VoXX offers Winter Reflections

Jan 08, 2013
Photo by: Jim Dugan VoXX: Voice of Twenty

Midcoast a cappella vocal ensemble VoXX: Voice of Twenty will celebrate the turning of the calendar with its annual Music for the New Year concerts three times in January. Titled Winter Reflections, the program is built around a core of works that reflect the annual transition from darkness to light with music that ranges from serene to upbeat and sacred to secular.

VoXX will open the series Friday, Jan. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the acoustically stunning Belfast Armory on Route 1. On Saturday, Jan. 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the iconic Rockport Opera House, 6 Central St. On Sunday, Jan. 20, VoXX will hit the road for a 2 p.m. concert at the historic Phippsburg Congregational Church, 10 Church Lane, with a reception to follow. If needed, any snow dates will be at the same time and venue on the following weekend. Admission is $10 at the door.

The concert repertoire covers both a broad spectrum of time, from medieval times through the 20th century; and style; and from chant and polyphony through contemporary. It includes works by Allegri, Arcadelt, Debussy, Gibbons, Gorecki, Morales, Purcell, Tallis, Victoria and more.

“We’re looking forward to singing again in the wonderful acoustics of the Belfast Armory (yes, really!) and to the Rockport Opera House, which is a brand-new venue for us. The trip to Phippsburg is always a treat for us too — the community there is so welcoming,” said Gregory Moore, music director.

The program is crafted around a core of compositions that range from light to dark and then arranged them with mood in mind, Moore added. For example, the show opens with Palestrina’s vigorous “Exsultate Deo” and slow the mood with Rheinberger’s “Abendlied” and Byrd’s five-part “Christe, Qui Lux es et Dies.” The biggest work on the program is one the group has wanted to tackle for a long time, Allegri’s haunting “Miserere Mei Deus.” It was written in the 1630s and was brought to light after the 14-year-old Mozart transcribed it by ear after hearing it just twice during a visit to Rome.

Other early pieces on the program will continue VoXX’s tradition of works presented by small subsets of singers from within the group. These include Wilbye’s lush “Draw on Sweet Night” and Gibbons’ “The Silver Swan” contrasted with Arcadelt’s Italian setting of a similar text in “Il Bianco e Dolce Cigno.”

Midwinter is a time for reflection and remembrance, as exemplified by Douglas Guest’s brief, but intensely moving “For the Fallen,” Purcell’s lovely “Hear My Prayer” and Gorecki’s profound and hypnotic setting of “Totus Tuus.” To lift the mood and brighten the dark days of winter, VoXX will present two setting of “O Magnum Mysterium.” One setting, by Tomas Luis de Victoria, is a VoXX standard and will be sung by the full group. The other, by Cristóbal de Morales, will be sung by the women. The men of VoXX will take a turn on the medieval, chant-based “Adoramus Te, Domine.”

“O Nata Lux,” a five-part piece by Tallis with some very unusual dissonances, helps round out the program, which will culminate with the lively tongue-twister “Yver, Vous N'estes Qu'un Villain (winter, you’re but a rogue!)” by Claude Debussy.

Now in its second decade, VoXX has sung up and down the Maine coast and generally performs two scheduled concert sets per year, in January and mid-summer. VoXX mainly performs a cappella, but appropriate instrumentation (recorders, percussion, strings) is occasionally added.

VoXX is unusual in that it is a collectively run, all-volunteer organization. Membership is by audition (the group is currently seeking new members; see the group’s website for details), and singers come from all walks of life. Members who want to can share in the responsibility of bringing music selections to the group and may take turns teaching and leading if they so choose. The group has built a strong following and is well known for its efforts to inform audiences through extensive program notes.

The group’s first CD, “VoXX: Voice of Twenty: Favorites Old and New,” is available at the group’s concerts and website and via cdbaby.com. VoXX is available to perform by invitation. For more information, visit voiceoftwenty.com or call 236-9413.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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