Musica Vocale, conducted by its artistic director, Arnold Epley, will explore German, English and French Baroque styles when it presents “Baroque, Barocco, Barock” Sunday, June 4, at Westport Presbyterian Church.
The 18th-century music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Henry Purcell and Marc-Antoine Charpentier will provide examples of the three respective national styles.
Epley, who just turned 78, has a lifetime of experience singing and conducting choral music of all styles and genres, but he is especially steeped in the music of Bach. While pursuing graduate degrees at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate school in Louisville, Ky., he also sang with the Louisville Bach Society.
“I sang on and off with them for probably 20 years as their principal baritone soloist,” Epley said. “During that time, I sang over a hundred Bach cantatas and almost all of the major oratorio literature. When I think about it, it’s a stunning thing.”
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Epley, who was born and raised in Alabama, as is evident by his smooth Southern accent, imparted his rich storehouse of musical wisdom to generations of Kansas City musicians when he taught at William Jewell College from 1984 to his retirement in 2010. Now he continues his devotion to choral music through Musica Vocale, which is coming to the end of its ninth season.
“We’re singing with 22 or 23 people,” Epley said. “It’s a smaller ensemble, but they’re quicker. One of the tasks of choral conducting is the constant training of the singers to sing well. There’s a way in which a choral rehearsal should have some of the elements of a voice lesson. What we’re trying to do is get the singers to be more and more healthy, more and more skillful, freer and flexible, so they can sing a variety of styles.”
“Baroque, Barocco, Barock” is an opportunity for Musica Vocale to demonstrate its versatility. The group will perform Bach’s Cantata 104 “Du Hirte Israel, höre”; Purcell’s “My Heart Is Inditing” and Charpentier’s Te Deum.
“In Bach you listen for the individual melodic lines and the fact that he shows the text in gestures where you hear the meaning of the words in the way the music sounds,” Epley said. “Purcell writes in a style we call the verse anthem, which alternates duets, solos, trios, octets and all sorts of small ensembles between the choruses.”
The Charpentier Te Deum, one of the grandest works of the Baroque era, is not often heard live. Epley says the piece was probably written to celebrate a military victory, and it certainly sounds that way, with its rousing trumpets and drums.
“Robert Shaw used to say that German music is muscular, and French music is perfume,” Epley said. “French music feels lighter; even when the trumpets are blaring and everybody’s playing and singing, it doesn’t seem solid. It has a lightness.”
Musica Vocale will be joined by the Kansas City Baroque Consortium led by Trilla Ray-Carter. The orchestra is bringing in two natural trumpet players and two oboists from out of town to beef up the period instrument sound.
Epley credits Jay Carter, Musica Vocale’s artistic adviser and associate conductor, for his assistance with the challenge of singing different languages.
“He is so brilliant,” Epley said. “He serves as language consultant in rehearsals because the Bach is sung with Baroque German, and there are the peculiarities of 18th-century English pronunciation. Also, Baroque French is very different from standard French. But we’re getting better at it.”
3 p.m. June 4. Westport Presbyterian Church, 201 Westport Road. $10-$15. Tickets available at the door or musicavocale.org.
Park pianist at Van Cliburn
We’re keeping an eye on Kenny Broberg, a graduate student at the Park University International Center for Music. He has advanced to the semifinal round at the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.
Broberg, a Minneapolis native and student of Van Cliburn gold medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch, will give a recital at 3:50 p.m. Monday, June 5, to determine if he advances to the final round. The performances, including Broberg’s, will be live-streamed at cliburn2017.medici.tv/en/. The university will also host a watch party starting at 3:45 p.m. in the Jenkin and Barbara David Theater inside Alumni Hall on the Parkville campus.
Broberg, 23, has already racked up an impressive number of awards, including the bronze medal at the Wideman International Piano Competition, the silver medal at the Young Texas Artists Music Competition, and first prize in both the New Orleans International Piano Institute Concerto Competition and the MSM Concerto Competition.
If Broberg — one of two semifinalists from the U.S. — advances to the final round, he will perform chamber music with a quintet and a concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
The renowned competition, held every four years, started May 25 with 30 competitors from across the world, narrowed from a slate of 140 who performed at screening events.
Owen/Cox Dance Group
Bach is appreciated for his complex and cerebral fugues, theological symbolism and heart-breaking lyricism. But there’s an aspect of Bach’s music that doesn’t get the attention it deserves: dance. As with all music of the Baroque, dance is central to Bach’s music, especially his keyboard music.
Owen/Cox Dance Group will celebrate this facet of Bach’s genius when it presents “The Goldberg Variations” Saturday, June 10, and Sunday, June 11, at White Recital Hall. Pianist Kairy Koshoeva will provide live musical accompaniment as the company performs Jennifer Owen’s choreography, which expresses in dance Bach’s intricacy and inventiveness.
8 p.m. June 10 and 2 p.m. June 11. White Recital Hall, 4949 Cherry St. $14-$28. 816-235-6222 or owencoxdance.org.
Heartland Men’s Chorus
The Heartland Men’s Chorus is welcoming summer with “Show Tune Showdown” Saturday, June 10, and Sunday, June 11, at the Folly Theater. This should be a blast for all HMC fans or anyone who loves a good Broadway melody. The audience will get to participate by singing along with the chorus and taking part in musical theater trivia.
8 p.m. June 10 and 4 p.m. June 11. Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St. $15-$67. 816-931-3338 or hmckc.org.