The Milwaukee Choral Artists are on Fire! (Figuratively)
Guest organist Jon Paradowski struck a tone of reverence in an opening solo, Libby Larsen’s Veni Sancte Spiritus, based on a traditional Pentecost sequence. The chorus followed with Kentaro Sato’s version of the sequence, one expanded with majestic and multi-layered strands of song.
The chorus moved from singing of tongues of fire to speaking in tongues of fire, in the ‘Round the World segment. It ranged from the percussive, syncopated lyrics of a Hawaiian song about a blazing sunset to a haunting, otherworldly number in which the Japanese word for “firefly” echoed, flared and faded like the golden lights of the insects.
Poetical fire included a setting of Walt Whitman’s The Challenge, by the MCA’s own Paula Foley Tillen. This soulful piece built to a powerful and triumphant climax. Craig Carnahan set I am into your fire, by poet James Broughton. The song opened soft and a cappella, but the singers added claps and finger snaps as they built a hushed intensity that slowly culminated into a cathartic cacophony of chanting and clapping.
Romantic passions played out in enchanting duets by Fanny Mendelssohn, titled März, April, and Mai and in the brisk Ländliches Lied, by Robert Schumann, which paid homage to the “blissful, happy Maytime.” Ah, the fires of spring.
This concert, the last of the MCA’s season, took place at St. Matthew’s Church in Wauwatosa.