BELFAST, Maine — The midcoast a cappella vocal ensemble VoXX: Voice of Twenty will celebrate the arrival of the 2014 summer season with its annual concerts in June. “Life, Love and Death” is built around works that explore these powerful themes and their interrelations 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 Renaissance polyphony, through contemporary harmony. This is music that includes expressions of deep sorrow and great joy; chants, hymns and songs, ancient and modern that express some of our most primal emotions as well as works that attempt to determine whether or not love can sustain life or if we can die of love.
VoXX will present two performances of “Life, Love and Death”:
• Thursday, June 12 at the Belfast Armory, Rte 1 in Belfast, at 7:30 p.m.;
• Friday, June 13 at Rockport’s Hall,
2 Central Street, at 7:30 p.m.;
Admission is $10, tickets available at the door.
In keeping with VoXX’s tradition, the program includes some of the earliest expressions of western music with two Gregorian Chants as well as the rich colors and textures of such Renaissance masters as William Byrd, Duarte Lobo, and Tomas Luis Victoria. No examination of these themes would be complete without a visit to the profound expressions of the Twentieth Century, here represented by the lovely works of Britten, Holst, and Taverner among others.
This is a program of unities and contrasts. American composer, David Lang revisits the spiritual Lay this Body Down crafting a haunting and rhythmically complex setting while compatriot Eric Whitacre turns to the great Ottoman poet, Rumi for the inspiring lyrics of This Marriage. No examination of the theme of Death would be complete without a foray into the Roman Requiem Liturgy. From the earliest traditions we have two chants: In Paradisum and the Communio: Lux Aeterna. Following this tradition into the Renaissance we have the lovely Kyrie del Officium Defunctorum of Victoria and a moving setting of Audivi Vocem Caelorum by Durate Lobo. The program will also include several songs of love and longing. In Holst’s setting of the Cornish folksong, I Love my Love we have a rich and varied treatment of a text with a happy ending. The English madrigal is present in two contrasting works: Thomas Morley’s thoughtful April is in my Mistriss’ Face and Weelkes’ sometimes happy sometimes sad Lady, your Eye my Love Enforced, while the Italian tradition is present in Monteverdi’s Baci, Soavi e Cari. 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.
Photo credit: Jim Dugan – jimdugan.com