BY ANNE MARSH
Live musical performances are not possible right now, but through the use of technology Coro de Cámara is determined to sing on! The popular chamber chorus has prepared its first virtual concert to premiere at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20. The online concert is free (donations gratefully accepted), and may be accessed on or after the Premiere through a link on the Coro website at corodecamara-nm.org.
Artistic Director Nylea Butler-Moore explains where she got the idea for the concert title Amuse-Oreilles. “The French call one of the courses in a gourmet dinner ‘amuse-bouche,’ which means ‘amusement for the mouth.’ I thought, so why don’t we change that to ‘amuse-oreilles’–‘amusement for the ears’–and create a program where each piece represents a different course in a fancy eight-course meal. Most of us can’t go to a five-star restaurant right now, but we can all enjoy this musical feast.”
For Amuse-Oreilles, Butler-Moore has programmed a cappella choral works from the 16th-18th centuries. In addition to displaying the vocal gifts of the singers, this material pays homage to Coro de Cámara’s beginnings 31 years ago as a madrigal group and the popular madrigal dinners the singers offered. Instrumental performances by pianist Yelena Mealy and flutist Heidi Morning will frame the choral pieces.
For the first course (Hors d’oeuvres), Mealy will play “Scherzo in B-flat Major” by Franz Schubert. The full chorus sings Hans Leo Hassler’s “Cantate Domino” for the second course (Amuse-bouche) and G. P. da Palestrina’s “Sicut Cervus” for the Soup course. An octet sings “The Lark” by American composer William Billings for the Appetizer, and the Salad course showcases Yelena Mealy playing “Deux Arabesques” by Claude Debussy.
The full chorus returns for the Main Course, about which Butler-Moore notes, “At our 2019 ‘Sing On!’ fundraiser, we sang Gwyneth Walker’s setting of Col. Henry Heveningham’s poem “If Music Be the Food of Love.” This time we will sing a setting of that same poem by Henry Purcell. Covid-19 canceled our spring donor event this year, but we will ‘Sing On!’ into the fall with the same text in this new, virtual way.”
As the Palate Cleanser, a women’s trio will sing a “catch” by Purcell. Catches, often bawdy or political, were popular in his day, and this one fits Coro’s theme, since it’s about wine! Rounding out the program as the Dessert course is Cécile Chaminade’s virtuoso flute-piano duet, “Concertino.”
Creating a virtual concert like Amuse-Oreilles is complicated. Butler-Moore typeset, converted, and uploaded the music to an online platform so singers could learn their parts at home, practice recording, and get individual feedback. Audiovisual engineer Rick Bolton recorded backing tracks of Mealy accompanying and videos of Butler-Moore conducting to further assist in the singers’ practice. At the final recording sessions in the Unitarian Church parking lot, Bolton recorded each singer separately, outdoors and socially distanced, while Butler-Moore conducted. Both then spent many hours editing and balancing the recordings to create the end result–a sumptuous feast for the ears.
Coro de Cámara invites everyone who is hungry for a gourmet musical banquet to join them online beginning on Nov. 20 at 7:00 p.m. for the Amuse-Oreilles virtual musical feast. corodecamara-nm.org