The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble and The Oriana Singers chamber choir, in a first-time collaboration, will perform a centuries-spanning concert on Sunday, October 22, in Wheaton featuring German Renaissance a cappella music from the Roman Catholic tradition and instrumental works by Baroque composer Heinrich Schütz, Felix Mendelssohn, and others, based on famous melodies by Protestant Reformation leader and composer Martin Luther.
Free and open to the public, the one-time-only "Echoes of Wittenberg: Music of a Momentous Era" will take place at 5 p.m. at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave. The concert is presented by St. Michael church. No tickets or reservations are required. Donations are welcome. For information, call (630) 665-2250 or visit www.stmichaelcommunity.org.
"The concert commemorates the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation in Wittenberg, Germany, in a most unusual way, with music from both sides of the great religious divide," said Rodney Holmes, founder and artistic director of the Gargoyle ensemble.
The Oriana Singers, with guest conductor Michael Alan Anderson, will present historically informed performances of music that likely would have been heard at sunset Vespers services at Wittenberg's Castle Church, also known as All Saints' Church, in 1517, the year Luther posted his "95 theses" on the church's doors in protest of certain religious practices. Anderson assembled the pieces from the early 16th-century Jena Choirbooks.
The six-voice choir will sing the Latin hymn "Alma redemptoris mater"; Latin versions of Psalms 113, 116, 145, 146, and 147; the All Saints' Day hymn "Omnes superni ordines"; and the Antiphon for Second Vespers on All Saints', "O quam gloriosum est regnum."
Conductor Anderson is associate professor of musicology at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where he specializes in music and devotion in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. He is also artistic director and a founding member of Schola Antiqua of Chicago, a professional early-music ensemble.
The Gargoyle ensemble, under its founder and artistic director Rodney Holmes, will perform Schütz's "Three Becker Psalms," Op. 5, a Baroque work for brass quartet, and Otto Nicolai's early Romantic "Ecclesiastical Festival Overture on the chorale 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,'" Op. 31, arranged for brass and organ by Craig Garner.
Also: Randall E. Faust's contemporary "Fantasy" on the hymn "Von Himmel hoch," for horn and organ; and Garner's brass and organ arrangement, "Introduction and Finale," from Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5, "Reformation," Op. 107.
Organist is Mark Sudeith, an award-winning musician heard on the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble's critically acclaimed 2015 debut CD "Flourishes, Tales and Symphonies." He holds a doctorate in music from Indiana University and is a professor at Chicago State University.
Gargoyle brass players will include trumpeters Lev Garbar and Andrew Hunter, horn player Renée Vogen, trombonist Karen Mari, and artistic director Holmes on tuba.
Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble
"The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble plays with warmth, elegance, and panache," said U.S. music magazine Fanfare in a review of the ensemble's debut CD. "[They] are perfect companions for the music lover in need of calming nourishment."
The group takes its whimsical name from the stone figures atop gothic buildings at the University of the Chicago, where the now-professional ensemble got its start in 1992 as a brass quintet of faculty and students. Under its founder and artistic director Rodney Holmes, it has evolved over the decades into an independent organization of classically trained musicians that focuses on commissioning and performing groundbreaking new works and arrangements for brass and pipe organ. More information at gargoylebrass.com.
The Oriana Singers
Formed in 1979, the Oriana Singers are led by Chicago Symphony Chorus assistant conductor William Chin. The six-voice, soprano-soprano-alto-tenor-baritone-bass (SSATBB) ensemble presents a wide range of a cappella music. Recent seasons have included performances of music from Monteverdi's Eighth Book of Madrigals and the Vespers of 1610, contrasted with later programs of polyphonic folk music from Russia, Finland, and Georgia and new arrangements of popular hits from artists including Coldplay and Imogen Heap. Its website is www.oriana.org.