‘New Voices’ from INSPIRAVI

by Jenna Friedman, guest contributor

On Saturday, March 28, INSPIRAVI performed a most delightful concert at the Doheny Mansion on the Mount Saint Mary University  campus. A chamber choir of twenty professional musicians directed by Sébastien Valléethey presented “New Voices: Music by a New Generation of Composers”, focusing on contemporary creators and featuring works by two of their very own members.

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The Doheny Mansion

First on the program was an a cappella selection from Sunrise Mass for chorus and string orchestra: “The Spheres” by Ola Gjeilo, a Norwegian composer living in New York City. Delivered with clarity and a perfect blend, it set the tone for the program of new music, using long suspensions and overlapping harmonies to create a sense of timeless beauty. The next selection, Let All Things Know Peace, was composed by one of INSPIRAVI’s singers, Zachary Neufeld, who is a doctoral candidate in composition at UCLA, and the accompanist for multiple songs during the evening. The piece allows each section to blossom at alternating moments, building to full climax and dropping suddenly to pianissimo, then quietly ending with sustained, whispered “amens”.

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Erika Lloyd’s Cells Planets, arranged by Vince Peterson, was fun and energetic, with surprisingly sentimental lyrics. The composer is a singer herself, and leader of a self-titled indie-pop band in Brooklyn, NY.  This fantastic blend of new music, choral music and jazz and featured Jennifer Miller as the soloist.  The audience couldn’t help but sway with the music! Miller’s voice had the grounded, soulful sound needed to carry over the choir, yet was delicate and precise. Her voice blended perfectly with the other singers when she sang with the alto section, then soared effortlessly as she broke out in solos.

The first half concluded with Nou Se Limyè by Sydney Guillaume. A Los Angeles-based composer originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he writes that the song “…takes inspiration from the divine light we all carry within ourselves. Its strong message encourages hope, love, and the need for our light to shine!” It was a perfect end to the first half, with soloist John St. Marie’s wonderful,  fluid tenor voice much appreciated.

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Sebastien Vallée, Artistic Director

The second half of the concert began with Dominick DiOrio’s Ode to Purcell. In an unusual twist, the soloists stood behind the audience:  Hayden Eberhart, Ilana Summers, John St. Marie and James Hayden. The quirky composition combines Gerald Manley Hopkins’ poem “Henry Purcell” and a re-envisioning of Purcell’s “Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secrets of our Hearts”. The ode was followed by a second Gjielo composition, Evening Prayer, featuring Luis Zuñiga on the tenor saxophone, who played his solos with delicate grace as he wove in and out of the voices of the choir. Matthew Brown, another ensemble member, composed though love be a day from a poem by E.E. Cummings, whose text fit perfectly with Brown’s careful word painting. The intricate harmonies made this song fun and intriguing to listen to.

The final selection of the concert, Nyon Nyon by Jake Runestad, was a fabulous way to end the show. Made up of nonsensical words which mimic the sounds of various instruments and effects such as the wah-wah pedal, drum and bass, the choir and its director seemed to have the most fun of all while performing this composition. After a much-deserved standing ovation, the choir came back for an encore: Shawn Kirchner’s Unclouded Day.

INSPIRAVI showcases wonderful and talented musicians. Their next performance will be April 11th at 7:30pm at Cal State L.A., and is free to the public.  Click here to visit INSPIRAVI’s website.

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