Madison Choral Project takes listeners on an otherworldly journey in February concert
On any given weekend, there’s an abundance of arts entertainment that takes place in Madison. From theatre top opera to open mic nights, there’s something for everyone. This weekend was no exception. One standout event amidst the busy arts calendar was the Madison Choral Project’s concert.
The concert, titled Drown’d in one endlesse Day, featured of variety of standard and lesser-known repertoire centered on the themes of seeking peace and relief. The Madison Choral Project (MCP,) led by Albert Pinsonneault, provided an unforgettable evening of music.
The concert began with a haunting chant from the Mass to beg for Peace. In a seamless unison, the Altos and Tenors moved through the intricacies of the ancient Latin text. Harkening to the old words with impeccable diction, the audience began the journey along with the ensemble.
The first entrance of the full ensemble was in the second piece “last spring” by American composer David Lang. Taking its text from a setting by Norwegian composer Edward Grieg; the work featured a quartet above the choir. The quartet’s blend was impeccable as they soared among the close, dissonant harmonies of the choir.
As the concert progressed through the first half, the balance between dissonance and harmony brought to life the theme of seeking piece and relief, which Pinsonneault discussed in his open remarks. One thing was central in the concert though and that was the beauty created in the MCP in their clarity of tone, musicianship and exquisite use of phrasing.
The second half featured the world premiere of “one endlesse day” by composer in residence Eric William Barnum. From the downbeat, the audience was bathed in a wall of sound featuring a combination of short phrases amidst long lyrical phrases. Unresolved dissonances sprinkled throughout the score tried to find a cadential end like the central theme of the concert. As Pinsonneault explained at the beginning of the second half, this work explored that brief time between the end of life as we know it and the beginning of an afterlife. Shifting between chaos and pieces in vocal lines, this piece provided a powerful centerpiece in the concert.
The MCP features 29 singers, all professional musicians in some capacity, Particularly striking about the ensemble is how so much of the concert is performed accapella (without accompaniment.) The exception is J.S. Bach’s Komm,Jesu, Komm BWV. 229, which featured Eric Miller on cello. The level of musicianship displayed in the ensemble is exquisite, showcasing their ability to work as a single unit, breathing, shaping each phrase, and creating the musical expressivity necessary for these complex works.
All in all, the only disappointing part of the concert was that it had to end after only an hour and a half. After being held in the sanctuary of the beautiful sound of the MCP, it was hard to leave and return to the reality. Fortunately, the MCP shows no signs of slowing down and will likely be around for years to come, providing more beauty for audiences of the Madison community.