What are you doing on New Year’s Eve? How about a dalliance with the pleasures of a Renaissance noble?
Three years ago, the director of Choral Arts Philadelphia, Matthew Glandorf, took a big chance and presented Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on New Year’s Eve. His gamble paid off, and he repeated the feat two years later. This year, he’s continuing Philadelphia’s newest holiday tradition with a New Year’s Eve performance of the first large-scale work in the Western repertoire — Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610.
Like the Oratorio, the Vespers is another religious work — a paean to the Virgin Mary — but the beauty and variety of its music have attracted an enthusiastic following among modern secular audiences. A vespers is an evening service with no specific format, allowing composers the freedom to choose texts and styles. The pieces in the Monteverdi Vespers range from romantic arias to grand moments for a double chorus. The grand moments in this performance should be particularly grand, thanks to the Dark Horse Consort, a San Francisco organization that specializes in playing historical brasses. (You can read more about this collaboration in this blog post by Dark Horse's music director.)
Glandorf notes that the Vespers isn’t specifically written for Christmas or New Year celebrations, but he feels it’s a suitable work for “a big, solemn feast.” The New Year’s Eve Bach performances of the last few years created an interlude with the timeless and eternal on an evening when we mark the irresistible advance of the years. Monteverdi should have the same effect.
Choral Arts Philadelphia will present Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 on December 31 at 4pm at Saint Clement's Church (2013 Appletree Street, Philadelphia). Tickets ($45; $30 for seniors and $15 for students with ID) are available online, by calling 267-240-2586, and at the door.
At right: Members of the Dark Horse Consort appearing with Choral Arts on December 31. (Photo courtesy of Dark Horse Consort.)