The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Wisconsin Chamber Choir performs “Bernstein and Friends” – including a world premiere by American composer Judith Shatin — this Sunday afternoon

May 30, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Just because we are in the intermission between the end of the spring concert season and the beginning of the summer concert season doesn’t mean there isn’t some very good live classical music to be found.

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will present a concert entitled “Bernstein and Friends” featuring Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” on Sunday, June 3, at 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Avenue, in downtown Madison.

Also on the program is the world premiere of “The God of Glory” by Virginia composer Judith Shatin, along with works by composers whom Bernstein championed as a conductor, including music of Copland, Beethoven, Schumann and Ives.

Tickets are available in advance for $14 through Brown Paper Tickets or via or at the door for $16. Student tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.  Tickets also available at Orange Tree Imports and both Willy Street coop locations.

Founded in 1999, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of Bach oratorios, a cappella masterworks from various centuries, and world-premieres. Dr. Robert Gehrenbeck (below) is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director.

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Leonard Bernstein (below) composed “Chichester Psalms” in 1965 while on sabbatical from his conducting post with the New York Philharmonic. Working on commission from Chichester Cathedral in England, Bernstein used the original Hebrew texts of six different psalms, and the resulting music has a distinctly popular flair that recalls the style of “West Side Story.”

The WCC’s performance will feature boy soprano Nathaniel Johnson, harpist Karen Atz, organist Theodore Reinke and percussionist Tobie Wilkinson.

Other Bernstein works on the program include selections from the musical theatre work “Mass” and a rarely heard early work, “Hashkiveinu,” a setting of a prayer from the Jewish Sabbath evening service.

In the spirit of Bernstein’s own advocacy on behalf of younger composers, the WCC is proud to present the world premiere of “The God of Glory” by Judith Shatin, who teaches composition at the University of Virginia and Director of the Virginia Center for Computer Music. Having made her own translation of Psalm 29, Shatin explains that her music “was inspired by the strength of the poetry, and seeks to sonically amplify its images.”

Rounding out the program are works by composers closely associated with Bernstein’s career.  His lifelong friend Aaron Copland (below) is represented by selections from Copland’s “Old American Songs” in choral arrangements both old and new. Romantic choral works by Beethoven and Schumann pay tribute to Bernstein’s passionate interpretations of these composers’ music.

Finally, a group of light-hearted early works by Charles Ives highlights Bernstein’s affinity for one of America’s most original composers.

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