“Thank you for bringing our music back to us!” This was one of many accolades accorded Pacific Chorale (conductor, John Alexander), from Orange County, California, during its mini-season of concerts in Paris.
The concept was simple, but it took a chorus the caliber of the 100-strong Pacific Chorale, and a director with the vision of Alexander, to carry it off: spend nine days in Paris, giving four concerts of four different programs in four major churches. Some of the music had not been heard in Paris for decades, and those scores were hard to find: one was even tracked down in Australia! Three of the concerts featured music by composers who had worked in the churches where the performances were given, and two of them were with orchestra. Furthermore, two of the concerts were accompanied by two of Paris’s most distinguished organists.
Here is a summary of the programs:
St. Etienne-du-Mont(Duruflé’s church, with orchestra and Thierry Escaich, Duruflé’s successor, organ)
Motets by Escaich, Paulus and Lauridsen Duruflé: Requiem
St. Suplice (Widor’s church, with Daniel Roth, Widor’s successor, and Thierry Escaich, organ)
Motets by Roth, Widor, Dupré, Messiaen and Poulenc Organ works by Widor (including the famous Toccata, of course, on the organ for which it was written) Widor: Mass for two choirs and two organs (a work written for this church, but nonetheless almost unperformable due to the spatial complexities involved, and which saw Alexander doing worldclass work as traffic cop)
St. Louis-en-l’Île (a delightful church on an island next to Notre-Dame)
This concert featured Pacific Chorale’s professional core, the John Alexander Singers. It was probably a Josquin Mass and Allegri’sMiserere that attracted the audience, but it was Bernstein’s Choruses from The Lark and, most compellingly, David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion that made the most impact.
Pacific Chorale rehearses for its concert in La Madeleine in Paris
La Madeleine(Fauré’s church, with orchestra and Thierry Escaich, organ)
Motets by Alexander, Poulenc and LiliBoulanger (a student of Fauré’s) Fauré: Requiem
It would be hard to imagine a more suitable climax to a wonderful week of performances in great Parisian churches than this last concert on a Sunday afternoon. A standing room only audience of 2,000 packed the Madeleine, and Pacific Chorale, still on top form after a demanding week, made every moment one of truly telling effect. After the concert, chorale members, many with decidedly damp eyes, made their way to a restaurant for a suitably festive farewell dinner.