AVA’s annual performance of Jubilate! with Music Director and Conductor David Anthony Lofton will be performed this upcoming March 6, 7, and 8 in Chestnut Hill, Bryn Mawr and Rittenhouse Square. This favorite concert celebrates sacred music that spans across various faiths and cultures and today we’ll take a look at the inspirations behind these pieces. This is Mr. Lofton’s fifteenth year directing and conducting this concert and he prepares year long carefully selecting the music. We’ve compiled a list of the pieces below, and while the singers in the videos are not AVA Resident Artists, they’ll give you a good idea of what to expect at Jubilate!
Richard Wagner’s All mächt'ger Vater, blick herab , also known as Rienzi’s Prayer, is a song rarely heard, simply because the opera Rienzi is hardly ever performed. Although Wagner himself was said not to be particularity proud of this opera, the title role of Rienzi is extremely difficult to sing; in fact, this particular aria is the most demanding piece in the entire work. In this aria, Rienzi has been excommunicated for leading Roman citizens against the Roman nobles and prays to God that he will have the strength to survive this crisis . It will be sung by tenor Dominick Chenes.
Several Rossini selections will also be performed from Messa di Gloria, Stabat Mater and Petite Messe Solennelle. Gratis, from Messa di Gloria, is the only major piece of sacred music written while Rossini was still an active opera composer and will be sung by tenor Alasdair Kent. Quis est homo, to be sung by soprano Huanhuan Ma and mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig, is from Rossini’s Stabat Mater, whichtook ten years to complete. Sancta mater istud agas from Stabat Mater will be performed by soprano Melinda Whittington, mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig, tenor Dominick Chenes and bass-baritone André Courville. Crucifixus (to be sung by soprano Sofija Petrovic), Qui tollis (sung by soprano Vanessa Vasquez and mezzo-soprano Alexandra Schneck) and Agnus dei(sung by mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig and Chorus),can be heard in Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle. Although Petite Messe Solennelle translates to “Small, Solemn Mass,” there is nothing small about it according to Mr. Lofton. It’s been said of this piece that it requires “a small chamber, piano, eight choristers and the four greatest singers on earth.”
Three Handel pieces will be performed at Jubilate! as well. Handel’s O King of Kings…Allelujah, to be performed by soprano Alexandra Nowakowski,from Esther is acknowledged as the first English oratorio. The libretto is set after the Old Testament drama written by French playwright Jean Racine and tells the story of a Jewish orphan named Esther who saved the Jewish people from total extermination in antiquity. Handel’s Messiah is broken into three parts and Behold, I Tell You a Mystery…The Trumpet Shall Sound, sung by bass-baritone Nathan Milholin, can be found in Part 3, Scene 2: “The Day of Judgment.” Baritone Armando Pina will also be singing a selection from Messiah; Why do the Nations.
Albert Hat Malotte’s The Lord’s Prayer, which will be sung by tenor Mackenzie Whitney, is inspired by the prayer Jesus taught to his disciples in the New Testament. This was specifically written to be sung by Metropolitan Opera and Broadway star John Charles Thomas. According to Mr. Lofton, this is the first year that this well-known piece in being performed in Jubilate!
Tenor William Davenport will be performing Ave Maria Opus 74 by Joseph Vella. There is an interesting story behind how Mr. Lofton chose this piece: “I was looking through CD shelves at a local store when I found a CD called ‘Sacred Music of Malta’ and I heard ‘Ave Maria’ on it, written by Joseph Vella. I contacted him about doing the composition, and he sent me the string parts and I added winds and harp.”
Several pieces that will be performed were inspired from Biblical psalms. Jean-Joseph Mondonville’s Jubilate Deo, and Chorus sung, which will be sung by tenor Alasdair Kent and Chorus, is one of his nine surviving grand motets. It is based off of Psalm 99, the last of the 6 Royal Psalms, which proclaims that God will return to earth and rule as king. Franz Liszt’s Psalm 137 is a very aggressive psalm, also known as an “imprecatory psalm,” meaning it invokes judgment or curses onto an enemy. It will be sung by soprano Vanessa Vasquez with a female chorus. Fr. M. Benedetti’s Laudate Dominum, also known as Psalm 117, is the shortest of all of the psalms and has ties to both Judaism and Christianity, as all of the psalms do. In Judaism, it is one of six psalms in which Hallel, a Jewish prayer, is composed. In Christianity, the psalm is viewed as a fulfillment of God’s promise of mercy to the gentiles. It will be sung by soprano Karen Barraza and Chorus.
Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah depicts the events in the life of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. It includes several episodes from his life including the resurrection of a dead youth, the bringing of rain to a parched Israel and his ascension on a fiery chariot. The pieces from Elijah that will be performed at Jubliate! include And Then Shall Your Light, sung by the AVA Resident Artists and Chorus and It Is Enough, sung by baritone Michael Adams. Vertilge sie, Herr Zebaoth, a selection from Mendelssohn’s St. Paul, will also be performed, by bass-baritone Daniel Noyola.
Several of the selections of music that will be performed were composed based on the crucifixion of Jesus. Mozart’s Grabmusik, also called Cantana on the Holy Grave of Christ, was composed for the Lenten Holy Week in Salzburg when Mozart was just 11. It’s a poignant dialogue between an angel (soprano Alexandra Nowakowski) and a Christian soul (baritone Jorge Espino). Thèodore Dubios’ Les Sept Paroles du Christ in French means “The Seven Last Words of Christ,” referring to the last words spoken as he was being crucified. This composition was first performed in 1867 for the Good Friday service at the Church of St. Clotilde in Paris. Baritone Jorge Espino will be performing Deus Meu and tenor Mackenzie Whitney and baritone Hunter Enoch will be performing Hodie from Les Sept Paroles.
“The principle excitement about this program is hearing scared music sung by young, energetic, wonderful voices that are very well trained in what they’re singing,” Mr. Lofton said. “Hearing scared music sung in a sacred space is an experience unlike any other.”
This is a three performance only engagement and tickets can be purchased here.
March 6 – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill – 22 East Chestnut Hill Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118
We hope you’ll join us for our celebration of sacred music!
Camille Mola is a Delaware County native and a recent Penn State University graduate, where she studied public relations. There, she was a member of the Delta Gamma sorority and was involved with the Penn State Dance Marathon (THON). She is excited to intern with AVA this season and to expand her love and knowledge of music.