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St. Louis Chamber Chorus Focuses On Composers

Saint Louis Chamber Chorus
Saint Louis Chamber Chorus

Instead of following a theme, the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus' 59th season will focus on composers. 

“In the early years, we’ve put together programs on ideas, on literature, on great cities, on different poets,” said Philip Barnes, the chorus’ artistic director. “We’ve performed in a wrestling arena because I wanted to sing ‘Musicians Wrestle Everywhere,’ words by Emily Dickinson. This is the first time we’ve put together a season where the composers themselves have been the driving force.”

The season debuts Sunday with Felix Mendelssohn and contemporary composer Judith Bingham.

“What I’ve sought to do, is to take two really quite different but complementary composers for each concert and show why, in my opinion, they could rank as giants of choral music,” Barnes said.

Barnes called Mendelssohn his favorite 19th century composer. Bingham also is a fan.

“His great gift is for spreading a kind of compassion over things,” she said. “He has a wonderful way of making you feel a kind of compassion towards everyone and everything.”

“I think that Mendelssohn is an immediate composer. You can listen more and more and hear some layers there, but I think you immediately are grasped by his inspiration and by his imagination,” Barnes said. “I find that Judith’s music is certainly compelling when you first hear it, but the more you listen to it, and in our case the more we work with it, every week you find another layer. It’s extremely multi-faceted work.”

Along with known work from Mendelssohn and Bingham, the chorus will present the world premiere of Bingham’s “Solomon and Love,” an account of the demise of King Solomon caused by his own poor decisions. Bingham said she was inspired by “Solomon,” a poem by Heinrich Heine.

“While I was leafing through endless Heine poems, I found this poem about King Solomon and I thought ‘Now there’s an amazing figure’’ because he appears in all the traditions, whether it’s the Jewish tradition, the Old Testament, or Christian tradition or the Quran or Islam folk tradition,” Bingham said. “He’s very different depending on where you read about him.

“I thought I would start with the Heine poem, which is basically just saying Solomon is asleep at night, he is surrounded by all his guards but he’s having a nightmare about the fact that there’s this one woman that he wants and can’t have. And despite the fact that, as we know from the Bible, King Solomon has a thousand wives, he still feels he’s got the whole world and yet he hasn’t got the one thing that he wants.”

Related Event

Saint Louis Chamber Chorus: Mendelssohn and Judith Bingham

  • When: 3 p.m. Oct. 5, 2014
  • Where: St. Louis Abbey, 500 S. Mason Road, Creve Coeur
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.