“The French Connection.” Music by Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Duruflé, and contemporary American composer Giselle Wyers. Guest director Richard Riley; organist Jenny Bower; vocal soloists Lindsey Warren, soprano; and Geoffrey Penar, bass.
Montpelier’s Onion River Chorus, under the leadership of guest conductor Richard Riley, presents “The French Connection”, a program of music by Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Duruflé, complemented by the contemporary American composer Giselle Wyers. The concert dates are Saturday May 25 and Sunday May 26; both performances begin at 7:30 pm at the Montpelier Unitarian Church on 130 Main Street. Tickets are available at the door: $20 for general admission and $17 for students, and seniors.
Guest director Richard Riley is well-known to Vermont audiences as the musical director of the Burlington Choral Society and of the Montpelier Unitarian Church. He also acts as guest conductor for Capital City Concerts. The Onion River Chorus is joined by guest organist Jenny Bower and vocal soloists Lindsey Warren, soprano, and Geoffrey Penar, bass.
The focal point of this “French Connection” program of music is the Requiem by Maurice Duruflé. Duruflé (1902-1986) is surprisingly well-known for a composer who published only fourteen compositions. Opus 9, the Requiem, written from 1941-1948 expresses, in a contemplative way, the human tragedy of World War II as well as the personal grief over death of his father in 1945, only five months after Paris was liberated. The compositional language used in the Requiem combines Duruflé’s brilliance as an organist and his reverence for Gregorian chant. The work also makes use of the high level of expertise in the French choruses of that time. The Requiem will be presented in its original form for chorus and organ.
The second French composer of this concert is Duruflé’s predecessor Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), himself the composer of a very well-known Requiem. Here he is however introduced by his Pavane, Op.50. This choral work written to a very “light” poem captures something of the “Belle Époque” at the end of the 19th century - a time of great optimism and prosperity.Fauré modestly described his Pavane as "elegant, but not otherwise important.” The best-known piece on the program, Gabriel Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, was written in 1865 when Gabriel Fauré was just nineteen years old. It was an entry into a composition contest at the prestigious music school École Niedermeyer de Paris and won first prize. It is to this day frequently performed by choirs both in church and in concert.
The program is completed by the American composer Giselle Wyers (b. 1969), a professor of choral music at the University of Washington. Although the only thing French about Wyers is her first name, her lyrical and introspective musical language mirrors and develops that of Maurice Duruflé and Gabriel Fauré. In the four poems that we hear set to music in this concert, we can hear Giselle Wyers’ characteristic use of melody lines that are spun independently in each part.
Founded in 1978, Onion River Chorus, which is open to any dedicated singer, has consistently presented high quality performances of rarely performed masterpieces ranging from Renaissance to contemporary.