In keeping with its mission of presenting a wide range of choral music from around the world, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale has programmed four distinct concert programs for its 35th Anniversary Summer Festival, which runs from July 19 through August 13 and is presented at venues in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Music director Joshua Habermann conducts “Liberté (music of resistance and revolution), “Music From a Secret Chapel” and “The Hope of Loving,” while guest conductor André J. Thomas leads the group in the program “Justice.”
“Music From a Secret Chapel” focuses on music from the Renaissance and Medieval periods. One of the most challenging pieces on the program is “Miserere,” which was composed to a setting of Psalm 51 in 1638 by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), who had been a singer in the Sistine Chapel Choir. “There are nine singers and nine different parts,” explains Habermann. “One soprano has to get up to a high C five different times during the piece.”
“The Hope of Loving” is a program of music written during the past 50 years featuring works by John Corigliano (b. 1938), Jake Runestad (b. 1986) and Tarik O’Regan (b. 1978).
Some of the music in the “Liberté” program is built around the World War II resistance movement. Of note are pieces composed by WWII prisoners of war Gideon Klein (1919-1944) and David Zehvi (1910-1977). The Chorale also sings compositions associated with the nonviolent Singing Revolution in Estonia, in which hundreds of thousands of Estonians gathered publicly between 1986 and 1991 in an effort to end decades of Soviet occupation. Habermann is excited about presenting the piece “Liberté from Figure Humaine” by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) because “it’s one of the most technically difficult pieces in the choral repertoire and rarely heard live,” he says.
For the “Justice” concert, Thomas has programmed gospel music and spirituals drawn from his recent book “Way Over in Beulah Lan’: Understanding and Performing the Negro Spiritual.” The program features a world premiere by pianist and composer Brandon Boyd and an appearance by award-winning soprano NaGuanda Nobles.
Two film screenings related to the festival’s themes take place at the Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA) on July 29 (“Singing Revolution”) and August 7 (“When I Rise”).