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Singing an Audible Spectrum


John Ehrlich 40 years ago

The gala “Spectrum Singers at 40!” will comprise chorus and audience favorites, embodying the mission that has made the ensemble unique from the start: performing the spectrum of great choral music while often focusing on works worthy but rarely heard.

The repertoire on March 14th at 8pm in First Church Congregational in Harvard Square ranges from the Renaissance through the 21st century, including both sacred and secular works in various languages and musical styles. Guest artists include Mark Andrew Cleveland, baritone; Heinrich Christensen, organ; and Richard Kelley, trumpet. James Barkovic, piano, will accompany several works, including some with piano duet featuring guest pianist Terry Halco. In addition, former members have been invited to sing a couple of selections with the chorus; the audience will also be invited to join in.

How could we distill 40 years of repertoire into one program without its being just a parade of greatest hits? The first order of business was to review all that we have performed over the decades. (That list will be viewable during the reception.) I then picked a large group of pieces most emblematic of our mission, in a variety of languages and musical styles. The choices had as well to be those we’d performed to acclaim from our audience; after all, this is your celebration too! The chorus then voted on those works they most wanted to sing. The final and most challenging stage has been organizing the results into a compelling program that creates a dramatic and musical arc both within the halves of the concert and throughout the evening. It’s always been my belief that a program’s pieces must resonate with one another, forming connections in musical style and structure, language and/or textual themes.

A chorus member asked me about my favorites, which is like the question about which child is your favorite, but I’ll try. Brahms speaks to my soul; Der Abend and Waldesnacht are among his most sublime choral works. While preparing our concert of a year ago, I gained a special affection for the Carol Barnett arrangement of McKay, a straightforward, thrilling and powerful expression of this classic American hymn tune. Finally, I have a deep connection to Vaughan Williams’s Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge, which we performed on multiple occasions with baritone Donald Wilkinson, who died a year and half ago. While we mourn his passing, we’re thrilled to feature Mark Andrew Cleveland, who brings in equal measure a warm, beautiful voice and full commitment to the words. Text is so important in this moving work, which asks God to “prosper Thou our handiwork,” a perfect way to express our hope that we will continue to share many musical experiences together.

We intend to make this night fun. We’ve invited former chorus members to sing with us on Eric Whitacre’s mystical Lux Aurumque and Charles Ives’s rollicking Circus Band. Still, the singers may need some help — so you’ll be invited to join in! Steve Ledbetter will present his usual excellent preconcert talk; if you’ve never heard one, we encourage you to do so. Finally, the reception promises additional delights and surprises to end the evening in grand style.

March 14 at 8pm at First Church Congregational
11 Garden Street, Cambridge
Lecture by Steven Ledbetter: 7pm
Tickets: $15–$45 available HERE

Clément Janequin: Le Chant des Oiseaux
Tomás Luis de Victoria: Ave Maria
Anton Bruckner: Os Justi, Ave Maria, Virga Jesse Floruit
Josef Rheinberger: Abendlied
Johannes Brahms: Waldesnacht, Der Abend
Cole Porter: In the Still of the Night
Maurice Duruflé: Ubi Caritas
Eric Whitacre: Lux Aurumque (audience participation)
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge
Carol Barnett: McKay
Samuel Barber: To Be Sung on the Water
Gustav Holst: Come to Me
Matthew Harris: O Mistress Mine
Irving Fine: The Hour-Glass
Virgil Thomson: Rose Cheek’d Laura, Come; There is a Garden in her Face
Charles Ives: Circus Band (audience participation)
Aaron Copland: Long Time Ago, The Promise of Living

About the Spectrum Singers

The Spectrum Singers is an acclaimed Boston-area chorus that performs worthy music, famous and unknown, from the Renaissance to the present. John W. Ehrlich formed the ensemble in 1980 and continues to lead his 40+ gifted singers in concerts at First Church Congregational in Harvard Square. The chorus is frequently joined by leading guest soloists and has shared the stage with Emmanuel Music, the Cantata Singers, Boston Landmarks Orchestra, the Concord Orchestra, and the Indian Hill Symphony Orchestra in collaborative performances throughout the area.

In recent seasons Spectrum Singers has performed music by Lukas Foss and Charles Ives, given the New England premiere of a new work by Mohammed Fairouz, and offered a rich program of Handel masterpieces with acclaimed soloists and Baroque orchestra. The chorus has embarked on an ongoing survey of requiems—Mozart, Fauré, Duruflé, Alfred Désenclos, and John Rutter—and was invited to perform in Emmanuel Music’s acclaimed productions of Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress, Mozart’s Magic Flute, and Schubert’s Alfonso und Estrella.

The Boston Globe once praised Ehrlich and the Singers for “unfailingly dramatic performances that grappled with real issues in the music and real issues the music is about.” Now in its 40th season, the chorus continues that mission in programs of depth and professional execution for an appreciative audience.

About the Music Director

Founder and music director of the Spectrum Singers, John W. Ehrlich has been active as singer and conductor in the Boston and Cambridge areas for more than 50 years. He is widely admired for his intriguing and adventuresome programming. Ehrlich studied music and conducting while attending the Hartt School of Music, Trinity College, and Harvard and Boston Universities. His teachers were Robert Shaw, Gregg Smith, G. Wallace Woodworth, Nathan Gottschalk, and Vytautous Marijousius. Ehrlich has sung with the Hartford Chamber Choir, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Cambridge Society for Early Music, John Oliver Chorale, Boston Baroque, and the Emmanuel Church Choir. For eight seasons he was MD of the Master Singers of Worcester.


8 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. Performing organizations like the Spectrum Singers (or Odyssey Opera) are taking a hard hit from the Wuhan Virus Recession. Productions cancelled only hours before performance; Odyssey has now lost two productions and BLO lost Norma. Even small groups are affected; Meravehla lost a performance I was going to go to. For those of us not hurting for the “stimulus” monies giving that money to groups affected by this Viral Panic can be a good idea. Do people have other ideas for how to help? It would really hurt to lose Odyssey Opera or the Spectrum Singers. There was nothing for performing arts companies in the “Stimulus” bill other than $25 mill for the Kennedy Center (no knowledge of whether the KC has problems of its own meaning this was a “bailout” instead); rumblings are there may be something for “non-profits” in the next “Stimulus” Bill but who knows what that means. However, such a bill may turn out to be a “pork goodies” distribution rather than helping those hurt. Any thoughts, you all?

    Comment by Nathan Redshield — March 27, 2020 at 8:28 pm

  2. Giving fresh moneys, some or all of a household’s $2400 (or more) if they do not need it, sounds like a great idea … but you lost at least me at ‘Wuhan’.

    Comment by David Moran — March 27, 2020 at 9:58 pm

  3. The stimulus bill apparently substantially expands jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, extending them for the first time to freelancers and gig workers, and adding $600 per week on top of the usual payment.

    This might help the players, singers and stagehands who are irregularly employed,

    And does it matter what we call the virus? How about the MF flu? Do we object to the terms Spanish Flu or German Measles?

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — March 27, 2020 at 10:38 pm

  4. Naming the ”virus” geographically has plenty of precedents……

    Here are 17 other diseases named after populations or places:

    West Nile Virus
    Named after the West Nile District of Uganda discovered in 1937.

    Guinea Worm
    Named by European explorers for the Guinea coast of West Africa in the 1600s.

    Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
    Named after the mountain range spreading across western North America first recognized first in 1896 in Idaho.

    Lyme Disease
    Named after a large outbreak of the disease occurred in Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut in the 1970s.

    Ross River Fever
    Named after a mosquito found to cause the disease in the Ross River of Queensland, Australia by the 1960s. The first major outbreak occurred in 1928.

    Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever
    Named after its 1940s discovery in Omsk, Russia.

    Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
    Named in 1976 for the Ebola River in Zaire located in central Africa.

    Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
    Also known as “camel flu,” MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and all cases are linked to those who traveled to the Middle Eastern peninsula.

    Valley Fever
    Valley Fever earned its nickname from a 1930s outbreak San Joaquin Valley of California, though its first case came from Argentina.

    Marburg Virus Disease
    Named after Marburg, Germany in 1967.

    Named after Norwalk, Ohio after an outbreak in 1968.

    Zika Fever
    First discovered in 1947 and named after the Zika Forest in Uganda.

    Japanese Encephalitis
    Named after its first case in Japan in 1871.

    German Measles
    Named after the German doctors who first described it in the 18th century. The disease is also sometimes referred to as “Rubella.”

    Spanish Flu
    While the true origins of the Spanish Flu remain unknown, the disease earned its name after Spain began to report deaths from the flu in its newspapers.

    Lassa Fever
    Named after the being found in Lassa, Nigeria in 1969.

    Legionnaire’s Disease
    Named in 1976 following an outbreak of people contracting the lung infection after attending an American Legion convention in Philadelphia.

    Comment by Martin Snow — March 28, 2020 at 12:35 pm

  5. Naming a virus geographically has plenty of precedents. Substituting a geographical designation for an already named virus in the interest of political expediency? Execrable.

    Comment by Gerry — March 28, 2020 at 2:36 pm

  6. I totally agree……..

    Comment by Martin Snow — March 28, 2020 at 4:38 pm

  7. I cannot believe that this article got hijacked. I come here to NOT have to have every single bit of my media intake include COVID-19 (the correct name of the virus so inappropriately named above) and find that somebody is making politically-charged comments.

    Comment by Thomas Dawkins — March 28, 2020 at 6:35 pm

  8. Thank you, Tom.

    Comment by perry41 — March 29, 2020 at 11:58 am

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