Choral Arts Society presents Cleveland premiere
“The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overpowered it.” So begins the choral masterwork Luminosity by contemporary British composer James Whitbourn. Choral Arts Cleveland, under the direction of Cleveland Heights resident Martin Kessler, will perform the Cleveland premiere of this celebration of light and hope.
The concert, Light and Shadow: Bodies and Voices in Motion, will take place at Christ Episcopal Church, at 3445 Warrensville Center Road in Shaker Heights, at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 22. Rounding out the performance will be music by Alexandre Gretchaninoff, Morten Lauridsen, Gabriel Faure and Keith Hampton, all centered on the theme of light. The concert is funded in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.
An innovative choral piece, “Luminosity” is a multi-media, multi-faceted experience. A salient feature of the work is the dance accompaniment that Whitbourn has made an essential and integral part of his composition. Dancers for the Choral Arts performance will be members of Cleveland’s Verb Ballets, with choreography by company member Terence Greene. Choral voices and dance movement—“bodies and voices in motion”—will be accompanied by organ; viola; tam-tam, a large gong; and tanpura, a long-necked, four-stringed instrument found in various types of Eastern Indian music.
Whitbourn refers to his composition as one “conceived with a visual counterpoint to the music in mind, coming in the form of art, dance and light as well as in the use of space. The focus in all the elements is on transcendent beauty and eternal love. It is likely to be symbolic, luminous and shapely in concept.”
To create his celebration of light, Whitbourn assembled the choral sections from texts by St. John, Buddhist nun Ryonen, Isaac of Nineveh, Julian of Norwich, Theresa of Avila, and Augustine of Hippo. These texts, voices, instrumentation, and dance movements blend into a natural and harmonious whole that is both pleasing and accessible to those who avail themselves of the unique experience.
An artistic force in Cleveland Heights for 40 years, Choral Arts Cleveland, with its performance of Luminosity, continues its mission of bringing new artistry to its audiences. Along with staples from the classical repertoire, Choral Arts regularly introduces audiences to accessible contemporary artistic gems. Recently, these have included premieres of William Godfree’s Requiem, Antony Pitts’ Jerusalem-Yerushalayim, Robert Cohen’s Alzheimer’s Stories, and, in May 2015, Whitbourn’s Annelies, an oratorio based on excerpts from the diary of Anne Frank.
Established in 1975 as a chorus comprising Cleveland Heights High School alumni and parents, Choral Arts members are predominantly residents of the Heights community. Director Martin Kessler is a graduate of Cleveland Heights High School, where he was student conductor of the Heights Choir. Retired from University School, where he served for 32 years as director of music, Kessler is also the director of the Suburban Symphony Orchestra and an adjunct professor in Cleveland State University’s Department of Music, and a composer and essayist. For more information on Choral Arts visit www.choralartscleveland.org.
Marge Geiger is a Choral Arts Society board member and singer, an English professor at Tri-C, and a 26-year Cleveland Heights resident. She is married to Joe Geiger, a retired Heights High English teacher.