DESERT CHORALE IN THE NEWS

Santa Fe Desert Chorale: "Justice" Blog

August 9, 2017
Craig A. Smith
The Santa Fe Desert Chorale’s Justice program, which premiered August 8 in Santa Fe’s
Christ Church, was a superb musical and cultural journey. It was devoted to music of Africa
and the African-American experience, from slavery-era spirituals to music of our own time, and
it included a persuasive and notable commission. Read More >

Santa Fe Desert Chorale: "The Hope of Loving" Blog

July 28, 2017
Craig A. Smith
The Santa Fe Desert Chorale’s 2017 season is a heady two for two, thanks to committed performances of interesting works July 27 at The Church of the Holy Faith. Titled The Hope of Loving, the repertoire presented works for chorus and instruments by three living composers. Two are American and one, born in England, is now a U.S. resident. Read More >

SFDC on Classical Sunday from Santa Fe with Peter Lloyd

Santa Fe Desert Chorale Music Director, Joshua Habermann, discusses the 35th Anniversary Summer Festival Season “Liberte and Justice” with Peter Lloyd on Classical Sunday from Santa Fe (originally aired on Sunday, July 23, 2017 on KSFR – Santa Fe Public Radio). ksfr.org/programs/classical-sunday-santa-fe

Listen to the interview

Santa Fe Desert Chorale: "Music from a Secret Chapel" Blog

July 21, 2017
By Craig Smith
The Santa Fe Desert Chorale is presenting its 35th season this summer — and if the July 19 opening performance of the “Music From a Secret Chapel” repertoire is any indication, the group can be sure of more musically brilliant years to come. This evening of high-level and devoted music-making showed the ensemble at its best. Read more >

Santa Fe Sings! 2017

May 13, 2017
By Craig A. Smith
Facing an arc of well more than 150 choral singers would probably give most of us cause for pause. All those pairs of eyes watching keenly, all those throats ready to burst into song, all those potentially if not definitely critical minds – who could manage such forces? Joshua Habermann, for one. Coaxing, coaching, and clearly loving his work, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale music director was in his artistic element May 13 at The United Church of Santa Fe.  Read more>

Treasures from the Desert, part 2: Singing Shakespeare

August 23, 2016, Oregon ArtsWatch
By Bruce Browne
While the works of Thomas Morley and Robert Johnson are the only surviving settings from Shakespeare’s time, the playwright’s words have been set and sung throughout the ages since. Shakespeare was indeed “[held] in perfection but a little moment” for the Santa Fe Desert Chorale’s August 4 performance of “Sounds and Sweet Airs,” commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. It was outstanding. Read more>

Treasures from the Desert, part 1: American Voices

August 19, 2016, Oregon ArtsWatch
By Bruce Browne
A snapshot of one day in the professional lives of the Santa Fe Desert Chorale: singing the pesante, lustrously dark repertoire of Rachmaninoff’s famous All Night Vigil in two back to back rehearsals during the day, then that evening, coping with the polar opposite in vocal delivery, the Songs of Ariel of Frank Martin, or Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Three Shakespeare Songs. This is like running a 10K, then, a few hours later, swimming a couple of 100 (meter butterflies). Neither Usain Bolt nor Michael Phelps do that. Read more>

Santa Fe beyond the opera

August 5, 2016, Beta Dallas News
By Scott Cantrell
Santa Fe Opera may hog the classical-music headlines here, but it’s hardly the only important show in town.
Other major-league summer offerings include the Santa Fe Desert Chorale…Joshua Habermann, director of the Dallas Symphony Chorus, spends his summers as music director of the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, a 24-voice professional chorus assembled each summer with singers from literally coast to coast. Read more>

Shakespeare and Our Lady

August 5, 2016, Pasatiempo, The Santa Fe New Mexican
By James Keller
The Santa Fe Desert Chorale added its voice to the city’s Shakespeare saturation during this quadri-centennial of the author’s death by presenting a program called Sounds and Sweet Airs.
The program was constructed by Richard Sparks, who, as the evening’s guest conductor, led an ensemble comprising 16 of the Desert Chorale’s singers. Read more>

More Than Just a Pretty Song

June 8, 2016, Santa Fe Reporter
By Elizabeth Miller

Arts education and music could be the unsung hero in boosting our schools

When students pick up a piece of sheet music or an instrument, they can perceive a wall of difficulty. Can I really play this song? Through coaching and practice, often, the answer becomes a yes. Music in schools gets a nod for increasing intelligence and test scores, for giving students a reason to come to school, says Leanne DeVane, Santa Fe Public Schools music education coordinator, but “music might be the portal to everything else for them. There they find their self-confidence, their identity, their expression, and they find challenges, and they find that they can succeed in those challenges.” Read more >

Ah-pera! Ailyn Pérez comes to the Lensic to crush some opera

March 16, 2016, Santa Fe Reporter
By John Stege
Achtung, lieder-lovers. Fans of French mélodie, listen up. Aficionados of canciónes Españoles, get ready. Mark your calendars for Santa Fe’s premier vocal recital of the season when soaring lyric soprano, Ailyn Pérez, sings a multilingual concert with pianist Gary Matthewman in a program sponsored by the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. The event takes place Tuesday, March 29, at the Lensic. Read more >

Spotlight on GEORGE CASE

Chorus America: VOICE by Matthew Sigman, Summer 2015 Issue

George Case: tenor in The Santa Fe Desert Chorale; Director of Choral Activities, The Boston Conservatory; Music Director of the Newburyport Choral Society; Boston, Massachusetts

Rise and Shine  |  Case heads to the gym for a game of racquetball or aerobics on the elliptical.

Daily Regimen  |  Depending on the day of the week, Case’s schedule varies between conducting the Boston Conservatory Chorale and Women’s Chorus, working with undergraduate voice majors, studying scores with master’s students, observing student conductors, steering department committee meetings, and visiting schools to recruit Conservatory students. He also has to factor in frequent 90-minute drives to and from his community chorus on the North Shore of Massachusetts.

Travel  |  “I sing professionally in a number of choruses so I tend to be gone 7-9 weeks out of the year. It helps with development, scholarship, and recruitment efforts, so it is supported and encouraged by the Conservatory.”

On Equilibrium  |  “If you looked at my calendar it would look a bit terrifying, but I am doing the things I want to be doing in all categories.”

Hobbies  |  “I was in a book club but they voted me off the island because I wasn’t able to show up often enough.”

If There Were More Hours in the Week  |  “I would devote them to tennis.”

MUSICAL OASIS: SANTA FE DESERT CHORALE

The Santa Fe New Mexican, Michael Wade Simpson
July 3, 2015

Roughly forty-three million Americans will perform choral music this year, a number which keeps rising, according to Joshua Habermann, music director of Santa Fe Desert Chorale. A lot of that singing is going on in churches. Desert Chorale, Santa Fe’s resident professional choral group, however, exists in a more secular niche — it is one of a handful of professional American choruses not connected to an opera company or orchestra. And its mission is artistic rather than spiritual, at least officially.

Not that Desert Chorale has anything against churches. This summer, the 24-member group will perform at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Church of the Holy Faith, and Loretto Chapel — all in Santa Fe —  as well as at the Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque. Habermann, now beginning his seventh season with the group, programs concerts using themes, like this summer’s “Transcendence,” “Serenade to Music,” “Venetian Splendor,” and “Hidden Treasures of Byzantium.” He includes sacred music alongside secular classical pieces, and has been known to feature gospel and folk music. “The practice of great choral music has been sponsored and supported by churches for its history, but I came at it as an outsider. I loved getting to know church music,” he said. Habermann grew up in San Francisco and earned a PhD in conducting from the University of Texas, Austin. He was the director of choral studies at the University of Miami before taking a position directing the chorus of the Dallas Symphony.

“Transcendence,” the opening-weekend program, which runs from Thursday, July 9, through July 12, will feature Herbert Howells’ Requiem“This is a spectacular piece. It’s a late-20th-century work — beautiful, interesting, and complex. Great choruses use this piece to show off their subtlety. These are harmonies not just anyone can take on.” The first half of the program is mostly German music, he said. Johannes Brahms, Johann Kuhnau, Felix Mendelssohn, and Heinrich Schütz will be represented. The performances will take place in the Cathedral Basilica and the Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque, where the acoustics match the fullest sound of the chorale and the vaulting melodies in the music, Habermann said.

“Venetian Splendor” will run in repertory with “Serenade to Music.” The former uses just eight voices, features intimate vocal chamber music written during 17th and 18th centuries, and takes place at Loretto Chapel starting July 21. The latter, opening July 23, focuses on English music and is performed at the Church of the Holy Faith. Pieces by Benjamin Britten, William Byrd, John Dowland, Edward Elgar, Gerald Finzi, Orlando Gibbons, Robert Pearsall, and Richard Shephard will be featured. The 16 singers in the program will take on 16 soloist parts in Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music.

“Hidden Treasures of Byzantium,” the last concerts of the season, opens on Aug. 6, and will present Eastern Orthodox music from Russia, Greece, and other Eastern European countries at the Cathedral Basilica and the Cathedral Church of St. John. “We’re bringing in extra singers; I call them sub-woofers, the super low basses who rumble like crazy,” Habermann said. The concert will feature the world premiere of a Desert Chorale commission by Ivan Moody, Aflame. Moody is a musicologist specializing in Eastern Orthodox music, a composer, and Orthodox priest.

SANTA FE DESERT CHORALE: SINGULAR VOICES

The Santa Fe New Mexican, Michael Wade Simpson
July 3, 2015

Santa Fe Desert Chorale has a new mascot. Soprano Kathleen Ritch, who has sung with the chorale since 2009, gave birth to a son, Andrew, barely six months ago. Andrew has already been on tour with the group. “He got his shots, and we put him on the bus,” Ritch said. He was eight weeks old. As summer began, before rehearsals started up, she was about to take a short trip to sing at the Oregon Bach Festival. Her husband would be traveling along to help take care of the baby. “He’s an engineer, but he appreciates music, and has been really supportive,” she said.

Ritch moved to Santa Fe in 2011, having fallen in love with the city after joining the chorale. She works as an announcer for Classical 95.5 KHFM Albuquerque as well as continuing to appear around the country as a soloist and ensemble member. A “mountaintop experience” for her was singing with the chorale at the American Choral Directors Association national convention in Salt Lake City last February. The group performed “Dancing the Mystery,” a program in which music director Joshua Habermann used excerpted poetry of the mystical poets Rumi and Hafiz, read by members of the chorale, in juxtaposition to musical selections that included everything from chants to gospel. “Choral directors are hard to impress,” she said. “They can be a little jaded. If they aren’t buying what you’re selling, they’ll just leave,” she said. “It was standing-room only, and everyone stayed. It was the trifecta; they were all touched by Josh’s programming, by the fact we had readings, and they allowed themselves to be swept up in the emotion of it.”

This summer, Ritch is looking forward to singing Herbert Howells’ Requiem and to the whole “Serenade to Music” concert. “I’m a huge Anglophile,” she said.

The singers who become the Desert Chorale every summer (and for a short period in December) also appear as soloists with orchestras, perform with other choruses around the country, work in the film industry, teach, compose, and conduct, among other activities. Still, according to Ritch, they manage to become a family because they are together for a special time in Santa Fe every year. “It’s rare for a group to offer a six-week engagement,” she said. “Most groups come together for seven to twenty days, and meet four or five times a year.” That makes for a lot of traveling.

George Case, tenor, has spent three summers with the chorale. He recently made a recording with the Skylark Vocal Ensemble in Boston. He is the director of choral activities at Boston Conservatory and also leads the Newburyport Choral Society, a volunteer group in northern Massachusetts. He holds doctoral and master’s degrees in conducting from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Boston University.

Baritone Harris Ipock is the resident conductor of the Harvard Glee Club and teaches voice lessons at the university. Hearing Howell’s Requiem was a turning point in his life. “I was drawn to the harmonies — the beautiful mystery about them — and it was one of the pieces that made me a lifelong choral singer,” he said. This is his third summer season with Desert Chorale. He sings, along with other chorale members, in Conspirare, a group based in Austin.

Sarah Weiler, mezzo-soprano, has been with the group for eight years. “I still remember my first audition for Josh — he made it an unusually easy and calm process for an audition situation. At the first rehearsal I found myself surrounded by beautiful voices and the highest caliber of musicians — it was breathtaking. It was so joyful and meant so much to me that I couldn’t believe my ears.”

Weiler is a year-round Santa Fe resident. She performs with Santa Fe Repertory, in the Santa Fe Symphony Chorus, and is a Santa Fe Symphony Mentor in the public school system. She is also a Nia Technique brown-belt instructor at Studio Nia Santa Fe. “My experience as a local member of Desert Chorale is that I understand the power and connection that the people in this city feel toward the chorale in a way that is not possible for visitors to fully appreciate. Desert Chorale is really embedded in the community.”

A MAGICAL PAIRING: ST. MARTIN’S CHAMBER CHOIR AND SANTA FE DESERT CHORALE

the SCEN3.org

Under music director Joshua Haberman, the Desert Chorale gave a truly inspired performance in a uniquely thought-provoking collage of texts and diverse pieces, entitled “Dancing the Mystery.” Excerpts of writings by Sufi mystic writers Rumi and Hafiz intermingled with a breadth of musical choices, and the program helpfully delineated small groupings for the listeners to consider as one before applauding. Rumi is extremely popular now in America, and while Hafiz is perhaps less familiar, the readings from these two authors both roused audible sighs and sounds of awe from the audience. The Desert Chorale comes together from across the country for each season, and has a staggeringly full sound. Each work on this program, put side by side with the mystical readings, took on new meaning, and though vastly different in style, all showcased the incredible artistry of this choir.

After their third selection, I just about stopped taking notes because it was clear that every piece was equally special. Haberman effortlessly navigated his group, displaying a wonderfully blended sound that retained the exuberance of solo singing. Shawn Kirchner’s Heavenly Home set of three songs were simple and stirring in their old timey hymn feel, and their familiar Christian sentiments were given a richness of meaning as paired with ruminative and pithy readings like Hafiz’s adage: “Now/That/All your worry/Has proved such an/Unlucrative/Business,/Why/Not/Find a better/Job.” The women of the group were particularly impressive in Abbie Betinis’ “We Have Come,” a raw, celebratory song in Farsi that harnessed the full range of their voices and spirit, and in Michael McGlynn’s “Jerusalem,” which brought audience members to tears with its indescribable, angelic power. The two choirs joined together for a final spiritual, “Way Over in Beulah Lan,’” in a straightforward yet rousing arrangement by Stacey Gibbs. Whatever the mystery was for each audience member, the music and experience of this evening certainly danced it.

–Ruth L. Carver

A FINE ROMANCE: AN EVENING WITH BRAHMS

Santa Fe New Mexican

Choral music enjoyed a vogue in much of Europe during the 19th century, but it reached a pinnacle in Germany. Choral societies of various sorts were founded in all of its major cities, sometimes taking the form of civic or university chorales, sometimes as all-male or all-female groups. One of the richest troves of Romantic choral music came from Johannes Brahms, who held a job directing a women’s chorus in Hamburg from 1859 to 1861. Joshua Habermann leads the Santa Fe Desert Chorale in a cappella and piano-accompanied songs from six of Brahms’ choral collections, including selections from both volumes of his Zigeunerlieder (Gypsy Songs). Pianist Debra Ayers assists and offers two of the composer’s op. 119 intermezzos as solo items. The program is unveiled at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 22, and is reprised at the same hour on July 26, July 31, and Aug. 1, in every case at the First Presbyterian Church, 208 Grant Ave. Tickets ($20-$55) are available through the Desert Chorale’s box office (505-988-2282 or www.desertchorale.org).

–James M. Keller

DESERT CHORALE AND A MEDLEY OF CLASSICAL CONCERTS ABOUND

Santa Fe New Mexican

Even in Santa Fe, Christmas comes but once a year. Fortunately, all winter long there’s plenty of music and dance to help make, and keep, the holiday spirit alive. From Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” to Performance Santa Fe’s Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve concerts, from the Santa Fe Symphony’s annual airing of Handel’s “Messiah” to Santa Fe Pro Musica’s weeklong series of baroque Christmas music, there’s something for everyone in the concert hall as well as in the air. 

The Santa Fe Desert Chorale has had a high profile on the year-end music scene for decades, and it continues the custom in 2014. According to Music Director Joshua Habermann, three different programs will cover the waterfront in terms of repertoire, audience attraction and artistic opportunity.

“The main program this year is called Carols and Lullabies,” Habermann said by phone from Dallas, where he is director of the Dallas Symphony Chorus. “It’s the same title we’ve been using for several years now, though the repertoire changes each year. The idea behind it is that the concert has a fair amount of variety in it. Because of it being the holiday time, we draw a more diverse audience than in the summer. So the concept is there’s to be a little bit of something for everyone.” 

The music is also chosen to suit the formidable talents of the singers and to sound well in the luscious acoustics of the soaring Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the ensemble’s main performing home. Plenty of planning has gone into the mix, with due attention to what Habermann calls “the choral pillars” that buttress SFDC’s work.

“We’re going to do a piece by Renaissance composer Jean Mouton, not a particularly well-known composer, but a beautiful one. We’ll do some 19th-century Romantic music, this time some Mendelssohn, which I love. I always find myself going back to Scandinavian music, so we’ll do some Grieg. And of course, we always do carols. This year, we’ll do Scandinavian carols and also some Spanish carols that have proven popular in New Mexico. And as always, a special setting of ‘Silent Night.’ Finally, we always do a setting of the ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ text, a different one each year. This year we’re going to do one by contemporary American composer Frank La Rocca, a beautiful, meaty piece, about eight minutes long.”

And there’s more. Carols and Lullabies also will incorporate some sing-alongs to favorite holiday melodies such as “The First Nowell” and “Deck the Halls.” He continued, “As you know, many of our audience members are people who sing in choirs, and they always say they’d love the chance to sing in the Desert Chorale. So with this opportunity we say, ‘Here’s your chance.’ Really, the winter time is kind of a populist program that will have familiar fare but also heftier repertoire, so you feel you have a main course to the music.”

The other two holiday repertoires lean more to the popular music side of the equation. The first is a Christmas and Cabaret event featuring singers Sarah Weiler and Jay Hill on Dec. 9 at The Inn and Spa at Loretto. The second, Endings and Beginnings, features Santa Fe Desert Chorale’s Voasis, its ensemble of eight pop and jazz singers, in a series of concerts at The Lodge at Santa Fe.

“Voasis is really fun,” Habermann said enthusiastically. “We’ve been excited about this since we conceived it a couple of years ago. The question was, How could we break down the boundaries between the classical world and the popular a cappella world? They have existed side by side for so long; they used to be closer together, then for some reason they got separated. But I’ve always loved both; I’ve even sung in both.”

Deke Sharon, a friend of Habermann’s growing up, is now one of the movers and shakers in the popular vocal slice-of-the-media world, playing major roles in such programs as The Sing-Off. Habermann went to him when the concept of a separate-but-equal Chorale ensemble for popular music came up.

“The best model for us was to try to emulate the Desert Chorale itself, which brings some of the best classical ensemble singers in the country together,” Habermann explained. “So we thought, why don’t we expand that? Instead of throwing the regular Desert Chorale singers into the pop-jazz-rock ensemble —  which might not be comfortable for all of them — why don’t we have the best ensemble singers from around the country for this specialty? That’s the basic idea.”

It’s an idea that’s proven very popular, too: From the group’s launch more than a year ago, it’s attracted both established choral patrons and newer audience members who like their vocal jazz both hot and cool.

“We’ve found that it’s brought in younger people—but it’s also attracted our core audience,” said Habermann. “Some people say, ‘I really love this, but I got into choral music via classical.’ Others say they’ve had more fun with pop-rock, but that it’s also helped them appreciate the classical side of our work. So there’s been a lot of crossover, which is great.”

Beyond Christmas, Habermann said, the Chorale has several high points coming up before the holidays and after.

One comes in February, when the ensemble will perform its recent Dancing the Mystery repertoire at the national conference of the American Choral Directors Association in Salt Lake City. This by-invitation-only prestigious appearance will be preceded by a tour throughout New Mexico and Colorado. And in summer 2015, the repertoire will include gems ranging from Herbert Howells’ “Requiem” on the Great Cathedral Music program to a program of Orthodox music including Byzantine chant and modern Russian religious works. There also is slated a repertoire of music from Venice for eight singers accompanied by lute and a repertoire of English music including Ralph Vaughan Williams’ treasured “Serenade to Music.”

“The basic concept is musical excellence above all,” Habermann made clear. “That’s our bottom line. We’re putting the best onstage, whether it’s pop-jazz, whether it’s classical. That’s what we think the Desert Chorale should be known for. And the singers always have a good time, whether it’s in Voasis or the regular Chorale. It’s like being in an all-star game.”

For more information on the SFDC holiday season, visit www.desertchorale.org or call 988-2282

–Craig Smith

A FINE ROMANCE: AN EVENING WITH BRAHMS

Santa Fe New Mexican

Choral music enjoyed a vogue in much of Europe during the 19th century, but it reached a pinnacle in Germany. Choral societies of various sorts were founded in all of its major cities, sometimes taking the form of civic or university chorales, sometimes as all-male or all-female groups. One of the richest troves of Romantic choral music came from Johannes Brahms, who held a job directing a women’s chorus in Hamburg from 1859 to 1861. Joshua Habermann leads the Santa Fe Desert Chorale in a cappella and piano-accompanied songs from six of Brahms’ choral collections, including selections from both volumes of his Zigeunerlieder (Gypsy Songs). Pianist Debra Ayers assists and offers two of the composer’s op. 119 intermezzos as solo items. The program is unveiled at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 22, and is reprised at the same hour on July 26, July 31, and Aug. 1, in every case at the First Presbyterian Church, 208 Grant Ave. Tickets ($20-$55) are available through the Desert Chorale’s box office (505-988-2282 or www.desertchorale.org).

–James M. Keller

ONSTAGE–MYSTICAL MUSIC: SANTA FE DESERT CHORALE

Santa Fe New Mexican

The Santa Fe Desert Chorale launches the second program of its season at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 17, at Loretto Chapel (207 Old Santa Fe Trail). Richard Savino (playing guitar and vihuela) and Angela Gabriel (on various percussion instruments) assist director Joshua Habermann and the singers in a wide-ranging concert of Spanish music. The repertoire includes secular songs by Renaissance composer Juan del Encina, motets from the Counter-Reformation by Tomás Luís de Victoria (including his evergreen “O magnum mysterium”), pieces from the Spanish Baroque period, and original works and arrangements by figures the ensemble identifies as “modern mystics,” including contemporary composer Javier Busto. The program will be repeated at the same venue on July 20, 24, and 29, and Aug. 5, in every case at 8 p.m. Tickets ($20 to $60, with discounts available) can be purchased by calling 505-988-2282 or visiting www.desertchorale.org.

–James M. Keller

ROMANCE IN THE AIR: SANTA FE DESERT CHORALE & VOASIS

Santa Fe New Mexican

Let’s say Group A consists of choral music lovers who have no qualms about squeezing into church pews to hear sacred music from the Renaissance, and Group B is made up of young a cappella fans who tweet one another before, during, and after episodes of TV shows Glee and The Sing-Off. Joshua Habermann, music director of the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, has a plan to bring both subsets, dissimilar though they might be, together. It’s called Voasis, an eight-member chorale offshoot whose raison d’être is rock/pop a cappella and counts its own music director, Greg Jaspere, among the voices. “We’re trying to break down the barriers between the two groups,” Habermann explained. “We jokingly call Voasis the gateway drug to the Desert Chorale.”

The producer for Voasis is Deke Sharon — a longtime friend of Habermann’s — who produced The Sing-Off and served as music director for the 2012 film Pitch Perfect, a musical comedy. Habermann said he and Sharon met as singers in a pop/rock vocal group they both joined right out of college and have stayed in touch ever since. “I approached Deke at one point and told him that we needed to do something together,” Habermann recalled. The Desert Chorale director may have headed, professionally speaking, into the classical wing of choral music, while Sharon, who has a degree from the New England Conservatory, turned away from classical roots to make a career for himself in a more commercial world (where he’s credited by many for creating the dense, vocalists-doing-instrumentals sound of contemporary a cappella), but Habermann said that this contrast is partly the point. “The two styles need not be enemies. We are constantly asking ourselves, How can we make the world bigger? My feeling as a musician is that if we are going to survive, crossover is a big part of that.”

In a way, having Voasis on tap may have allowed Habermann the freedom to pursue a slightly more classical vein for the Desert Chorale’s four programs in five venues (two are in Albuquerque) this summer, which include performances of Mozart’s Requiem with the Santa Fe Symphony featuring renowned soloist (and part-time local resident) mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. The New World: Music of the Americas, offers a variety of sacred and secular music from the cultures of North, Central, and South America; Spanish Mystics, timed to coincide with Spanish Market, performs Renaissance and Baroque music from Spain with accompaniment on lute and guitar by Richard Savino. A Romantic Evening With Brahmshighlights some of the brilliant orchestral composer’s lesser-known small-scale pieces for chorus and piano. The 24-member chorale’s summer season begins on Thursday, July 10. Voasis appears at Warehouse 21 for four shows from Aug. 15 through Aug. 17.

The New World: Music of the Americas highlights American spirituals, 20th-century music from Haitian and American composers, and Spanish-language pieces arranged by Conrado Monier and Electo Silva. A selection from Reincarnations by Samuel Barber, whom Habermann calls one of the great treasures of choral composing, is performed, along with works of two young American composers, Dan Forrest and Sydney Guillaume. The program opens Thursday, July 10, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and July 27 at the Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque. “Presenting Spanish, Mexican, and South American music in Santa Fe makes perfect sense,” Habermann said. “We’re the crossroads of all these cultures. Besides, I love it. I used to be a Spanish teacher — I’m from California, and I’ve lived in border states my whole life. I often think I’m a Latin American person trapped in a Scandinavian body.”

Spanish Mystics centers on music from the Renaissance by composer Tomás Luís de Victoria (circa 1548-1611). If you’re familiar with the work of one of Victoria’s contemporaries, the Italian composer Palestrina, the difference between them is like night and day, Habermann pointed out. “Palestrina is the Apollonian version of things — everything is beautiful and shiny. Victoria’s music is like Goya’s art — he leaves the problems in. Sometimes the harmonies are crunchy. Think of Goya’s painting Saturn Devouring Children: there’s a lot of darkness.” The Spanish Baroque will be represented by pieces that offer dancer rhythms, Habermann said. The program, which includes pieces by Javier Busto (born in 1949), a physician from the Basque region of Spain who also happens to be widely known as a choral conductor and composer, opens July 17 at Loretto Chapel.

A Romantic Evening With Brahms, which opens July 22 at the First Presbyterian Church, offers secular music the composer published with a market of amateurs in mind. “The 19th century saw the rise of the middle class (in both Europe and the United States). People would gather in their homes around pianists and sing. The music is about romance, love, and night. There’s a sweetness to the music, but Brahms was a melancholy fellow — it’s the sweetness of lost love,” Habermann observed. Gypsy songs, piano interludes performed by Debra Ayers (“they have one of the nicest pianos in Santa Fe at First Presbyterian,” he confided), and little masterpieces such as op. 92 (“O schöne Nacht”) and op. 31 (“Drei Quartette”) complete the evening. “This music is sublime,” Habermann said. “It’ll be a good date night.”

Mozart’s Requiem, which appears Aug. 7 and 9 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and Aug. 10 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, features a chamber-scaled version of that piece. The chorus slightly expands its forces to 32 voices, but that’s still a small number compared with some of the big symphony ensembles (like the one Habermann directs in Dallas) that regularly take this work on. “It works with 130 or 32, but our version is more historically informed — the way it might have been presented in Mozart’s time.” The chorale uses a modern version of the score by Robert D. Levin. Mozart died before finishing his Requiem, and Franz Xaver Süssmayr, a copyist for the composer, assumed the task of extrapolating his style and thematic directions, completing the work not long afterward. This version has been traditionally presented, until now. According to Habermann, the new version is not an attempt to rewrite Süssmayr’s work, but to take a fresh look at the original manuscript, with an eye to correcting earlier stylistic inconsistencies. According to Habermann, Levin, a musicologist, did just a touch-up rather than reconstructive surgery.

–Michael Wade Simpson

RESTLESS REQUIEM: SANTA FE DESERT CHORALE PRESENTS MOZART’S REQUIEM

PASATIEMPO Magazine

When the Santa Fe Desert Chorale presents the Requiem by Wolfgang Amadè Mozart in three performances beginning Aug. 7 — two in Santa Fe, one in Albuquerque — it will be essaying a piece that is as problematic as it is revered. All music lovers encounter this masterwork sooner or later, and some find that their relationship with it blossoms into an obsession. But eventually they have to grapple with a curious question: Precisely who wrote the music they have come to love so deeply?…

…Süssmayr’s completion of the Mozart Requiem reigned as the standard version for years, beginning with the work’s initial publication in 1800, and there is good reason to pay attention to it. Even if Süssmayr was no Mozart, he was at least a competent composer; and apart from Mozart’s family, he was closer than anyone else to the master during the months when the Requiem was taking form. When he took over responsibility for finishing the score, he may even have drawn on instructions he received from the dying composer. His completion has nonetheless come in for criticism, particularly on the grounds that he lacked the skill in counterpoint that Mozart would doubtless have brought to bear on the piece if he had lived long enough to finish it. Quite a few 20th-century scholars have therefore proposed other solutions to the Requiem conundrum. Today performers may choose among more than a half dozen serious competing editions that accept, adapt, or reject Süssmayr’s completion in strikingly different ways.

The one the Desert Chorale will use is a relatively recent effort by pianist and musicologist Robert Levin, a devoted and deeply informed Mozartian. It was premiered in 1991 and published in 1993. Joshua Habermann, the Desert Chorale’s music director, writes in a program note, “The completion by scholar and pianist Robert Levin that we present seeks not to replace Süssmayr, but rather to take the best of his ideas and change as little as possible, doing so only where Süssmayr’s completion departs from the expected norms of Mozart’s time.” The most notable novelties of Levin’s reconstruction involve contrapuntal writing, particularly an extended “Amen” fugue provided for the end of the Lacrimosa movement and a solid Osanna fugue to conclude the Sanctus movement. Levin also makes free to rework Süssmayr’s orchestration throughout. But where some of the available completions have aspired to obliterate Süssmayr’s input to Mozart’s score, Levin recognizes that Süssmayr was closer to the source than anyone else, and he accordingly embraces Süssmayr’s work whenever he can. Levin’s completion of the Mozart Requiem aims to draw on all available period information pertaining to the piece, to honor the accretions of performance tradition that seem admirable, and to stir in a generous measure of original creativity. For aficionados of the Mozart Requiem, the Desert Chorale’s performances may shine a new light on an old favorite.

–James M. Keller