Nadia Tarnawsky

Cappella Romana: Straddling Worlds

The superb vocal ensemble's "Christmas in Ukraine" was ancient and modern and a breath of life. Next up: The Lost Treasures of Armenia.

Story and photographs by FRIDERIKE HEUER

Cappella Romana opened its 2018/19 season announcement with the words, “Prepare to be engaged, moved, and inspired.” Consider it done. You could add an occasional “made breathless” by the sheer beauty of the singing. One of the main themes of the glorious vocal ensemble’s Saturday concert Christmas in Ukraine at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland was the notion of breath. Breath as the source of life handed down from above, and breath as the source of praise sent back up.

Cappela Romana, in full voice.

Presence and absence of breath was just one of the many dichotomies that came up at St. Mary’s (the program had played the night before in Seattle, and repeats in San Francisco on Jan. 5) while listening to and thinking about this chorus, its guest conductor Marika Kuzma, the music on offer, and the thoughts evoked by any mention of Ukraine these days.

Continues…