March 31, 2010

British Choir Festival Interview Series

"As much as it is a military and economic superpower, England has always been an artistic, even choral, superpower. You don't have to be an Anglophile to appreciate that England has produced one of the world's richest choral traditions." - Mickey Butts, San Francisco Classical Voice

To honor this tradition, the Cathedral Choral Society proudly presents an annual British Choir Festival at Washington National Cathedral. The first official festival took place in 1986, when the Laura E. Phillips endowment for the festival was created. 

This year, we are so pleased to host the Saint Thomas and New College Choirs for British Choir Festival - 2010! In the weeks leading up to the festival on April 18th, we will feature a brief interview with past and present members of each choir to discuss what the tradition means to them and where it all started.

Today's interview features Matthew Brown, a UK native. Mr. Brown has been singing in the Anglican tradition since childhood.  He now resides in New York City, and sings with the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys as a countertenor.

How/when did you begin singing?
I played violin from an early age, and could read music and hold a line, so I joined the school choir when I was ten. I joined my first church choir at Saint Margaret's, Westminster shortly thereafter (as a treble).

What does singing in this British Anglican tradition mean to you?
It means singing beautiful music with talented musicians, and giving long-dead composers eternal life through the performance of their music.

What does the choir bring to your understanding of yourself as a singer?
It helps me listen to others; to understand the importance of working in an ensemble for one's own musical development.

What are the best parts of singing with your choir?
Singing in the amazing space at Saint Thomas Church and the feeling of pride when singing to a packed crowd.

What is it like to come together with other similar choirs to sing in this Festival?
It's amazing to sing with other choirs, and to quickly adapt to new conductors. It also gives us the opportunity to sing Spem in Alium, which would be impossible with just one choir.

What is your favorite thing about Washington National Cathedral?
The sense of space, the mix of the modern and the traditional, the smell of history in the air.

March 19, 2010

Did you have your Raisin Brahms today???

The average kid is provided insufficient time to learn and experience the arts. This PSA campaign was created to increase involvement in championing arts education both in and out of school.

March 18, 2010

Final Lenten Series Concert - Washington National Cathedral

20th Century France: Durufle Requiem

Event image
Come to the Cathedral and join us for the fourth and final concert in the series of Lenten Concerts given by the National Cathedral’s concert ensemble, Cathedra. Twentieth-century France produced as rich a seam of liturgical music as has been seen in the history of western music. Arguably two of its giants were Francis Poulenc and Maurice Duruflé. In tonight’s program we hear the Four Lenten Motets of Poulenc and his unaccompanied Mass. The series closes with Durufle’s sublime Requiem, using his first edition with string orchestra and organ.
Poulenc composed music that reflects that fervent Catholicism of his paternal side and the provocative artistic heritage of his mother’s family. In the Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence, the former shines through. Although Poulenc’s inventive use of harmony and rhythm are far from conservative, his choice of texts and the intensity of their settings are unequaled. The Mass in G, on the other hand, plays more with musical texture and color, employing the singers like instruments, rather than striving toward the text painting achievements of his motets.
Duruflé’s Requiem ranks among the most beloved pieces in the Washington National Cathedral Choir’s repertoire. The precise counterpoint of the Kyrie, the ecstatic climaxes of the Domine Jesu Christe and Sanctus, and the powerful restraint of the solo Pie Jesu are a breathtaking sequence of musical events. The angelic conclusion of the In Paradisum transports the listener and singer alike into a higher realm of consciousness.