Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hodgepodge 190/365 - I Cantori

David has sung in a chorus almost as long as I've known him: first at UC Berkeley, then at Northwestern (at that time, I managed to get hoodwinked into joining as well—and I'm glad I did because we had the exquisite pleasure of performing two of my favorite requiems, Mozart's and Rutter's), and then, when we moved to Monterey in 1989, he quickly found the local college's community chorus, I Cantori di Carmel, directed by the esteemed Sal Ferrantelli. And he's been a member ever since, with the occasional semester off for a breather.

I Cantori a few years ago . . .
As a result, I have been attending I Cantori performances twice a year—December and May—pretty much continuously since 1989. That's a lot of concerts. But each and every one was wonderful in its own way. Sal's programming aesthetic is excellent, usually featuring "serious" works, very often sacred but not exclusively. The group also performs spirituals, carols at Christmastime, the occasional bawdy Renaissance ditty, Gregorian chant. It's been a joy to hear the group sing its collective heart out and to get to know individual members over the years.

Well, tonight was the last concert: after thirty-six years directing I Cantori, not to mention many other student music ensembles at Monterey Peninsula College, Sal is retiring at age seventy-six and moving back east to be nearer his daughter, Tiffani, her husband, Armando, and their brand-new son, and Sal's first grandchild, Emilio. My understanding is that Sal's wife, Carol, so decreed, but I expect Sal might be ready for a break after three and a half decades of dedicated teaching. Maybe this will give him more time for his other love: composing. In that realm he cites as his greatest influences the Romantic composers, including Brahms and Bruckner, both of whom were featured in tonight's program.

The offerings this evening included some landmark pieces from over the years, starting with "All Ye Lovely Saints Above" by Thomas Weelkes (1576–1623), which was the first song in I Cantori's first regular concert, in 1981. Anton Bruckner's (1824–96) "Ave Maria" and three movements from Johannes Brahms's (1833–97) Ein Deutsches Requiem followed. Sal explained in the program that "as a 17-year-old, after singing this great work [the Brahms] under the direction of Robert Shaw in San Diego, it became my dream to someday perform this masterwork as a conductor. This was realized in 1987 with I Cantori."

I took this during the Mass in C:
the mission is such an excellent
concert hall for voices

After the intermission we heard two Coronation Anthems by Handel (1685–1756); a verse from Matthew, "Selig sind die da Leid tragen," set to music by Sal himself and dedicated to I Cantori "with deepest gratitude"; the "Kyrie" from Beethoven's (1770–1827) Missa Solemnis; and Beethoven's Mass in C for a rousing grand finale. The last was I Cantori's first complete mass performed with a full orchestra and soloists in the Mission Basilica, in 1984. Two of the soloists from that performance sang again tonight: full circle.

Sal had a full house both last night and tonight, and of course he got a rousing standing ovation. What a career! Manifested with such passion and joy.

I Cantori is now looking to assist the college in selecting a new musical director (or two: Sal's shoes are big ones to fill), hoping to continue on. It will be interesting to see what happens. Transitions like this can be tough. They can also be envigorating. Time will tell. Whatever happens, Sal will be missed. It's been a huge pleasure knowing him and being in the audience for his wonderful concerts.

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