Music, Vocal music

Kantorei’s new voice

A preview by Ruth L. Carver



One of the Denver area’s premier vocal groups, Kantorei, is enjoying a productive “honeymoon period” with new director Joel Rinsema. The group is in its 18th season, and Rinsema is using this year to explore the possibilities with this select, all-volunteer ensemble, as they nurture their classic full-bodied sound and try out a larger range of repertoire. On March 14 and 15, they present “Echoes: Chant and Beyond,” a concert of pieces from the earliest days of Gregorian chant to 20th-century favorites like Maurice Duruflé’s Quatre Motets sur des themes gregoriens. The chant-based pieces give the choir a chance to sing with a broad spectrum of colors and textures, in what Rinsema calls “singing authentically in different styles,” and for the audience to have a spiritual yet out-of-the-box encounter with choral music.

Joel Rinsema, conductor

Joel Rinsema, conductor

This program will feature well-known classics like part of Josquin des Prez’s Missa pange lingua, based on an ancient hymn tune, and Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus, yet these early choral works are new to Kantorei’s wheelhouse. These demanding pieces require a purity of tone and understanding of text stresses not often found in community choirs, and Rinsema says his singers are up to the challenge. “The singers recognize the difference….It’s stretching [some of] them, but they are coming along willingly.” He explains that “when the women sing Hildegard von Bingen, the color of the voice is very different than when we do the [Eric] Whitacre,” and in spite of the demanding mental focus, “they are frankly loving it.” Long affiliated with the Phoenix and Kansas City Chorales, Rinsema is holding the choir to a professional standard and wants to make Kantorei an elite voice among Colorado’s large choral groups.

Kim Andre Arnesen, Composer

Kim Andre Arnesen, Composer

In an ambitious move, Kantorei will welcome young Norwegian composer Kim Andre Arnesen as composer in residence next season. His sound will fit well with the choir’s Scandinavian/Lutheran choral tradition (long nurtured by conductor emeritus Richard Larson), and will stimulate the choir in new directions. Denver audiences will get to experience Arnesen’s music at the beginning of his career, and Kantorei will revel in his creativity before he goes on to bigger things. This step (and future projects like touring) should elevate Kantorei’s visibility and status.

In the “Echoes” program, Rinsema is delving into a more experiential concert for audience members. Much of the chant-based repertoire has sacred text, and without becoming overtly religious, Rinsema explains “it’s more about creating an experience for the singers and the audience,” giving them a chance to feel the spirituality of the music in the concert venues. The choir will move into the audience, surrounding and interacting with listeners as they tell stories like that in Michael McGlynn’s Jerusalem and Eric Whitacre’s Sainte-Chapelle. Lighting effects and smells will also ignite the audience’s imagination as they hear this fascinating program. Rinsema’s concept is close to opera – but here “taking it to the next step” – getting up close and personal with the audience, and “breaking down barriers” between performers and listeners to present choral music in a whole new way. In a city like Denver, with its growing population, Rinsema thinks people expect a quality of life that “includes the arts….[they] play a major part of this community.” He and Kantorei are exploring ways to enliven choral music for that community – this time by singing the most ancient traditions of chant.

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 7:30 pm 

Montview  Presbyterian Church
1980 Dahlia St.
Denver, CO 80220
Tickets: $5-20

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 3:00 pm 

Bethany Lutheran Church
4500 E Hampden Ave
Denver, CO 80113
Tickets: $5-20

Visit their website and online schedule

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