertenor; and Ilinca Kiss, speaker.

About Cantori
Praised by The New York Times for its “spirit of exploration” and qualities of “virtuosity and assurance”, Cantori New York, which feted its 30th year in 2014, has stayed true to its mission of presenting new compositions from all over the world, as well as neglected works that deserve the public’s attention and appreciation. A four-time winner of ASCAP's “Adventurous Programming” prize in recognition of its audacious repertoire, Cantori New York has won an enviable reputation as an accomplished and innovative vocal ensemble. The ensemble’s work with living composers has led to nearly 200 premieres, including recent commissions from creators such as Alice Ho, Alba Potes, Dariusz Przybilski, Mohammed Fairouz, Lembit Beecher and Piotr Moss. The group counts among its collaborators actors such as Tony-Award winner Maryanne Plunkett and Obie-Award winner Kathleen Chalfant as well as distinguished musicians and advocates such as violist Nadia Sirota, violinist Miranda Cuckson and the French ensemble Musicatreize.

Cantori New York has sung at all five major halls at Lincoln Center, and has collaborated with or been presented by American Ballet Theater, Great Performances at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Teatro Grattacielo, World Financial Center Arts & Events, Music at the Anthology, Gotham Early Music Series, American Opera Projects and others. For more information, please contact us at info@cantorinewyork.com or visit us at www.cantorinewyork.com.

Chelsea Harvey is a Brooklyn-based writer and member of Cantori New York.