Singing and Meditating in DC

Soprano Mary Mackenzie, the 21st Century Consort, the Folger Consort, and members of the National Cathedral Chant Choir all did a great job recording and performing my Sacred Songs and Meditations in Washington, DC last weekend. Mary is quite a find: her sound is sweet and true and rich in all registers, her musicianship is first class, she is musically smart, and she knows how to connect with an audience. The instrumentalists, some of whom I have known for years, were up to their usual high standard. Special thanks go to the folks playing the early instruments, who were cheerful and patient in the face of the unwittingly awkward parts I wrote for their instruments.

The Cathedral is a handsome Gothic structure in northwest DC, about 25 minutes by bus from the National Mall.

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The building was damaged in the earthquake that hit the east coast a while back, and repairs continue:

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A simple font stands in the middle of the nave. The placement and lighting look well, but the base needs some touching up with gold paint:

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Entering the place in the early evening, the late day sun made for some magical projections of color from the clerestory windows that my amateur photography skills can only hint at:

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Unlike the previous performance of the piece at the Cathedral which took place in the transept, this time we worked in what they call the Great Choir, in front of the high altar. The choir stalls are intricately carved:

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Here’s conductor (and director of the 21st Century Consort, as well as lutenist of the Folger Consort) Christopher Kendall (in the dark shirt) consulting with producer Joseph Gascho. The performers, from left to right, are Rachel Young, cello; Sara Sterne, flute; Mary Mackenzie, soprano; Susan Robinson, harp; Gwyn Roberts, recorder; Lee Hinkle, percussion; and Robert Eisenstein, viol.

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The control room was a set up in an office not far from the high altar. This lent a monastic atmosphere to the proceedings; here is engineer Mark Huffman:

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and here is Joseph Gascho speaking to the performers:

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A few shots of the players at work, both “the moderns” (that’s violinist Elisabeth Adkins, with clarinetist Ed Cabarga at right):

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and “the earlys” (Amy Domingues is the viol player at the far right):

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Unfortunately I never got a picture of the men and girls from the Cathedral Chant Choir, directed by Michael McCarthy – before each movement of my piece they sang the incipit of the chant or carol melody on which the movement is based. They sang with uncommon refinement and unanimity of pitch, color and articulation, and I am very grateful for their efforts.

I’ll close with two pictures of the Cathedral – one taken looking down the nave from the choir, the other outside at night. (The netting visible in the interior shot is to protect those in the building from the possibility of falling stones from the earthquake damage – I am told the netting is just a precaution and has not been put to the test.)

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