Skylark Vocal Ensemble, founded in 2011 in Atlanta and Boston, and led by Artistic Director Matthew Guard, has produced programs that have been described as “engrossing” by WQXR FM in New York and “original, stimulating, and beautiful” by BBC Radio 3. However, the group’s upcoming 4 concerts portend to create not only “engrossing and stimulating” events but also a rather rare kind of musical experience.
With two Grammy® nominations under its belt, Skylark Vocal Ensemble is bringing performances of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil to the Simon Center for the Arts Thursday in Falmouth on October 24th, in Newburyport at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Friday, October 25th, in Chestnut Hill at Church of the Redeemer on Saturday, October 26th and in Harvard Square at St. Paul Parish on Sunday afternoon, October 27th. Details and tickets HERE. [The BSO will be programming the work in April to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and BMInt has accounts of recent previous performances HERE, HERE and HERE]
Composed in 1915, Rachmaninoff’s 15-movement, 60-plus-minute “Vespers” consists numerous ancient Russian religious chants, some of which are over 1000 years old and when the piece was written, it was contingent on having the most powerful bass singers available. Their deep, deep tones alongside Rachmaninoff’s uniquely ethereal harmonies, can create a transcendental listening experience.
For these Skylark performances, Matthew Guard wanted to make them totally remarkable and compelling and so to achieve this, and in the first ever collaboration of its kind, Skylark’s singers will be joined with three world-renowned basso profundos: Eric Alatorre, Glenn Miller and Adrian Peacock.
Basso-profundo Eric Alatorre, who sports an instantly smile-provoking handlebar mustache, recently retired from a 30-year career as basso profundo with the Grammy® Award-winning all-male ensemble Chanticleer. Legendary basso profundo Glenn Miller first performed the Rachmaninoff Vespers in Robert Shaw’s Grammy® Award winning recording in 1989. Since then, he has anchored countless performances of Russian music around the country. Adrian Peacock, who is flying in from London specifically for these performances, has spent his career as the “go to” lowest bass for UK-based ensembles, performing with The Tallis Scholars, The Monteverdi Choir, Polyphony, Tenebrae and the BBC singers. Adrian has also supplied a number of curiously low sounding effects for film soundtracks, including three of the Harry Potter films — he can currently be heard humming the Yeti’s singing parts on the soundtrack of the Dreamworks box-office hit Abominable!
Tenor Jonas Budris, who appears frequently with Boston Baroque and The Handel & Haydn Society and mezzo-soprano Luthien Brackett, of the Monteverdi Choir in the United Kingdom, will be featured as soloists as well.
Skylark’s most recent three recordings all reached the top 10 of Billboard’s Traditional Classical Chart, earning praise for “imaginative” programming from Limelight Australia and “singing of the highest standard for any area or any repertoire” from Classics Today.
Matthew Guard and his wife Carolyn (who is Skylark’s Executive Director) met while students at Harvard. Both performed in the choral societies there. They also each hold MBAs from Emory University and run two successful startup companies, Babiators (sunglasses for babies and kids) and The Brushies (finger puppet toothbrushes for kids)!
While running two startup businesses is exciting, it is Skylark’s choral music that brings the couple the most thrilling personal satisfaction and these next few concerts—well, they might even make a little history.
Having grown steadily over the past eight-plus years, Skylark has branched out to museums, concert halls and churches across the United States. Skylark also made its international debut in March, 2018 at St. John’s Smith Square in London, as part of the UK choir Tenebrae’s Holy Week Festival. The Times of London declared that Skylark was “the highlight” of the festival that included some of the UK’s leading choirs, including The Tallis Scholars, Polyphony, Tenebrae and the Gabrielli Consort.