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1995-96: Magnificat’s Fourth Season

With the Cavalieri recording completed, Magnificat planned a new season that would keep our audiences guessing – three wildly varied programs, establishing a pattern that became a point of pride as the ensemble grew over the years. The season culminated with a return to the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition.

The season opened in September with a program of oratorios by Iacomo Carissimi. Magnificat had performed Carissimi’s Jephte in the first series concert in 1992 (and will perform again this November) together with music by other Italians, mostly Monteverdi. This time Magnificat devoted an entire evening to this most musically influential figure of  mid 17th century. In addition to Jephte, Magnificat also performed the oratorios Job (also on the program this coming November), and Ezechia, and Historia dei Pellegrini di Emmaus, as well as the dramatic cantatas Tolle, sponsa and Sponsa canticorum. Three works by Girolamo Frescobaldi punctuated the vocal works: the Canzone detta la Todeschina and la Bianchina for two violins and continuo and the extraordinary Capriccio Chromatico con Ligature Contrario for harpsichord.

Magnificat’s December concerts December concerts featured the Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli. The program was built around the Third Mass of Christmas Day at the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. The ordinary of the Mass was drawn mostly from the collection of Giovanni’s works published posthumously in 1615 but also included Andrea’s magnificent 16 part Gloria published in 1597.

The Whole Noyse (and friends) played canzone by Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Merulo, a sonata by Cesario Gussago and the famous Sonata pian’ e forte by Giovanni. At the Elevation, Steve Escher played Bovicelli’s divisions on Angelus ad pastores by Cipriano de Rore. The program also included three of Giovanni’s motets: Quem vidistis pastores, O magnum mysterium and Audite principes.

Neither of these programs could have in any way prepared Magnificat’s audiences for the next program – a staged production of a fair theatre from turn of the 18th century Paris. The Parodie of Telemaque was a play set to vaudevilles by Alain-René Le Sage produced at the Foire de S. Germain in 1715, a year after the extremely popular production at the Opéra of the Tragedie de Télémaque by Destouches, which Le Sage satarizes mercilessly with bawdy lyrics, overblown rhetoric and sophomoric gags that resulted in a Baroque Saturday Night Live parody.

William Wahman in Telemaque (click for larger image)

Although Claude Gilliers, a bass player in the Accademie’s opera orchestra, is credited as the composer for the production in 1715, only Le Sage’s libretto survives, so a score was constructed by Susan Harvey, drawing from the author’s specific suggestions – the ouverture of the original opera, the storm scene from Marais’ Alcione – along with other music lifted from the original opera. The bulk of the music in Magnificat’s production was taken from the rich repertory of popular song known as “voix de villes” or, more commonly, vaudevilles.

James Middleton joined Magnificat as stage director for these production and also designed costumes, sets and props, while Angene Feves provided choreography fro several scenes. James brought a Loony Tunes sensibility that meshed well with Magnificat’s enthusiastic, often anarchic, approach to comedy and the low-brow slapstick humor of Le Sage’s parody and a delightful time was had by all.

Magnificat was pleased to be invited to perform at the Berkeley Festival on June 2 1996. For this project, Warren Stewart took Heinrich Schütz’s suggestion in the preface to his Musikalische Exequien that the large first part of the work could be used as a paraphrase of the Kyrie and Gloria in a Mass for the Feast of Purification and built a program around the Dresden court chapel liturgy that included all three parts of the Exequien along with other works by Schütz, a Credo by Alessandro Grandi and a motet by Michael Praetorius. Magnificat’s largest collaborative project included The Whole Noyse and members of the Piedmont Children’s Choir.

For the chorales that form such an essential part of the Lutheran liturgy, Magnificat invited members of many of the choirs that had worked with the Jubilate Orchestra (at the time, somewhat confusingly, also called Magnificat) and a “congregational choir” was formed with members of Baroque Choral Guild,  The Bay Area Lutheran Chorale, the California Bach Society, the St. Gregory Nyssen Church Choir, the San Francisco Bach Choir, the Sonoma County Bach Society and The University of California Chamber Chorus. The concert actually began several blocks away from First Congregational Church in Berkeley, as the 80-voice choir sang the macronic chorale Ex legis observatia/Nach dem Gebet in procession – eventually filing into the church and surrounding the Festival audience.

The 1995-96 season was the first season that Magnificat received funding from San Francisco Grants for the Arts, which has been a tremendous support for arts organizations of all kinds in the Bay Area for the past fifty years (our renewed funding for the upcoming season was just announced.) The 95-96 season was also the first in which Miriam Lewis designed programs and brochures, establishing a graphic style (and the Bellevue font) that endured for a decade. Miriam also appeared as a dancer and was in charge of make-up for Telemaque.

Over the course of the season, artistic directors Susan Harvey and Warren Stewart led ensembles that included Carolyn Carvejal, Sand Dalton, Mark Daniel, Hugh Davies, Rob Diggins, John Dornenburg, Elizabeth Engan, Ruth and Steve Escher, Richard Van Hessel, Boyd Jarrell, Doug Kirk, Miriam Lewis, James Middleton, Susan Rode Morris, Herb Myers, Judith Nelson, Gayle and Phil Neumann, Ray Nurse, Robert Osborne, Ernie Rideout, Neal Rogers, Michael Sand, Doug Shambo, Sandy Stadtfeld, Bill Wahman (as Idas in the photograph and, yes, he is holding a commuter coffee mug!), Nathaniel Watson, and Randall Wong.

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