Albany Pro Musica Embraces a cappella Roots

APM_HarvestHome3:00 pm • Sunday, October 30th 2016
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall • Troy, NY

This weekend is full of vocal and choral music. Soprano Kameryn Lueng joins the Broad Street Orchestra for a bit of Mozart for a Concerts in the Village performance in Kinderhook. The Crescendo Vocal Ensemble and guests are covering the spectrum with an illustrious sampling of choral music from the Renaissance and Baroque with period instruments to Latin American music of today accompanied by guitar and charango. That’s just Saturday.

On Sunday, Albany Pro Musica opens its 2016-17 season with a mostly a cappella program at The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. I say mostly as harpist Elizabeth Morse, flutist Norman Thibodeau, guitarist Sten Isachsen, and pianist Noah Palmer will be joining the esteemed choral ensemble.

While Albany Pro Musica has been busy rollocking through 2016 with the likes of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, New York City Ballet, and The Philadelphia Orchestra; they are finally “coming home” in their season opener on Sunday afternoon with its trademark and wonderful a cappella sound. From recent conversations with Artistic Director José Daniel Flores-Caraballo, my sense is this performance at The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is going to be, to put it lightly, hauntingly mind-blowing.

I think we can all agree there are many thoughts, feelings, and concepts that can be conveyed through the visual and musical arts that so often cannot be put into words alone. When the human voice is set to music, it can bring about a powerful reality check, a call to action, be a soothing and comforting blanket, or a vehicle for creating absolute joy and celebrating the human spirit. Choral music goes beyond words and music to become something greater than the sum of its parts. And José Daniel Flores-Caraballo knows his instrument well.

If one takes a quick overview of the 2016-17 Albany Pro Musica season, one will notice Sunday’s concert opens with a rendition of Arvo Pärt’s Dona pacem Domine, an incredibly heart-wrenching call for peace written after the Madrid bombings in 2004. Jump to the closing concert of the season, and you’ll see that in a grand gesture APM’s Masterworks Chorus, Orchestra Pro Musica, and the Capital District Youth Chorale are coming together for a performance of Karl Jenkins’ dramatic The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. One gets the sense that José Daniel Flores-Caraballo, like many of us, is grappling with what we are increasingly witnessing. He comments that despite the warm feelings that autumn brings with children’s laughter as they walk in costumes, crisp air on a sunny day, fireplaces warming homes, and friends and family gathering together for the Thanksgiving holiday…

I cannot help but have a heavy heart as I witness so much violence around us. From hate crimes, terrorist attacks, gun violence, immigration tension, and the refugee crisis, to a political environment that is dividing our country at a time when values of unity, compassion, love, and tolerance should be our common goal as people of this great nation and as members of the human race.”

Sunday’s program is a reflection of much of this with powerful pieces such as Arvo Pärt’s haunting Da pacem Domine; thrilling spirituals My Lord What a Morning and By and By; and Jake Runestad’s evocative Let My Love Be Heard. No doubt—if you go—it will keep you on the edge of your seat. Yet, I believe you will also go home with a sense of hope through the persuasiveness of familiar tunes such as Wayfarin’ Stranger, The Water is Wide, We Gather Together, Beautiful River, and Shenandoah.

There is grace and beauty in the human voice. No wonder we sing lullabies to calm restless young children and soothe our troubled souls. And as William Shakespeare reminds us in Henry VIII, “Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace.” Albany Pro Musica understands this well and embraces its a cappella roots in this effort.

With the superb acoustics of The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and the varying levels of the gallery boxes, one can imagine the cathedral-like sounds with which Albany Pro Musica will drape moments of peacefulness and hope upon us. I hope you’ll join me in my musicking this Sunday as I don’t think we’ll be disappointed.

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