The Lenten season is, for many, an opportunity for contemplation of one’s purpose and consideration of one’s contribution.
To this objective Te Deum Antiqua, in collaboration with the Kansas City Baroque Consortium, presented a work of beautiful reflection in Dieterich Buxtehude’s “Membra Jesu Nostri” for the near capacity audience at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Sunday evening.
Te Deum Antiqua is the early music ensemble of Te Deum, a choral group that distinguishes itself in a community of exceptional choral groups by devoting programming to sacred works. This devotion was evident in the structure of the performance (it was performed straight through in its entirety, applause held to the end) and the excellent treatment of the work.
Matthew Christopher Shepard conducted the joint ensembles, indicating the varied pacing and subdued releases with clarity and serene direction. He noted before the concert began that the Latin text would be performed in keeping with the North German/Dutch pronunciation familiar to the work’s place and time in the late 17th century.
Buxtehude created seven cantatas as an act of personal devotion, settings of sacred and non-biblical texts that contemplate different parts of the body of Christ on the cross. To this end key words and phrases were repeated, drawn out, and emphasized, and the choir and soloists brought thoughtful attention to these moments. The diction was especially important in the many fugal sections and allowed for clear and cohesive transmitting.
The balanced and well-voiced 17-member choir gave a thunderous and resolute fortissimo in the penultimate ensemble aria and the jubilant lines of the concluding “amens.”
But it was the soloists that carried the bulk of the content. Soprano Beth Kakacek-Munce gave fluidity to the melismas and leapt effortlessly into the high range. Soprano Kayleigh Aytes’ honeyed tone was expressive, with a beautifully unforced and present sonority. Alto Kristee Haney balanced these with a dark, throaty quality that sustained in the lower range. The three voices together were a treat to experience.
The instrumentalists of the Kansas City Baroque Consortium, playing period instruments, performed introductory sonatas for each cantata, along with interludes and accompanying lines, though not without discrepancies.
The audience gave a resounding standing ovation for this timely, and gorgeously dedicated offering.