Com­ing up in Philly Music: Choral Arts plays songs of exile

2 minute read
Haitian composer Sydney Guillaume contributed to the upcoming Choral Arts concert. (Photo courtesy of Sydney Guillaume.)
Haitian composer Sydney Guillaume contributed to the upcoming Choral Arts concert. (Photo courtesy of Sydney Guillaume.)

The director of Choral Arts Philadelphia, Matthew Glandorf, has come up with another creative idea for his next Wednesday evening concert. The program will combine a Baroque religious piece with three pieces from the Pan African musical tradition. The overall theme is exile and the longing for home.

Exile and lamentation

The Baroque will be represented by François Couperin’s musical setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, with its vivid images of a destroyed Jerusalem and a people uprooted and forced into captivity. The first African piece will be the lament of a Black slave recalling Africa, set to music by the Haitian composer Sydney Guillaume. The second will be the spiritual Deep River, arranged by the Black American composer Harry Burleigh in 1916. The third will be a modern South African piece sung in Zulu.

Glandorf has selected music that can be performed by small groups maintaining social distance. The Couperin is scored for two sopranos, accompanied by an organ and a viola da gamba (the older cousin of the cello). The three African pieces will be sung by a vocal sextet, unaccompanied except for a little percussion by Sydney Guillaume.

For the Choral Arts online concert on New Year’s Eve, Glandorf kept another small cast well separated without interfering with the effectiveness of the performance. That concert featured pieces that offered expressions of hope composed in troubled times. This one taps into another current emotion, as we finish a year in which we have all been separated from many of the things we love and need.

What, When, Where, and Accessibility

Choral Arts Philadelphia will premiere Lamentations: Longing for Home at 7pm on Wednesday, March 31. Tickets are $15 and they’re available online.

Image Description: Sydney Guillaume smiles for a portrait shot. He's dressed in all black, standing in front of a red brick wall, accented by outdoor sunlight.

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