Sierra Master Chorale’s Spring Concert: “A feast of contrasts”

With a theme “a feast of contrasts” and classical music that spanned three centuries, we thoroughly enjoyed the Spring Concert of the Sierra Master Chorale and Orchestra on Sunday. It was one of their best performances, and this includes numerous holiday concerts and what we consider the group’s all-time best, “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace.”

The concert attracted a full house at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Grass Valley. The concert will be performed again on Tuesday, May 22, at 7:30 p.m., and we recommend it. “The Chorale loves the contrasts and the differing intensities,” Conductor and Music Director Ken Hardin said of the demanding and inspiring program. 

The first half began with Handel’s “Zadok the Priest,” written in 1727 for the coronation of English King George. The pomp and tradition of Great Britain was fresh in our minds with the Royal Wedding this past weekend, and this piece did not disappoint. All told, Ken compiled a Mass from six composers, including Bruckner’s “Kyrie,” Schubert’s “Gloria,” Faure’s “Sanctus,” Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna” and Vivaldi’s “Cum Sancto Spiritu.” 

A highlight of the first half also was “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah. Although it is popular at Christmas, “Hallelujah” was meant to be performed at Easter, Ken noted. Therefore, it was a perfect fit for the annual spring concert. The crowd was appreciative of the performance — and the commentary.

The chorus and orchestra were in top form at this concert, perhaps because Ken, to their dismay, has announced retirement plans as the music director and conductor of the Chorale. After this week’s spring concerts, Ken’s last holiday concert will be in December. He also may conduct the 2019 spring concert, depending on when a new conductor is hired. Ken will remain the artistic director of InConcert Sierra. The group’s 2018-19 concert season is here.

The second half of Sunday’s concert was also a feast of contrasts: from Beethoven’s 1812 “The Ruins of Athens” to Brahms’ 1871 “Schicksalsleid.” The concert ended with Leonard Bernstein’s “Make Our Garden Grow.”

To the chorale, the program invoked a quote from Plato, Sierra Master Chorale Co-Chair Rod Fivelstad wrote in the program: “Music is moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything.” 


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