The Westminster Choir is once again serving as the Chorus-in-Residence at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, S.C. Conducted by Joe Miller, this year the Choir will perform John Adams’ El Niño in a fully staged production that will include nearly life-size puppets. The ensemble and Maestro will also present a concert titled “Te Deum,” which will feature settings of the ancient Christian hymn of praise by Handel and Pärt, as well as two concerts titled “Legends.”
Hailed as “a Messiah for the modern age” (Los Angeles Times), John Adams’s El Niño tells the nativity story with an unprecedented spotlight on the voices of women. The Spoleto Festival USA production is directed by John La Bouchardière, who drew his inspiration from the plays used by Franciscan monks in spreading the story of Jesus’s birth through Latin America. With a libretto including poems by Rosario Castellanos and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz—two of Mexico’s greatest writers—Gospels from the Bible and the Apocrypha, and Martin Luther’s Christmas Sermon, Adams’s oratorio widens the lens to encounter and explore the inexhaustible miracle of birth.
Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum, written in 1743 to celebrate King George II’s triumphant return from defeating France in battle, features all the radiance and intricacy of Baroque choral music. Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s haunting setting, written in 1985, mimics the effortless harmonies associated with bells, paired with their anomalous overtones. The Westminster Choir will be joined by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus for these luminous works written 250 years apart, a pairing perfectly suited to fill the gothic-style arches at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
The Westminster Choir’s annual concerts at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul are among the most anticipated performances of the Festival. This year’s program includes Daniel Elder’s ethereal and soaring Elegy; Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds’s Legend of the Walled-up Woman; Johannes Brahms’s lamenting Nänie; and Maurice Duruflé’s celestial Ubi Caritas.
Members of the choir will also perform as the opera chorus in a production of Leoš Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová.
This also Joe Miller’s first season as director of choral activities for the Spoleto Festival USA. You can learn more about the Westminster Choir’s participation in the Festival on the Westminster Choir Facebook page: www.facebook.com/westminsterchoir and the Westminster Choir blog, westminsterchoir.wordpress.com, written by Choir member Shane Thomas.