A Pilgrim's Journey: Music of Distler, Vaughan Williams and Byrd on March 7th

Deb Lenssen picture

A concert with guest conductor Debra Lenssen

Saturday, March 7 at 8:00 pm, First Lutheran Church in Boston

Tickets $30/$20 senior/$15 student, at door or buy here

The lovely, transcendent "Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains" by Ralph Vaughan Williams anchors this program, showcasing many of the fine soloists of Canto Armonico’s ensemble. First performed in 1922, it was recast almost 30 years later in the complete “Pilgrim’s Progress” using much the same harmonic language – but how novel the polychordal sounds referencing heaven were to the Britons in 1922 we can only guess. Richard Giarusso, Giarusso picture who sang the role of the Pilgrim as a student at Harvard, returns to reprise it with a different cast. Now professor at Peabody Conservatory/Johns Hopkins University, Richard was one of the original members of Canto Armonico. We are delighted to welcome him back to Boston.

Opening the program are selections from Hugo Distler’s influential Mörike-Chorliederbuch, premiered to great acclaim in Graz in 1939 yet unfamiliar to many here in the USA. Eduard Mörike (1804-1875) was a Lutheran pastor, professor of German literature, and highly regarded writer; Distler uses 39 of his lyrics for the songbook, broken into sections for full chorus, women’s chorus, and men’s chorus. Our conductor Debra Lenssen, a Wellesley College graduate now teaching and directing opera in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a specialist in the choral music of Distler. The remainder of Canto Armonico’s program is devoted to music by Tudor composer and Roman Catholic William Byrd, including the astonishing and highly personal late motet “Infelix Ego.”

Hear us in June during BEMF and in July for the Cape Cod Early Music Festival! Details to appear soon.

Our First Recording Appears on Hungaroton/Naxos!

Hungaroton CD cover

Chorales of Michael Praetorius, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hermann Schein, and Samuel Scheidt

Now available from Hungaroton and iTunes, a new recording of Bach's monumental Clavierübung III by Bálint Karosi, with Canto Armonico performing the chorales that provide the basis for Bach's organ settings.

In this recording Canto Armonico is directed by Cheryl Ryder, artistic director and manager of Canto Armonico, and Ulf Wellner, former Kantor at Lübeck's Jakobikirche and now Kantor at the Martinikirche in Minden, Germany. Professor Markus Rathey of Yale University has written the liner notes.

Most current recordings of the Clavierübung III feature the organ chorale versions only, but this new recording immerses the listener in the 17th-century world of the young Bach and fellow composers, and demonstrates how central the sung chorale was to these German composers' lives. They would have known not only the simple versions of the chorales from church hymnals, but also many of the polyphonic settings published and sung by boys in the Latin school curriculum. Canto Armonico records a sampling of these polyphonic chorale settings alongside their simpler counterparts, as follows:

The settings by Praetorius for two tenors and two basses, in particular, merit special attention as they demonstrate how adept the composer was at writing music for whatever forces were at his disposal! We recorded the chorales in September and October under the direction of Dr. Ulf Wellner, a specialist in the music of Michael Praetorius, who directed our June 2013 performance of the St. John the Baptist vespers service during Boston's Early Music Festival.

A Praetorius Organvespers for the Feast of Pentecost

Canto Armonico at Pentecost Vespers 2011

Canto Armonico performs music of Hieronymus and Michael Praetorius, with Bálint Karosi, Organ

Wednesday and Thursday, June 25-26 at 7:30 pm, First Lutheran Church

A Worship/Concert Pair with Joan Lippincott and the BEMF Orchestra

Under the spirited direction of Praetorius specialist Ulf Wellner, Kantor of the Martinikirche in Minden, Germany, Canto Armonico reprises its successful Organvespers for the feast of Pentecost from the Boston Early Music Festival in 2011, in a shortened version for the national convention of the American Guild of Organists in Boston. For this vespers service, we include propers and hymns for Pentecost from the vespers order given in the Hamburg service book Cantica Sacra, published by Franz Eler in 1588 and circulated in the Latin schools for use by generations of choirboys.

Our service culminates in the magnificent, four-choir "Te Deum Laudamus" by Hieronymus Praetorius, whose own compilation of chants and psalms was in use in Hamburg before Eler's publication. The two principal Pentecost hymns, "Komm heiliger Geist" ("Come, Holy Ghost") and "Nun bitten wir" ("We Now Implore the Holy Ghost"), both given in Eler's publication, will be sung by the congregation of organists.

Canto Armonico is pleased to present this program as an opportunity for worship during the 2014 national convention of the AGO. We will be joined by the Minister of Music at First Lutheran Church, Bálint Karosi, and an instrumental consort including sackbuts and cornetto, violins, gamba and theorbo, and the First Lutheran Church Organunique Opus X Richards & Fowkes organ, one of the finest instruments in the world for the rendering of 17th-century German repertory.

Biber Vespers in December

Friday, December 20th at 8 pm, First Lutheran Church

Simon Carrington reprises his acclaimed 2004 performance of the Biber Vesperae Longiores ac breviores with Canto Armonico in Boston, in a new setting for the season of Advent.

Evoking the baroque splendor of Salzburg Cathedral where Heinrich Biber spent much of his career, the music features elaborate and virtuosic solos for voices and strings by Biber and his teacher, Heinrich Schmelzer. Our setting adds the serenely beautiful “Sancta Maria, Mater Dei” of Rupert Ignaz Mayr, a version of the hymn "Ave Maris Stella" by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, Giovanni Legrenzi’s “Alma Redemptoris Mater,” and two organ toccatas by Biber's sometime colleague in the Salzburger Dom, Georg Muffat.

A North German Organvespers for the Feast of St. John the Baptist

Saturday, June 15th at 5 pm, First Lutheran Church

A Boston Early Music Festival Fringe Event

Canto Armonico reprises its successful Organvespers from the Early Music Festival week of 2011, now in a setting for the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist which falls on June 24th. To be held at First Lutheran Church, the program is structured like a German vespers service from the Hamburg area in the late 17th century. The feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, like the feast of St. Michael at the end of September, marked the end of a fiscal quarter in much of Germany, and prudent church music directors could reserve funds to supply more elaborate music for those feasts, bringing in professional singers and instrumentalists to augment the regular choral and organ music in the churches and cathedrals.

We also celebrate the 350th anniversary of the death of Heinrich Scheidemann, highly regarded organist in Hamburg and former student of Sweelinck whose compositions for the organ chorale introduced an expressive ornamentation style embraced by his followers across northern Germany.

Canto Armonico is pleased to present this program as a fringe event during the Boston Early Music Festival, with music ranging from chant to polychoral motets. We will be joined by an instrumental consort of recorders, gambas, theorbo and harp, and the unique Opus X Richards & Fowkes organ, one of the finest instruments in the world for the rendering of 17th-century German repertory.

Vespers Music by Canto Armonico

Jakob Handl: Emitte Spiritum
Michael Praetorius: Der heil'ge Geist von Himmel kam
Michael Praetorius: Komm, heiliger Geist
Heinrich Schütz: Becker Psalm 104: Herr, wie gross sind deine Werk
Hieronymus Praetorius: Jubilate Deo