Beauty beyond belief

There’s a whole lot of sacred music going on — although the World Festival of Sacred Music has ended its recent run, this week’s calendar is full of high-minded options, and rather than the usual, single Gem, we’ll mention several this time around.

Historically, religion has been one of the most powerful driving forces behind creativity, artistic innovation and the integration of beauty into daily life. This pattern exists within every culture, and therefore takes many forms. In the modern age, with both new music and a wealth of archival resources, there’s a staggering amount of material to choose from.

It seems, however, that too many music lovers are put off by repertoire and events connected with organized religion, or at least a faith other than their own. Sadly, they miss both an opportunity to hear and see glorious works of art, but also the chance to learn a little something about others, and about themselves. A sacred concert is a low-key opportunity to connect with a quieter or more joyous voice than you use most of the time. Whether you’re one of the faithful or happy as an outside observer, consider the examples on this week’s calendar alone:

  • Cappella Gloriana brings 500 years’ worth of sacred music into Pasadena’s living room on Saturday night. (This small group thinks big.)
  • de Angelis Ensemble performs Frank Martin’s 1922 Mass for Double Choir in two unique spaces. The music is so revolutionary that the composer himself repressed it for decades, calling it “a youthful sin”. (Aren’t you dying to hear what the fuss was about?)
  • Sunday afternoon, St. Luke’s in Monrovia continues its annual tradition of a music-centered “evensong” service, drawing deep voices into a stone space with crystalline acoustics.
Schola Cantorum at St. James'
  • On Sunday night, bring a pillow, sit where you like, or even lie on the floor to enjoy the chant-filled contemplation of the monthly Compline service at the grand St. James’ in the City, in the fringe between Koreatown and Hancock Park.
  • Busy weekend? Take a break on Tuesday night, with a simple, songful TaizĂ© service at St. Francis’ Church in PVE.
  • And of course, there’s Papa Bach, whose music is a religion unto itself. The 78th Annual Los Angeles Bach Festival takes place this weekend at ‘First Congo”. There’s even a great party on Friday…

In stressful times, we all need a break, and the meditative tone of many sacred-related events may prove a balm to the soul, even far from Gilead. Choose these events, and check out local groups who explore other traditions, such as the LA Zimriyah Chorale and the Yuval Ron Ensemble. Watch for Yuval Ron interfaith events with collaborative music programs, such as the recent 9/11 program from the Guibord Center, “Finding Hope in the Holy“, which had eight faiths represented. (That must be some sort of awesome record!) Become a fan of undeniably hot gospel/spiritual groups such as the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers. For those who truly don’t want to set foot into a house of worship, try the energizing inspiration of Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues. Whatever you believe, trying out the sounds of other cultures and traditions can be both eye-opening and breathtakingly satisfying. Stretch a bit, get on a few mailing lists, and see what you connect with.


What are we missing? If you know a group that includes classical singing in its doings, please refer them to us or let us know by email.
It’s a big world out there!

Originally published in Next 7: Vocal events thru 10/26/11, one of our public newsletters.

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