By Dennis Polkow
Estonian composer Arvo Pärt turned eighty last month, a milestone which has been celebrated across the music world during this anniversary year. In Chicago, Bella Voce has taken the lead in offering Pärt performances: his “Stabat Mater” last spring and this fall, his “Berliner Messe,” a 1990 work for vocalists and organ which Pärt later revised for string orchestra and chorus.
Bella Voce is no stranger to the music of Pärt, having been chosen by Pärt’s celebrated interpreter and subsequent biographer Paul Hillier to be the choir heard in the North American professional premiere of Pärt’s “St. John Passion”—better known by its short Latin title, “Passio”—back in 1990 when the group was still known as His Majestie’s Clerkes. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Ted Johnson
By Lindsay Kratochwill
The streets of Hyde Park are dark, empty and cold when I finally make it to the apartment building and, as instructed, ring buzzer seventeen. A tiny square of paper is taped to the clear glass door with four musical notes in four different shapes: a triangle, oval, rhombus and rectangle. Soon, a silent stranger comes to let me in. As we climb the spiral stairs, I begin to hear it; a great sound, welling up and abruptly de-crescendoing. It is powerful but erratic, seeping through the walls of the stairwell.
Shape note singing is raw, loud, haunting—a wall of sound. We step inside the warm apartment and the music, sprung from the throats and hearts of those in the room, envelopes me. Each imperfection creates a beautifully eerie chord. Read the rest of this entry »