SDG Celebrates its Twentieth Anniversary

U.S. Premiere of MacMillan  

May 2014 was a milestone month in the history of Soli Deo Gloria. On Sunday May 4 and Monday May 5, the city of New York became the arena for SDG’s 20th Anniversary Season Celebration, and what a celebration it was!

Bookended by the haunting strings of the theorbo in James MacMillan’s Resurrection work, Since it was the day of Preparation… and the thundering power of the percussion in Christopher Rouse’s Requiem, the two-day event encapsulated the excitement of SDG’s core mission to commission new classical sacred music.

Theorbo and harp at MacMillan premiere
David Walker, theorbo
Frances Duffy, harp
(Concert photos © Sarah Shatz)

U.S. PREMIERE: Since it was the Day of Preparation
by James MacMillan

“Austere, timeless … compelling.”—NewYorkClassicalReview.com

The opening theorbo solo of James MacMillan’s Since it was the day of Preparation was an unexpected yet extremely effective entry into his 80-minute musical tapestry portraying the Resurrection narrative. Using a small chorus and a quintet of clarinet, horn, cello, harp and theorbo, MacMillan’s work depicts the Gospel of John text from a point after Christ’s death to the Resurrection and Christ’s three appearances. It was SDG’s privilege to be a co-commissioner of this important MacMillan work and the sponsor of the U.S. premiere on Sunday May 4th at St. Bartholomew’s Church, with many thanks to William K. Trafka, who conducted the St. Bartholomew's Chamber Singers and a select instrumental ensemble.

“A performance that matched the quality of the music: refined, assured, controlled and focused, with the sensation of indescribable expressive intensity and depth.” —NewYorkClassicalReview.com

For more information on this MacMillan performance, please visit the U.S. premiere page. To hear excerpts, visit the world premiere page.

 

SDG Board Chair, Johann Buis SDG President and CEO welcomes John Nelson  
SDG Board Chair,
Johann Buis 
SDG President and CEO,
Joseph LoSchiavo,
greeting Founding Artistic Director,
John Nelson
 

SDG GALA DINNER

Following the MacMillan premiere, the synergy of music lovers, fine dining, and a beautiful venue made for an entertaining evening at SDG’s Gala Dinner. The SDG friends who gathered at the Inside Park at St. Bart’s—a beautifully restored church hall converted to a restaurant—talked and toasted not only the premiere but also the 20 years of dreaming, planning, and raising the support that brought Soli Deo Gloria to this point in history as a recognized advocate of classical sacred music. We reveled in the achievement of commissioning 35 original works of sacred music, sponsoring 7 CDs and DVDs of classical masterworks, creating Project Uplift, and launching the Chicago Bach Project and the Psalms Project.

 

SDG benefit dinner SDG Gala Dinner SDG Gala Dinner 
 

 SDG Gala Dinner
(Dinner photos © Sarah Shatz)

 

SDG TOUR OF THE CLOISTERS

What would a New York trip be without art! On Monday May 5th, art historian and theologian Xavier Seubert, O.F.M. led the SDG group on tour through The Cloisters, a division of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The private tour provided an insider’s view of this unique assemblage of sacred art and architecture. Xavier Seubert’s background in art and theology, and his interest in religious symbolism and the artistic process, made the museum and the meaning of its treasures come alive. Following the tour, lunch was served at the New Leaf Restaurant, a restored cobblestone building across Fort Tyron Park.

  

SDG tour of The Cloisters   SDG tour of The Cloisters
 Xavier Seubert, O.F.M., leading the SDG tour of The Cloisters   (Tour photos courtesy of Charis Bastian)

 

Rouse Requiem Carnegie Hall
Alan Gilbert conducting the Rouse Requiem at Carnegie Hall
(Photo © Chris Lee)

NY PREMIERE: Requiem
by Christopher Rouse

“Fascinating, massive …. moving.”—NewYorkClassicalReview.com

As culminating events go, Monday at Carnegie Hall was the pinnacle of SDG’s 20th Anniversary Season Celebration. With many SDG supporters in the audience, the New York Philharmonic and Westminster Symphonic Choir delivered a powerful performance of Christopher Rouse's Requiem, commissioned by SDG. This was only the second time the Requiem had been performed since the world premiere in 2007 at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The New York Philharmonic pulled out all the stops as it opened the fifth and final Spring for Music concert series with the work that Rouse considers “the best I've composed." Conceived as a tribute to Berlioz’s Requiem, Rouse addresses loss in both a personal and universal manner. "It uses every influence that I'm aware of in my work," he said in an interview on WQXR (which broadcast the concert live and, as of this posting is still available online), “to try to put across the idea of facing death, whether you're facing it yourself or if you're going on after the death of a loved one.”

Joined by the Westminster Symphonic Choir, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and baritone Jacques Imbralio, the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert, gave a dramatic performance that encompassed the full range of grief, fury, and consolation.

"[I]t is hard to imagine Mr. Rouse’s work receiving a more rapt reception — or a more passionate performance."—The New York Times

“A culminating feat for one of America's most important modern composers … the applause that followed was [a] percussive roar of sound.”—Superconductor

"A resounding success ... Rouse’s splendid work deserved the standing ovation at the end, proving that audiences are receptive to modern works that are this well-crafted and performed."—The Epoch Times / Arts & Culture

  John Nelson and Christopher Rouse
  John Nelson and Christopher Rouse,
backstage at Carnegie Hall
(Photo courtesy of Floyd Larson)

Backstage, after the performance, you could feel the energy and passion still reverberating in the corridors. When SDG’s Founding Artistic Director, John Nelson, greeted Chris Rouse, their warm embrace said it all. From Rouse’s early days as Composer-in-Residence for the Indianapolis Symphony while Nelson was conductor, to SDG’s commission of the Requiem, to Rouse’s current position as Composer-in-Residence for the New York Philharmonic, the friendship and collaboration of these two 21st-century musicians is a testament to the ongoing relevance of classical sacred music.

It is Soli Deo Gloria’s great privilege to be able to shepherd works such as the Rouse Requiem and the MacMillan Resurrection setting into existence, and our goal is to continue building “a legacy of new sacred works in the biblical tradition for future generations”—Johann Buis, SDG Board Chair

In the words of a Wall Street Journal article about Soli Deo Gloria, posted on the eve of SDG's debut in New York:

“Requiem masses, psalm settings and oratorios might seem like obsolete forms that belong to the long-past musical worlds of Giovanni Palestrina, Johann Sebastian Bach or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But Soli Deo Gloria hopes to make them vibrant vehicles for today’s composers as well.”