Emmanuel Church’s Sunday morning service on March 7 was the 7,696th in their distinguished history, according to Senior Warden, Peter Johnson. For perhaps the 1,400th time the service music was provided by the estimable Emmanuel Music, which has become renowned for including a Bach Cantata at the end of each service. In a city of great choirs, Emmanuel Music’s contingent of 15 on Sunday was doing its quotidian best to provide inspiration in a variety of idioms. That they have done so since 1970 is a cause for rejoicing and amazement, for from their ranks have issued some of the world’s most important artists, such as Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Sanford Sylvan, James Madelena, etc. The group’s versatility is one of their most notable qualities. At home in music of perhaps a 400-year span, they perform without any agenda. Thus, their Bach Cantata no. 163 was performed at A-440 with singers unafraid of vibrato and six modern string players who might have offered a Brahms sextet at their next outing.
What marked the day as special was both the conducting by Ryan Turner, newly announced successor to John Harbison as artistic director of Emmanuel Music, and the Reverend Pamel Werntz’s installation as rector after two successful years as priest in charge. For both the regular service and her installation at 3 p.m. she chose Spiralling Ecstatically, James Primosch’s motet on a poem by e.e. cummings. The piece is a favorite of the Rev. Werntz, although the text on the subject of creation and motherhood seemed unrelated to the New Testament lessons of the day. The a capella performance was conducted by Emmanuel Music artistic-director-in-waiting, Ryan Turner, with both shapely dynamics and subtle rhythmic inflection. The effective ending, on the word “creation,” began with one voice and quickly built up incrementally with the addition of voices and volume to the forte conclusion.
Conducted by the Emmanuel Music titulaire, John Harbison, Bach Cantata number 163, Nur jedem das Seine, translated as “To Each One His Own,” had more resonance with the day’s readings, which inveighed against impropriety and offered repentance. Because it was sung in English instead of German and the soloists (Karyl Rycek, soprano; Katherine Growdon, alto; and Ryan Turner, tenor) were placed at the lectern, members of the congregation were encouraged to concentrate on the words as well as to enjoy the beauty of the arias.
The indefatigable Emmanuel Music Chorus also provided the rest of the service music including processional and recessional hymns grandly accompanied by Nancy Granert on the Rodgers organ.
Ultimately Gesamtkunst prevailed. Received with thanks!