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Harold Rosenbaum previews the New York Virtuoso Singers April 26 concert
by Harold Rosenbaum for Vocal Area Network
Posted April 20, 2009

Harold RosenbaumOn Sunday, April 26, at 3 PM at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, 87th Street off West End Avenue, I will have one of the most shattering and profound experiences in my 36-year conducting career. I am certain of this, having once before conducted Francis Poulenc's graphic anti-war choral masterpiece Figure Humaine with my all-professional choir The New York Virtuoso Singers.

Among the vast repertoire of choral works written over many centuries, there are an elite few which are universally known and accepted as towering masterpieces. These transcendent works are the ones which elevate us, astound us, and catapult us into a realm far beyond that of our everyday lives. Bach's Mass in B Minor transports us into an elevated state which affords us a glimpse of perfect order. Whereas Beethoven's Missa Solemnis holds us hostage on a journey so unpredictable and terrifying that we beg for release, his Ninth Symphony soars high above the mountaintops around which all of mankind is drawn together in brotherhood. Mozart's Requiem is the Classical period's ambassador of elegance, dignity and sublimity all rolled into one. And let's not forget the Brahms Requiem, Verdi's Requiem, Mahler's Eighth, Britten's War Requiem, and so on.

Then there are works for voices alone which dare to stand among the giants mentioned above, works which similarly transport us, elevate us, even shock or astound us. Some that come immediately to mind are Josquin Des Prez's Missa Pange Lingua and Bach's Jesu meine Freude, and from the 20th century, Britten's A Boy Was Born, Hans Werner Henze's Orpheus Behind the Wire, Ernst Krenek's Lamentations of Jeremiah, and, of course, Poulenc's Figure Humaine. Those unfamiliar with this particular choral work of Poulenc might be tempted to ponder whether it might be yet another exquisite course in an elegant meal he had served us for years. Well, the stunning, gorgeous and uniquely French harmonies are still there, as are his stylistic brief phrases wherein his angular melodies are contained. However, this eight-movement work, with its themes of death, war, oppression and liberty, checks our palette with regular numbing doses. The juxtaposition of exquisite music (the only kind Poulenc knew how to write) with text this horrific confounds us and sends shock waves throughout our bodies. If Poulenc wished for us to feel the pain of those who suffered in war, and to experience the elation of those who experienced liberty and victory, he succeeded beyond his wildest imagination.

There are four other fabulous works on the program, three of them world premieres: To The Peacemakers, composed by Roger Davidson, Founder and President of the Society for Universal Sacred Music; Voices for Today, which was written by Benjamin Britten to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the United Nations; a work by Richard McIntyre, the New York Virtuoso Singers 2006 Choral Composition Competition First-Prize Winner; and a piece by Richard Rice, a NYVS two-time Composition Competition Honorable Mention. The mission of the concert—and of the featured composers and their pieces— is to share the message of unity through music and to foster a belief that individually and collectively society can strive together to work towards world peace.

The Canticum Novum Youth Choir, directed by Edie Rosenbaum, and The Elm City Girls' Choir, directed by Rebecca Rosenbaum, will join The New York Virtuoso Singers. The concert will commence at 3:00 PM. A pre-concert talk with composers and members of NYVS takes place at 2:00 PM. For ticket information, contact Ticket Central at 212-279-4200. Tickets are priced at $20; tickets for seniors 65 and over and students are $10. Tickets are also available at the door one-hour and 15-minutes before concerts.

Harold Rosenbaum is the artistic director ot The New York Virtuoso Singers,The Canticum Novum Singers and the Society for Universal Sacred Music.

Content Contact: Harold Rosenbaum.
Revision Date: May 3, 2009.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

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