Utah Chamber Artists' annual Cathedral Collage concerts are a favorite tradition among many of Salt Lake City's choral cognoscenti. This year's edition, "Shadows & Light" a title that artistic director Barlow Bradford half-jokingly noted could be applied to any given Cathedral Collage concert drew a capacity crowd to Salt Lake City's magnificent Cathedral of the Madeleine on Monday.
The popular concerts take full advantage of the cathedral's acoustic and architectural beauty as the performers move throughout the building in various combinations, artfully lighted by Chip Dance. This year's program may not have delved too deeply into existential darkness, but it offered interesting moments of reflection on the shadowy area between darkness and light. Bradford has a keen ear for music that will showcase his singers' many strengths. That the words frequently were undiscernible hardly seemed to matter when the choir sang with such rich expression. (And, of course, the texts were provided in the printed program.)
This year's marquee guest was the excellent Logan-based Fry Street Quartet. Violinists Robert Waters and Rebecca McFaul, violist Bradley Ottesen and cellist Anne Francis Bayless performed "H2O: Source of Life," a movement from Laura Kaminsky's "Rising Tide," as well as quartet movements by Beethoven, Brahms and Janacek. They also joined the UCA singers in a bit of Vivaldi and collaborated with baritone Michael Chipman on the Handel aria "Ombra mai fu."
Highlights of the evening included "Dark Night of the Soul," Ola Gjielo's instantly appealing setting of a text by the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, with driving accompaniment by the quartet and pianist Jared Pierce; and Einojuhani Rautavaara's "Canción de Nuestro Tiempo," a setting of Federico García Lorca's disquieting "Ode to Walt Whitman."
Harpist Tamara Oswald and flutist Jeannine Goeckeritz, stationed in the organ loft, gave the evening a welcome splash of color with their lively performance of a Piazzolla tango.
The concert was bookended by two pieces that stood securely in the light: Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," which highlighted the tight ensemble between the 39-voice choir and 16-piece string orchestra, and the closing "For the Music of Creation," Bradford's radiant arrangement of the beloved hymn tune "Nettleton" (you may know it better as "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," though Bradford opted for words by Shirley Erena Murry rather than the familiar Robert Robinson text).
'Shadows & Light'
Utah Chamber Artists presents its annual Cathedral Collage concert.
With • Conductor Barlow Bradford, the Fry Street Quartet, harpist Tamara Oswald, flutist Jeannine Goeckeritz and baritone Michael Chipman.
Where • Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City.
When • Monday, Sept. 17.
Next • UCA presents its Christmas concert Dec. 3 in the University of Utah's Libby Gardner Concert Hall; information at www.utahchamberartists.org.