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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: January 29, 2018

Oratorio Chorale sings something old, something new in weekend concerts

Written by: Bob Keyes

The DaPonte String Quartet joins the Oratorio Chorale for three concerts this weekend.
Photos courtesy of Oratorio Chorale

The Oratorio Chorale, under the direction of Emily Isaacson, will present a widely known piece of historical music and a lesser known piece by a contemporary composer in concerts this weekend. The chorale performs at 7 p.m. Saturday at Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland and at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick. The DaPonte String Quartet will join the chorus.

The program includes Faure’s “Requiem” and Robert Kyr’s “The Cloud of Unknowing.” Kyr is in residence with the vocal ensemble, helping the singers navigate the music. He also will answer questions in a post-concert Q&A.

Composer Robert Kyr’s “The Cloud of Unknowing” will be performed. Kyr will participate in a Q&A after the concerts.

In a press release, Isaacson said she paired the pieces because of their similarities in emotional and musical spirit. “Both are lush, romantic and haunting. Faure’s reflects on the very human feeling of faith and a vision of eternal rest and Kyr’s on the relationship between human and divine love and the inner life force that binds us together into one humanity,” she said. “This digital age, this political era, this social environment leave many people feeling alone, looking for a sense of belonging. Faure found that fellowship in his faith, while Kyr believes that music connects us to our core.”

Isaacson will lead the chorus and the DaPonte String Quartet in this collaboration. Soloists are Grammy Award-winning soprano Estelí Gomez, who sings with Roomful of Teeth, and baritone David Farwig.

Gabriel Faure composed his piece between 1887 and 1890 as a work for chorus, soloists and strings and revised it in 1900 as a work for full orchestra.

“The Cloud of Unknowing” is a choral setting of texts by the 16th-century mystic St. Teresa of Avila, with additional excerpts from the Psalms and from a 14th-century guide to contemplation. The songs explore the relationship between human and divine love. The music is scored for soprano and baritone soloists, mixed chorus and strings.

Kyr is a composer, writer and filmmaker who has received commissions from choruses and symphonies across the United States, as well as ensembles in Scotland, Estonia, Latvia and Russia. He has degrees from Yale, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard, and he teaches at the University of Oregon School of Music.

Oratorio Chorale

WHEN & WHERE: 7 p.m. Saturday, Woodfords Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St., Portland; 2 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 27 Pleasant St., Brunswick
HOW MUCH: $20 adults, $10 student, free for children 11 and younger
TICKETS AND INFO:, (800) 838-3006

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