The midcoast a cappella vocal ensemble VoXX: Voice of Twenty will celebrate the arrival of 2014 with its annual Music for the New Year concerts in January. “Mary, Mother and Child” is built around works that explore the Marian Canon as manifested through the ages, with music that ranges from serene to upbeat. The repertoire covers a broad spectrum of time and style, from medieval chant and early polyphony, through Renaissance chorale and contemporary harmony. This is music that includes songs of sorrow and ecstatic joy, hymns and carols, ancient and modern, that tell the stories of Mary’s life and her role as mother both human and divine.
VoXX will present two performances of “Mary, Mother and Child”:
• Friday, January 24 at Rockport’s newly restored Union Hall, 2 Central Street, at 7:00 p.m.;
• Saturday, January 25 at the lovely St. Francis of Assisi Church, 81 Court Street in Belfast, at 7:00 p.m.
Admission in Rockport and Belfast is $10, tickets available at the door.
In keeping with VoXX’s tradition, the program includes some of the earliest expressions of harmony with works by Dufay and the very prolific “Anonymous” as well as the rich colors and textures of such Renaissance masters as William Byrd, Praetorius, Victoria, and the very contemporary-sounding 16th-century composer Gesualdo. No examination of the Marian canon would be complete without a visit to the profound expressions of the Twentieth Century, here represented by the lovely works of Poulenc, Britten, Howells, and Taverner among others.
The medieval text O Magnum Mysterium (Liber Usualis #382) focuses on the “great mystery” and humility of the Infant Savior born in a stable. Francis Poulenc creates a haunting setting of the Latin text crafting a melody that is at once Medieval and modern. No examination of the Marian Cannon would be complete without a foray into the many settings of the Ave Maria. The text from the Gospel of Luke is the angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary. Tomas Luis Victoria’s setting for double choir is a masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance polyphony. The story of the “slaughter of the innocents” by King Herod is represented by two settings. In the hands of composer William Byrd Lullaby, My Sweet Little Baby tells the sad tale through the dense and rich textures of English Renaissance harmony while Kenneth Leighton’s mid 20th Century setting is gentle and austere. The program will also include two of the four Medieval Marian Hymns. The melodious chant Alma Redemptoris Mater reveals the power and expressiveness of plainsong while working with the text of Salve Regina Javier Busto crafts a lush setting that blends ancient and modern with great skill and subtlety. This is a program of so much variety in form and musical expression that there is something certain to surprise and delight everyone.
Now in its second decade, VoXX has sung up and down the Maine coast, and generally performs two scheduled concert sets per year, in January and mid-summer. VoXX likes the challenges of unusual vocal music, yet more familiar works by such renowned composers as Britten, Byrd, Dufay, Holst, Josquin, Lauridsen, Vaughan Williams, and Whitacre (not to mention Anonymous) are also central to the repertoire. VoXX mainly performs a cappella, but appropriate instrumentation (recorders, percussion, strings) is occasionally added.
VoXX is unusual in that it is a collectively run, all-volunteer organization. Membership is by audition (the group is currently seeking new members, see the group’s website for details), and singers come from all walks of life: teachers and students, professionals and retirees. Members who want to can share in the responsibility of bringing music selections to the group and may take turns teaching and leading if they so choose. The group has built a strong following and is well known for its efforts to inform audiences through extensive program notes.
The group recently released its first CD, VoXX: Voice of Twenty: “Favorites Old and New.” It is available at the group’s concerts and website, and via cdbaby.com. VoXX is available to perform by invitation. Visit www.voiceoftwenty.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.