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Symphony
SOLO BRILLIANCE IN SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 17, 2024
Opera
OPERA GEMS IN COZY SEBASTOPOL THEATER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, February 9, 2024
Choral and Vocal
LUSTROUS VOCAL SOUND AT KUZMA'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, February 4, 2024
Symphony
HAYDEN'S SAXOPHONE CONCERTO AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Ron Teplitz
Sunday, January 28, 2024
Chamber
SPIRITUAL STRING MUSIC IN BLACK OAK ENSEMBLE'S MARIN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 28, 2024
Chamber
VIRTUOSIC HARP RECITAL AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, January 24, 2024
Chamber
EMOTIONAL BLOCH PIECE HIGHLIGHTS PELED'S RAC RECITAL
by Peter Lert
Sunday, January 21, 2024
Chamber
OYSTER TRIO AT THE ROSE SIGNATURE SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 14, 2024
Chamber
CANTABILE CHARMS IN MIXED 222 GALLERY CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 13, 2024
Choral and Vocal
A GRAND DIVA'S SHIMMERING AND PROVOCATIVE RECITAL IN WEILL HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, January 11, 2024
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Cantiamo Sonoma / Sunday, June 4, 2023
Carol Menke, conductor

Composer Dan Forrest

CANTIAMO'S VIRTUOSO SINGING INSIDE AT ST. SEREPHIM'S CHURCH

by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, June 4, 2023

Cantiamo Sonoma presented their season finale concert June 4th, and although the printed program title Summer Outdoor Concert gave the impression that it was to be held outdoors, the performance was in the uniquely frescoed St. Seraphim’s of Sarov Orthodox Church.

It’s is always a pleasure to experience music there, where the acoustics lend themselves exquisitely to a capella choral singing, and particularly the superb singing offered by Cantiamo. The “outdoor” portion was a lovely al fresco reception in the courtyard following the delicious mini-buffet of gorgeous music, celebrating the season’s close.

Director Carol Menke was resplendent in flowing black and gave her usual tour de force performance to a full house. I was able to sit in the side niche with a clear view of Ms. Menke in profile as she guided, adjusted, and willed her singers to perfection, all the while energetically mouthing the text while jumping from part to part, and conducting the whole thing from memory.

And the singing was earthily sublime. This group is exceptionally skilled and responsive to Ms. Menke’s musical vision and instincts. In addition to the expected discipline of pitch and blend, and their ever-clear diction, I was struck by the incisive, energetic unison and pitch certainty of entrance attacks and releases. This skill requires intentional hearing of a pitch before it is attacked, and then precisely cutting off simultaneously at phrase endings, creating additional vocal and acoustical brilliance. It was so good that frequently the sopranos and altos created amazingly powerful overtones, a relatively rare occurrence in choral singing. In the phrases themselves, one heard sensitive responses to Ms. Menke’s rubatos, dynamic changes and caesuras, revealing the deep and intuitive communication between this conductor and her ensemble. They all move as one, singing the words almost “beatlessly”.

The repertoire was thematically curated according to text, and the music was uniformly light-filled and immersing. The forty-five minute program was divided into four sets with no intermission, and overflowed with inspirational lyrics describing earthly love and wisdom.

From the early-mid 20th century we heard six pieces as the group literally exploded into the exuberant Finzi’s “My Spirit Sang All Day” (poetry of Robert Bridges), followed by Edward Cuthbert Bairstow’s sensual setting of Song of Solomon 2 (“I sat down under his shadow”), and the American René Clausen’s likewise passionate version of “Set Me As A Seal” from Song of Solomon 8.

These were followed by “Three Motets in Honor of Our Lady” by the English-Canadian Healey Willan, all full of the lushly magnetic harmonies bespeaking the composer’s love for his wife, with impassioned texts also drawn from Song of Solomon.

Next was a group of four sacred pieces sung in Latin by the familiar Renaissance giants Lassus, Byrd and Peter Philips. Dynamic contrasts and execution of the complex polyphony were so well-tuned and balanced that one could hear each part perfectly.

The final set was a group of pieces from our own time by Daniel Gawthrop, Dan Forrest, and Jake Runstead. Gawthrop’s well-known “Sing Me to Heaven” was gentle and introspective, and Forrest’s “Entreat Me Not to Leave You” (from the biblical “Book of Ruth”) was spectacular for its passionate text and soaring lines. Runestad’s “Let My Love Be Heard” is a moving tribute to a student who perished in the November 2015 Isis terrorist attacks in Paris, and if this set is ever locally performed again, the Forrest piece should be the closer!

The programmed encore was the rousing spiritual “I’m Gonna Sing Til the Spirit Moves in My Heart” by the great Moses Hogan, featuring Drew Bolander’s strong tenor solo.