Times have certainly changed since the days when Catholics and Protestants were at one another’s throats during the tense days of the Reformation in the 16th century. The Jesuit order, for example, was founded to be a vanguard force in the counter-Reformation.
Now, as the world marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s break with Catholicism, Musica Sacra, based at Jesuit Rockhurst University, will mark the occasion with a special concert Sunday, Oct. 15, at Arrupe Hall. On the program is Johann Sebastian Bach’s Reformation Cantata, as well as works by George Frideric Handel.
Based on the popular hymn attributed to Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” Bach’s cantata is the Lutheran composer’s heartfelt tribute to the Reformation.
Filling out the concert are two works by Handel, the “Foundling Hospital Anthem” and the coronation ode “Zadok the Priest.” Although they’re not explicitly related to the Reformation, artistic director Timothy McDonald thinks they make sense on the program.
“I tried to choose other pieces that would work well with the chorus and orchestra and soloists, and I thought, well, Handel’s music was used for the Anglican Church, which also participated in the Reformation by moving away from Catholicism,” McDonald said.
The “Foundling Hospital Anthem,” first performed in 1749, is based on the text “Blessed are they that consider the poor.” The anthem concludes with the Hallelujah Chorus, which Handel borrowed from his “Messiah.”
The Foundling Hospital was this hospital for children, a lot of them orphans, who were also resident there,” McDonald said. “The text focuses on social justice and talks about comforting and healing the sick and blessing them. It’s just incredibly moving.”
“Zadok the Priest” was composed in 1727 for the coronation of King George II. The fact that the foreign-born Handel was asked to compose a work for such a lofty occasion shows the high regard in which he was held by the English elite. “Zadok the Priest” has been performed at every British coronation since.
McDonald, who is also professor of music at Rockhurst University and a Kansas City arts leader, was recently diagnosed with stage 2 prostate cancer. According to McDonald, his doctors think it was caught early enough that the prognosis is good. As he faces the challenge of dealing with cancer, he says that he finds comfort and inspiration in music like the “Foundling Hospital Anthem.”
“I found out about my prognosis right before I went into a rehearsal, and I realized that I was surrounding myself with beauty, the beauty of the music of Bach and Handel,” McDonald said. “I realized I can look at my situation in a very negative way and think about how sad everything is, but I choose to look at how I am blessed to be surrounded by the absolute beauty of music.”
7 p.m. Oct. 15. Arrupe Hall Auditorium, Rockhurst University, 1100 Rockhurst Road. $12-$22. 816-235-6222 or at the door. For more information about Musica Sacra, visit tinyurl.com/hmmbxz3.
Te Deum Antiqua
Liturgy aficionados appreciate the thoughtfulness and research Matthew Christopher Shepard, the artistic director of Te Deum Antiqua, puts into his concerts. For example, “Secret Service,” the program Te Deum is performing Sunday, Oct. 15, at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. It will feature William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices, which is usually performed alone, but which Te Deum will perform in context with the Gregorian chant that would have accompanied the Mass when it was first performed.
Byrd, a devout Roman Catholic, composed music for the Anglican Church in Elizabethan England. On the sly, however, he was composing choral music for recusant Catholics who were holding “secret services.” Written some time between 1592 and 1595, the Mass for Five Voices was one of those works. It’s complex and beautiful and one of the glories of 16th century choral music.
7 p.m. Oct. 15. Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 2552 Gillham Road. $15. Tickets available at the door or at te-deum.org/concerts.
Kansas City Chorale
Done right, choral music can send chills down the spine, and the Grammy Award-winning Kansas City Chorale certainly knows how to raise gooseflesh. So what a great idea for the group to put on a Halloween concert. “Haunting Classical Music,” Tuesday, Oct. 17, at St. Paul’s church will highlight some of the spookiest choral music ever written.
Charles Bruffy will lead the Kansas City Chorale in works like “Double Double Toil and Trouble” by Jaakko Mantyjarvi and “Zombie Jamboree.” They’ll also perform the “Dies Irae” (“Day of Wrath”) chant from the Gregorian Requiem Mass. Even if you don’t know where it came from, you’ll probably recognize the tune. It has been used by countless composers whenever a touch of the macabre is needed, as in Hector Berlioz’s “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath” from his Symphonie Fantastique.
7:30 p.m. Oct. 17. St. Paul’s Church, 11 E. 40th St. $10-$30. 816-235-6222 or kcchorale.org.
Owen-Cox Dance Group
When the Owen/Cox Dance Group and the People’s Liberation Big Band join forces, you know you’re in for a good time, especially when the program is called “In the Rompus Room.” In addition to the title work, there is also a piece called “Letterbox,” both with choreography by Jennifer Owen.
Besides music by her husband, Brad Cox, Owen is also setting works to music by Patrick Alonzo Conway, Max Otto and Nick Howell.
8 p.m. Oct. 21 and 2 p.m. Oct. 22. Polsky Theatre, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. $25. 913-469-4445 or tinyurl.com/yaxr24me.
You can reach Patrick Neas at email@example.com and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at www.facebook.com/kcartsbeat.