OK, here is my review. What an amazing concert. How a church choir with only a sprinkling of professional voices (and they are damn fine) can make that sound is a miracle. And they actually watched James …
The Britten Rejoice in the Lamb is a tricky piece, but no problem for the forces of the All Saints Canterbury Choir, ably assisted by Organist Weicheng Zhao. Britten is, in my uninformed view, the Bach of the 20th century (taking the musical language of his time to final sublime heights) and the choir navigated the tricky meters and dynamic change with aplomb. The Bernstein Chichester Psalms is one of my favorite 20th century choral works, again devilishly difficult in meter, dynamics and Hebrew text (at least for non-High Holy Days choirs). But so rewarding; the Coventry Choir sang it with both power and delicacy and the arrangement for organ, harp and percussion worked beautifully.
The second half of the concert were more pieces especially important to James, leading off with Beethoven’s channeling of his hero, Handel, in the Hallelujah from Christ on the Mount of Olives (sung in English). Major vocal chops from the now combined choirs but also under intense control — more of that James Walker mystical orb power stuff. The next piece, Lass dich nur nichts nicht dauren by Brahms was maybe my personal favorite. Sung well in German, it was performed with amazing sensitivity and nearly reduced me to tears. Brahms does that, and James understood perfectly the calm beauty of the piece.
The last three pieces were very different but all amazingly effective. A Kenyan folk song, Wana Baraka, arranged by Southern California’s Shawn Kirchner, was a rousing crowd pleaser sung in the original language and which brought the crowd to its feet. Following a wonderful offbeat tribute by choir member Gloria Pitzer, the concert ended with two pieces sung together, Rene Clausen’s setting of Set Me As a Seal Upon Your Heart and Gwyneth Walker’s setting of Love Unfolding, to a text by Dame Julian of Norwich. The final line: “Love everlasting, without beginning, with out end. Amen!” Indeed.David Burhennvia Facebook
A love letter to you dear James. Yesterday was transcendent. A culmination of all the years of total commitment and love. Thank you for leaving a legacy of the spirit…now it’s time to take flight and share your gifts with the world. We love you and thank you.Joanne DiVitovia Facebook
I am taking a moment to let you know how very many times I heard the words of the sermons @ ASC, but it was the music that touched and opened my heart to inspiration … and I wept.
So many times I have said, “Wow! I sure wish I had a recording of what you have created with the choirs to hear over and over again during the week.”
Your music ministry has been such a gift! Thank you! God bless you on your future journey. With gratitude, CandaceCandace Elliottvia email
We guess it’s time to come to terms! You are leaving ASC, but not our hearts. It is hard to put into words our gratitude for all you have given not only to the church, but to our family. You were a significant influence in the formative years of our children’s lives.
Who knew a creative musician could also be sane?
Our children adore you and so do we! Please continue to keep them real through your Facebook replies on their posts!
We love you.Toni Boucher & Francois Polifronivia email
James, you are loved so much by so many people, you will never know how many people will miss you. Your music and love has lifted us up at our church & has filled us with hope in this challenging time. We love you.Britta & Hank Fosheevia Facebook
I am still working on processing what happened for me at the Spring Concert, honoring James. I can only speak for myself…the level of mixed emotions for me was and still is palpable. I feel very fortunate to be in this choir and thank my lucky stars seven years ago, that James allowed me to be part of an amazing group of people. The music, Britten, and the music we performed with Coventry goes beyond superlatives. Thank you to James for making me stretch and step up to the plate. I will miss you dearly.Rick Murphyvia Facebook
It never occurred to me that your elegant self wouldn’t be seated at the organ making beautiful music when it’s my turn to step beyond the veil into the next life. You have been present at so many of my celebratory “events” — my marriage to Joseph Roach, my daughter Mindy’s marriage to Paul Danna, the baptisms of each of my granddaughters, Claire and Lily, and Joe’s memorial service in 2004 — I assumed you would be there for the last one. I say this out of my own selfishness and sense of loss. But truly I would be one of the first to urge you to retire while you are still well and able to look forward to many more happy years with your partner.
Well beyond the personal impact you have had on my own life is the extraordinary legacy you are leaving behind you at All Saints. Your successor will find it a challenge to attempt to follow in your footsteps.
May you be showered with many blessings and graced with the knowledge of His love.Jeanne Roachvia email
Where to start? You are such a TREASURE that your departure will for sure leave a gaping hole in our community. The joy and the gifts you have brought to our worship are countless — and glorious.
Thank you so much for all you have taught me. Thanks to you, I can still carry a pretty decent tune. Sometimes that is all that keeps me sane.
Know that you are loved, and you will be SO missed.Lynda Obershawvia email