Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Other
DINOVA PIANISM CHARMS SATED AUDIENCE AT J-B MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2022
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH 5TH A TRIUMPH FOR SSU ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Recital
ASSERTIVE PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 13, 2022
Symphony
SPARKLING PONCHIELLI AND IMPOSING SCHUMAN AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 12, 2022
Chamber
CONTRASTS GALORE AT THE VIANO'S CONCERT AT THE 222
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 11, 2022
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STOMPS ALONG TO MARSALIS VIOLIN CONCERTO
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 6, 2022
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELS WITH SEBASTIAN IN SONOMA BACH'S OPENER IN SCHROEDER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, October 29, 2022
Symphony
ORCHESTRAL SPLENDOR IN MARIN SYMPHONY'S SEASON OPENER
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 15, 2022
Choral and Vocal
CANTIAMO BLOOMS AT CHURCH OF THE ROSES
by Pamela Hicks Galley
Sunday, October 9, 2022
Chamber
DRAMATIC SHOSTAKOVICH SONATA HIGHLIGHTS BOSCO-GABRIELSON CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 9, 2022
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Cantiamo Sonoma / Sunday, October 9, 2022
Carol Menke, director

Director Carol Menke

CANTIAMO BLOOMS AT CHURCH OF THE ROSES

by Pamela Hicks Galley
Sunday, October 9, 2022

As part of the Church of the Roses’ "Signature Concert Series,” Cantiamo Sonoma, under the direction of Carol Menke, presented an afternoon of exceptionally beautiful and impeccably prepared a capella literature to a full and appreciative house on Sunday, Oct. 9. The program duration was a perfect ninety minutes, as the 21-voice ensemble sailed through a marvelous variety of Renaissance and modern compositions, reminding the listener just how divinely demanding and satisfying a capella singing is.

I always enjoy the complexity and independent vocal lines of 16th century polyphonic music, but there is something about Cantiamo that sets them apart in this genre. These singers perform with warmth, authenticity, spontaneity, and a sense of oneness, both of sound and purpose. Carol Menke is the model for such strong clarity, as this is how she herself expresses the music. Her powerful musical intent beams like a laser to the ensemble, and they in turn sing it to the audience.

The program of soothing and comforting music began with animated pieces from late Renaissance contemporaries, the Italian Giovanni da Palestrina ("Sicut Cervus" and "Sitivit Anima Mea") and the Fleming Giaches de Werte ("Gaudete in Domino"). Right out of the gate, this group demonstrated their technical prowess and thorough preparation with sparkling energy, outstanding balance and crisp diction.

The balance of the concert was devoted to choral gems of the 20th and 21st centuries. Completing the first half was a bouquet of charming and heartfelt pieces ("My Companion" by Elaine Hagenberg; "Top of the World" by Kevin Siegfried; and "The Heaven's Flock" by Ēriks Ešenvalds). An affecting arrangement by Jonathan Quick of the venerable Scottish tune "Loch Lomond" featured the beautiful solo voice of tenor Drew Bolander.

After a brief intermission, Ms. Menke introduced from the audience a recently retired member of the group, Dan Earl. Most fittingly, the ensemble paid the highest tribute to this legendary Santa Rosa High School choral teacher with a gorgeous rendition of "Danny Boy.” Many tissues were fished from pockets and purses.

The remainder of the concert offered four pre-Christmas selections ("O Du Stille Zeit" by Cesar Bresgen, "O Emmanuel" by Andrew Makor, "The Lamb" by Kim André Arnesen, and "Hodie, Christus Natus Est" by another late Renaissance Dutch composer, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck). The Makor piece was particularly interesting in its use of a chance, or “aleatoric,” compositional technique, which is similar to improvisation and made famous by John Cage. The piece starts and ends conventionally with lush harmonies, but midway through the singers leave off to chant independently and freely, creating a sense of mystery.

Carol Menke and Cantiamo achieve what all performers strive for: unity of purpose, authenticity and musical excellence. Ms. Menke is a classical soprano with a solid singing career resume who is also a gifted, intuitive conductor. She leads from the heart as well as her head: she is not a time beater, but rather conducts phrases. Breaths and punctuation are treated as part of the vocal line, and every detail is accounted for. All the pieces for this concert shared richness of text, harmony and compositional excellence, propelled by the energy of musical and emotional truth. Ms. Menke also conceptualizes and communicates with an impressive economy of action. Her conducting style is straightforward, simple, small and direct. Poetic punctuation is always strong and the group even breathes together.

The concert concluded with two spirituals ("Hear My Prayer" and "My God is So High") by the well-beloved African-American composer and arranger Moses Hogan. His most famous piece is surely "Elijah Rock", sung by choirs worldwide, and it is a sad footnote that he left this world prematurely, dead of a brain tumor at age 45. An unexpected bonus occurred during "My God Is So High,” when Ms. Menke turned around to face the audience, shook herself off, took a breath and launched into the song as a magnificent soloist. The group sang perfectly behind her unconducted, and the audience roared its appreciation at the end. A tripping little encore, "We Must Away," ended the concert merrily.