Aspen Choral Society offers spring concerts |

Aspen Choral Society offers spring concerts

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” The Aspen Choral Society’s annual spring concerts ” Wednesday in Glenwood Springs and Thursday in Aspen will tend toward the sweeter sides of sound. The concerts feature Faure’s Requiem ” a piece about death, yes, but with a reassuring take on passing into the next realm. Rounding out the program is “I Am Waiting,” a setting of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem, by Choral Society director/conductor Ray Vincent Adams, that reaches for the glorious things: “the rebirth of wonder,” “the second coming,” “the last long rapture.”

But underpinning the sweetness are more unsettling tones. Faure’s piece is, after all, about the end of life. Ferlinghetti’s poem, taken from his collection “Coney Island of the Mind,” is in the nature of a plea: “It’s ‘Please, please, let’s have a renaissance of wonder,'” noted Adams. And then there is the music Adams wrote for “I Am Waiting.”

“I have no problem with consonance and sweet chords,” said Adams, who since 1999 has premiered original choral works with the ensemble he established more than 30 years ago. “But they carry more weight if they’re preceded by dissonance. As it is with life.” “I Am Waiting,” he added, “is a lot of sweet chords, a lot of dissonant chords. As I usually do.” The piece is written for choir and piano, with Carbondale pianist Terry Lee featured in the premiere.

Ferlinghetti’s words, too, are a mixture. There is hope ” “for the American Eagle to really spread its wings” ” but there is also a sense of desperation, that the speaker can’t wait forever. “It’s a yearning, a yearning for something better, a yearning for wonder,” said Adams, who plans his “I Am Waiting” to be part of a bigger work: “An American Landscape,” featuring text by American poets.

Faure’s Requiem ” to be performed by the Choral Society by choir, organist Susan Nicholson, harpist Janet Harriman and vocal soloists Scott MacCracken, Marni White and Maureen Jackson ” is less ambivalent. The French composer, who composed his celebrated piece in 1887, aimed for a break with the Germanic tradition of the dark-hued Requiem.

“It’s a very, very gentle look at death,” said Adams, who has described his own Requiem, premiered in 2003, in similar terms, and has also conducted Aspen Choral Society performances of Mozart’s Requiem and Brahms’ German Requiem. “It doesn’t dwell on the fact that an individual might have been a sinner. It actually ensures a passage way into heaven. The last movement, rather than some big, burly Catholic movement, it ends with the ‘In paradisum’ ” in Latin, that God’s holy angels will lead you to paradise. It ends on a very gentle, quiet note: ‘Don’t worry, rest eternal.'”

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