Musica Viva NY offers a light-inspired concert
by April Thibault for Vocal Area Network
Posted May 15, 2023

Musica Viva NYOn Sunday, May 21, 2023 at 5:00 PM, Musica Viva NY, one of New York City's leading chamber choirs, presents "Lux Aeterna" at All Souls Church, 1157 Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side. In this concert, Musica Viva NY, known for its well-balanced and eclectic programming, elicits the spiritual and transformational power of eternal light through music. The program includes six radiant pieces such as the revelatory Lux Aeterna by Morten Lauridsen and the world premiere of The Luminous Ground by Richard Einhorn, a piece commissioned by Musica Viva NY.

"Lux Aeterna" or "Eternal Light" serves as the foundation for this concert's collection of illustrious works. Building on the sensorial experience of producing, seeing and/or feeling light, this season-ending concert is the choir's response to its March 2023 program, "The Sorrow and the Beauty." Musica Viva NY's artistic director and conductor Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez explains: "We are ending our season on a positive, high note! This joyful and bright concert is a fitting juxtaposition to our Spring concert which was filled with sadness and suffering. We encourage audiences to join us for this concert of optimism, creativity and renewal."

The program begins with the explosive Starburst, a brief one-movement work for string orchestra written by Jessie Montgomery, "one of the most distinctive and communicative voices in the U.S. (BBC)." Performed back-to-back are S.S. Wesley's beloved 1850 anthem Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace and a choral fantasy set almost 150 years later, The Darkness Is No Darkness, by the prolific British composer Judith Bingham. Continuing its theme of luminosity, Musica Viva NY performs two masses that are lighter in tone: Franz Schubert's Mass No. 2 in G Major is one of the most popular settings of the mass ordinary; and Morton Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, a requiem inspired by the death of the composer's mother.

Capping the program is the world premiere of Richard Einhorn's The Luminous Ground for SATB chorus, strings and piano. Inspired by the widely-known artist James Turrell and his groundbreaking light installations (recently on display at The Pace Gallery and The Guggenheim), the composer seeks to turn the sculptures' contemplative nature into a slow, gradually changing soundscape that always remains still and hushed. "According to the great Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna, 'The Luminous Ground' is that stage in a person's progress towards enlightenment when 'the pacifying light of wisdom dawns' and 'attachment and aversion have thoroughly ceased'," explains Einhorn. "It is a nearly unimaginable state of serenity, but one that is evoked, for me, by the extraordinary light sculptures of James Turrell."

Praised by The New York Times as an "excellent chorus", Musica Viva NY is a chamber choir of 30+ professionals and highly skilled volunteers. Since its founding in 1977, Musica Viva NY has been based in Manhattan's historic All Souls Church. Under the baton of Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, its mission is to bring world-class music to a widening community through its annual concert series, community engagement programs and an ambitious artistic vision. Musica Viva NY's imaginative programming offers joy, solace and renewal in a complex world. Presenting a broad repertoire of new compositions and classic masterworks, Musica Viva NY emphasizes artistic excellence and transformative interpretations to ennoble the human spirit. Musica Viva NY regularly commissions and premieres new American music and is committed to performing the work of living American composers, women composers and composers of color, including works that are socially conscious and address social, racial or environmental issues.

Since 2014, Musica Viva NY has commissioned and performed works by Bora Yoon, Seymour Bernstein, Elena Ruehr, Joseph Turrin, Alexandra T Bryant, Gilda Lyons, Richard Einhorn, Steve Reich, Frank Ticheli, Morten Lauridsen, Florence Price, Frank Ferko, Lori Laitman, Trent Johnson, George Walker, Joel Thompson, Missy Mazzoli, Randall Thompson and Jesse Montgomery, among others. For more information, visit MusicaViva.org.

April Thibeault handles public relations for Musica Viva NY.