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CHORAL FEAST FOR DURBAN (article first published : 2005-07-28)

Enthusiasts of choral music have a rare opportunity next week to savour a major new work entitled The Vision of the Apocalypse. This won a standing ovation when it received its world premiere on March 2, 2004, at New York’s Carnegie Hall in a performance by the world renowned New England Youth Ensemble and the Columbia Collegiate Chorale.

The combined group is currently launching a tour of the UK and South Africa, showcasing the new work composed by their founder, the noted North American conductor, composer, and music pedagogue Dr Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse.

Interestingly, Rittenhouse has deep-rooted ties with South Africa, having lived in this country from the age of three until she was 16 while her father was head of the Helderberg College in the Western Cape. She was awarded a full scholarship in piano, violin and composition at the South African College of Music in Cape Town and made her first appearance as violin soloist with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra many years ago. She subsequently returned to the US to pursue what has been a long and highly distinguished career, and over the years has made many visits back to her surrogate home country.

Her recent composition for combined chorus and orchestra powerfully conveys the themes of the Book of Revelation, and is built around the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14.

“If glory and salvation have sounds, this must be it,” enthused CUC Today in its review of the work’s premiere last year. “The Vision of the Apocalypse, performed under the direction of Dr James Bingham, lifted the audience out of New York City and wrapped listeners in enthralling music and empowering messages.”

The Durban concert by the same artists on August 2 at 19h30 in the City Hall will also be given under Bingham’s baton. The Durban Symphonic Choir will join forces with the visiting musicians for a performance of popular British composer John Rutter’s choral work, Feel the Spirit, in the second half of the concert.

This cycle of seven spirituals is arranged for chorus, mezzo-soprano soloist and orchestra. Internationally admired for his superb choral settings, most notably his highly popular contemporary carols, Rutter came up with the idea for his cycle after hearing the singer Melanie Marshal’s solo interpretations of spirituals in her recitals.

Together they chose seven of their favourite spirituals, including Joshua Fit the Battle, Steal Away, I Got a Robe, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, Every time I Feel the Spirit, Deep River, and a rousing rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In. The resulting composition scored a major triumph at its premiere four years ago, also given at Carnegie Hall.

Both works in next week’s programme could well have Durban’s music audience on its feet as well! Tickets R40 at Computicket.




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