On Friday, June 3, the Church of the Transfiguration also known as “The Little Church around the Corner” in New York City presented Masterpieces of the Baroque, an Arnold Schwartz Memorial Concert. Marie Schwartz, wife of the great Brooklyn born patron Arnold Schwartz, (1905-1979) provided for the magnificent organ for the Church. Claudia Dumschat who is the organist and choirmaster was the conductor of this splendid program.
The Transfiguration Choir of men and boys, girls choir and Camerata and the 12 piece orchestra plus organ transformed us all to the “Masterpieces of the Baroque.”
The Reverend Doctor R.M. Noone Interim Pastor welcomed all to the church and expressed his delight at seeing so many present for an evening of the beautiful and spiritually uplifting sounds of the baroque.
The concert began with Motet Lobet den Herrn (BWV 230) with the Camerata by J.S. Bach (1685-1750). This opening selection was sung with heavenly abandon as in the spirit of the opening of the pearly gates.
Tunc meus fletus from “In furore, RV 26” was sung in the style of joyous weeping by soprano Sarah Hawkey who sang with clarity, power and precision. Her trills and cadenzas were impressive. Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) who was known as the red headed priest wrote the ever popular Four Seasons but also wrote many operas. Famed mezzo Cecilia Bartoli is encouraging a revival of his works. Sarah Hawkey’s singing surely seconds the motion.
Laudamus te (from Gloria) also by Vivaldi was beautifully sung by the boys and girls choirs, their youthful voices tapering and rising in this hymn of praise.
The girls choir followed with Francois Couperin (1668-1733) Christo resurgenti) “With Christ risen the stars clap their hands.” The strength and harmony of their voices were like cherubim and seraphim in some renaissance painting.
Dr. Dumschat mentioned that Bach was German, Vivaldi Italian, Couperin French and Damian Stachowicz (1658-1729) was Polish. The Transfiguration Boys and Girls Choirs sang Veni Consolator with the Gabriel like trumpet of Bruno Lourensetto. To hear the baroque instruments and youthful voices and trumpets heralding was to be in another sphere, another time and possible out of body experience that this kind of musical journey can do.
The first part concluded with “Concerto” by Georg Philipp Telemann (German-1681-1767) Adagio, Allegro, Largo, Allegro was done with delicacy, charm eloquence and deeply satisfying elegance.
During the intermission one could tour the church with special sections devoted to many luminaries of the theatre like Rex Harrison and P.G. Wodehouse who attended services there. Since its inception in 1848, this Episcopal Church has been “on the side of the angels” and became a national landmark because of its position as a shrine of the American church and theatre. In 1870 it buried American actor George Holland when other churches would not. Joseph Jefferson, the late actors friend exclaimed “thank God for The Little Church around the Corner.”
Part Two was the Cantata BWV 29 “Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir” by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The Sinfonia portion featured the formidable talent of Jonathan Ryan on the organ, “Wir danken dir” sung by the chorus and a triumphant “Hallelujah” featuring Christopher Preston Thompson’s clarion tenor and Judson Griffin’s soaring violin.
The Recit was sung by bass Bert Boone. Boone who is a lyric baritone sang his trills and embellishments well but needed the basso depth to get a more perfect effect.
Parts 6 and 7 had the rhapsodic voices of Sarah Hawkey, Kristin Olson on the oboe, Joe Redd alto, whose counter tenor passages were as beautiful as a songbird with superb coloratura, embellishments and panache.
Jonathan Ryan on the organ added to the baroque treasures of the evening.
The finale of Sei Lob und Preis with the chorus blending as one ended the evening on a note of triumph.
Caludia Dumschat led both the chorus and orchestra with steady and secure beat, wonderful musicianship and that extra ingredient, love for the composers, musicians, singers and the audience.
My grandson Luciano Pantano, is a boy treble. My granddaughter Leeza Pantano is a girl treble and her friend Nicole Osmolovskaya is also a girl treble. We met chorister tenor Paul Rozario-Falcone from Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn.
We thank all of the splendid musicians and we were deeply moved by Dr. Claudia Dumschat’s performance. It should be noted that the choir of men and boys is the oldest such choir in the United States and the only one not affiliated with a school. It consists of 16 boys ages 8 to 14 auditioned and selected from the New York area with varied ethnic and economic backgrounds.
The reception in the common room offered a chance to meet and greet. We chatted with our Carroll Gardens neighbor Alphonse Falcone and several of the musicians and singers. Our son Marcello, his wife Tatyana and her parents Nikolay and Lubov Klitsenko, (bayan and choral) musicians from Siberia were so proud to see their grandchildren and friend Nicole Osmolovskaya sing as was her mother Olga and son Ilia.
The Church of the Transfiguration is one of the wonders of New York City. The view of the Empire State Building from the courtyard is breathtaking. Our journey into the Baroque is over but it left us with many unforgettable moments! The large appreciative audience responded with cheers for all. Brava to Conductor and Choirmaster Claudia Dumschat, musicians and choristers who earned the resounding applause that crowned this special performance.