It’s that time of year again, when the days get shorter, the air blows colder and fall colors surround us with wonder and beauty as the leaves put on their grandest show of the year before dropping dead to the ground. Nature’s own death has always been a sobering reminder of our own mortality, celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church for centuries as All Saint’s or All Hallow’s Day on November 1 (October 31 is Hallow’s evening, or Hallowe’en) and All Soul’s Day or in Hispanic culture, the Day of the Dead (November 2). Bella Voce will anticipate All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in a program called “The End: Requiem Aeternam,” with a century-spanning concert of a cappella death music that includes Spanish Renaissance composer Cristobal Morales’ 1544 “Missa pro Defunctis, a grand five-voice polyphonic setting of the Roman Catholic Latin Requiem Mass which was used for funerals as well as on All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day throughout cathedrals of the New World in Guatemala, Peru and Mexico. The Mass includes Morales’ setting of the famous “Dies Irae” that terrifyingly portrays the horrors of the Final Judgment awaiting those outside of God’s graces (it was dropped as being too harsh by Vatican II). The second half of the concert comprises two works by twentieth-century British composer Herbert Howells: his haunting 1936 “Requiem,” written after the death of his 9-year-old son from polio and made up of comforting and optimistic psalm text settings, and his 1963 choral motet written for the Washington Cathedral memorial service for assassinated President John F. Kennedy, “Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing,” which takes on new poignancy with the recent passing of his brother, Massachusetts Senator Edward “Ted” M. Kennedy. Artistic director Andrew Lewis conducts. (Dennis Polkow)
October 17, St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron, 7:30pm; (Next week:) 7:30 p.m. October 24, Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 W. Division, River Forest; 4 p.m. October 25, Immanuel Lutheran Church, 616 Lake, Evanston; (312)479-1096; $15-$38.
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. He holds degrees in music theory, composition, religious studies and philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists. As a scholar, Polkow has published and lectured extensively and taught at several colleges and universities in various departments. As an actor, narrator and consultant, Polkow has been involved with numerous films, plays, broadcasts and documentaries. As a journalist, Polkow helped co-create the experiential Chicago Musicale and Spotlight, the award-winning tabloid arts and entertainment section of the Press Publications chain of newspapers, which he later edited. He also created and ran the nationally recognized journalism program at Oakton College and was faculty advisor to its award-winning student newspaper; many former students went on to major media careers, including Channel Awesome’s the Nostalgia Critic. Polkow’s research, interviews, features, reviews and commentaries have appeared across national and international media and he has corresponded from the Middle East, Asia and Africa for the Chicago Tribune. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org