By James Holden
Performance of “Music of the German Baroque” Scores a Rave Review
Sine Nomine (pronounced sin-eh nom-in-eh) is Latin, with the English translation being “nameless or without a name.” As intriguing and mysterious as it appears, the music performed by this collaborative is expertly executed and provides world-class concerts as evident by their newly produced events this past February.
Through the leadership of its founding director (1993) Glenn Giuttari (who has returned to lead the group), Sine Nomine pursues the artistic splendor of replicating the works of history’s most profound composers. With a program inclusive of J. S. Bach and Georg Phillip Telemann, this year’s efforts mark Sine Nomine’s history of its achievements, and as a result, they will likely become recognized as one of the country’s most resplendent choruses.
The organization staged two events for the public to experience the soothing sounds of vocals matched with instruments of the period so that the audience may become absorbed by the moment and captivated by the quality of unamplified works.
The first presentation was held within the confines of Brown University campus on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island, at the First Unitarian Church. With an audience of approximately 100, the concert held in a small recital hall provided an opportunity to enjoy the singers and musicians in a “salon-like setting,” so accurately described by Vi Taylor, president of the organization.
Their second event offered a very different, nevertheless sensational encounter, which evoked emotions through the idiomatic melding of the various performers. Players filled the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Fall River, Mass. with unmatched sound, much to the enjoyment of an appreciative audience.
Without a home, these minstrels wander much as they would have during 1600–1750. Typically performing from small venues to large church settings, the Sine Nomine choruses possess the ability and willingness to morph into a location and selectively produce their distinctive sound to resonate with relevance.
In keeping with authentic movements, the post-Renaissance sounds of German Baroque style are written and performed with the cultural and religious influences of the period. In combination, instruments such as the recorder, violin, cello, and organ are intertwined with voice, producing a repertoire of sound and emotion which becomes hypnotic while delivering listeners to another time and place.
The first half of the program was enchanting but carefully paced as to draw the listeners into the mood of the evening. Notable selections included Johann Pachelbel (1653–1706) Jauchzet dem Herren Psalm 100 for a double choir and Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1750) Trio sonata in a minor TWV 42:a4, with the baroque violin played by Laura Gulley, recorder by Catherine Hawkes, organ by Catherine Gordon, and Dan Rowe on the baroque cello.
After a brief pause, the group returned to the hall, and it became evident that the tone of the event was to become enriched.
A familiar J. S. Bach (1685–1750) Air on the G string from Suite #3 (BWV 1068) piqued the audience’s attention and stirred emotion. But what visibly roused the crowd was the Solo violin sonata in a minor, BWV 1003, Andante, Allegro, skillfully performed by Julia McKenzie on the baroque violin.
This remarkable solo laid a path for the choir to conclude with Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden – Psalm 117 (Motet BWV230).
In addition to these highlights, credit is due to the angelic voices of soloist sopranos Heidi Dion and Lisa Babbitt. High praise should be extended to the members of Sine Nomine, all of who bring their illustrious talent and musical celebration, under the direction of Glenn Giuttari, to communities throughout New England.
The February performances mark the second of three concert sets exploring a broad sweep of choral musical traditions. Subsequent events are scheduled May 11–12, 2018. For tickets and other details, visit sinenominechoir.org, or call 508-748-2178.