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All in the family: Aurora, Satori, Cappella Romana

Aurora and Satori Choruses bring light and laughter to June concerts; Cappella Romana celebrates Hollywood’s Orthodox composers.

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Satori Men’s Chorus was created so the husbands of Aurora Chorus singers would have their own place to sing on Aurora rehearsal nights,” said Satori Artistic Director Susan Dorn. Indeed, conductor/composer David York founded Satori in 1993, the year after he launched Aurora. Both choirs are still going strong–and you can hear them both in these first two weeks of June.

Aurora once again precedes Satori, but by only one weekend. On Sunday June 5, guest conductor Kathleen Hollingsworth will lead a full-hearted Aurora Chorus in their Where There Is Love concert. “No sad songs!” promises the event page.

Kathleen Hollinsworth, Aurora Chorus guest conductor. Photo courtesy of the choir.
Kathleen Hollinsworth, Aurora Chorus guest conductor. Photo courtesy of the choir.

“With the weightiness of the last year,” said Aurora Board Choir Jae Douglas, “Kathleen has put together a program filled with light and laughter to lift the spirit and offer solace to heavy hearts.” And how does a little playful profanity and some rocking gospel goodness sound?

Like a breath of fresh air.

And you might be aware that Aurora has been searching for a new Artistic Director. Tune in to this choral music space next week for more information about that. Tease, tease. But you can probably hear all about it at the concert.

Aurora Chorus performs at 4 pm, June 5, at First Congregational Church, Portland. Tickets can be purchased here or at the door.  Proof of vaccination or negative test results will be required for admission and masks are required. 

Unity of Portland is the concert site for Satori’s concert the following Saturday, June 11.  They, and accompanist Benjamin Milstein, offer you “A Grab Bag of Songs” – familiar favorites like “Summertime” and “Rhythm of Love” by prolific choral arranger Andy Beck. Dorn believes there is only one spousal connection still in place, but Satori continues as a “community of men expressing our commitment to peace through song.” Dorn assumed the baton from Salem conductor Ray Elliott, and has enjoyed her favorite choral sound – men’s voices – for 17 years. The choir continues to nurture the non-professional singer; they do not have to read music but members are expected to know their parts. Listening to rehearsal tracks is one method members use.

Satori is not afraid to say you will be entertained. Why do we shy from that word in the “classical” music world? Bravo to being entertained! There is value in pleasure, in delight. Satori sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Why do groups like Satori and Aurora Chorus exist for thirty years? They offer something of value to their singers – friendship, choral camaraderie; they offer something to the public – accessible, meaningful choral music; they have folks working behind the scenes – boards, volunteers, donors – who keep the organization solvent and on mission. 

There are a lot of folks out there who serve our choral music community who don’t get the applause or the “Portland Standing O.” But they should. We’ll salute a couple of them next week. Be thinking about who they are–and in next week’s choral season wrap-up, you might drop their names into the comment section.  

Hear the men of Satori on at 7:30 pm, June 11, at Unity of Portland. Tickets can be purchased at the door. No one is turned away for lack of funds. Bring masks.

Enchanting California: Burbank and Byzantium

In Cappella Romana’s 30th season closer you’ll experience music out of one of the great North American Byzantine enclaves – Hollywood.

Hmm. That can’t be right. Let’s read this again. “From Constantinople to California.” Okay, maybe Cappella Romana’s Executive Director Mark Powell can shed some light on this enigmatic concert title.

Sponsor
Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival Portland Oregon

Cappella is offering “Byzantine chant and works by beloved Greek American composers,” says Powell. Ah, here’s the connection: several of those composers just happened to hone their craft at a little campus just 15 miles south of Hollywood – USC. And some are native Californians, descendants of Greek families who migrated to California in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Learn a bit about this history at the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral website here.  

One of those composers, Frank Desby (1922-92) truly made a living in the motion picture/media capital of the world as a studio musician. But his scholarly contributions to Greek liturgical music, particularly from his tenure at the magnificent Byzantine Sophia Cathedral mentioned above, set the trend for rescoring traditional Greek Orthodox melodies for mixed chorus and “in more sophisticated harmonic and contrapuntal garb” (Lingas, Alexander, liner notes, Cappella CD The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, 2013).

Tikey Zes (b. 1927) is perhaps the most well known and prolific of the composers on this concert. Listen to CR singing the “Cherubic Hymn” from Zes’ Divine Liturgy.  Zes received his doctorate from USC–as did Peter Michaelides (1930-2017), whose work is also featured on this concert, alongside the music of Oakland-born composer Steven Cardiasmenos (b. 1958).

Radiant Cloud, by Michael Adamis (1929-2013), was written for CR. This work steps into the modern world, although not as far as Adamis’ well-regarded electroacoustic experimental music, a sample of which can be heard here.  That both Metalllika Glypta III and Radiant Cloud could come from the same composer is a wonder.

This is a choral journey and you can hear it all in Portland at 8 pm, Saturday June 4, at St. Mary’s Cathedral; and at 3 pm, Sunday June 5, at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Tickets and information about the June 3 Seattle concert here. Vaccination cards or negative tests are no longer required for entry. While masks are optional, patrons may choose to wear them.    

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Cappella Romana just completed its Midwest America Tour: University of Chicago; Carlton College, Northfield (MN); the (very Byzantine) Basilica of St. Louis; the Bloomington Early Music Festival (IN) and at the 100th year commemoration of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Dayton, Ohio. It was there that Artistic Director Alexander Lingas tested positive for Covid.

It could have been a disaster, said Powell, but it wasn’t, because they had already been doing their utmost to keep their singers safe. Individual hotel accommodations, consistent testing, vaccination policies, masking. Lingas, who thankfully exhibited mild symptoms, did not continue with the choir – could not, in fact, leave Dayton. For eleven days. Golly. The rest of the choir continued on and returned in good health to their homes.  Lingas should be back to his England home in a few days.

Cappella Romana on Paros Island, 2011. Photo courtesy of the choir
Cappella Romana on Paros Island, 2011. Photo courtesy of the choir

Daryl Browne is a music educator, alto, flutist and writer who lives in Beaverton, Oregon.

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