The Kansas City Chorale celebrated an early St. Patrick’s Day with its “The Music of Ireland” concert Saturday night at St. Michael the Archangel. The beautifully wrought performance featured works from Irish tenor, composer and choral conductor Michael McGlynn.
McGlynn is founder of the choral ensemble Anúna. It performs music that McGlynn composed or arranged from traditional Irish sources, encouraging natural, unlabored voices, and drawing aural inspiration from Ireland’s wind and sea.
Kansas City Chorale emulated Anúna’s theatrical qualities; staging, though not complex, was integral to the presentation, using the venue’s open space and acoustical resonance.
Artistic director Charles Bruffy spent most of the concert seated in the pews, also in accordance with Anúna’s conductor-less performance practice.
The program was divided into sets of religious-, nature-, and folk-influenced pieces, presented in Latin, English and Gaelic. McGlynn spoke briefly about his admiration for indigenous Irish music and incorporating it into the choral canon, using lovely tunes and poems that tell a story of an often too harsh world.
His writing featured both lyrical ease of melody and tongue-twisting text, underscored by wide chords with crunchy passing tones, lilting ornaments, jig-like rhythms and repetitive patterns that swelled with tidal consistency.
Many pieces featured soloists, performing with confidence in the familiar languages as well as the more challenging Gaelic.
“Media Vita” opened the concert, the ensemble flanking soloist Hugh Naughtin in the middle aisle before proceeding onstage to the beat of the bodhrán.
In “Sanctus,” female soloists spaced far to the sides, entering in responsorial rotation while tenor soloist Philip Enloe declaimed the text at center. Throat singing from the chorus introduced a pleasing, supportive depth and subtle, harmonic whistle.
“Jerusalem” featured the women surrounding the audience so that the layered entrances of the soloists echoed differently with each verse to exquisite effect. Unplanned but fortuitous, “When the War Is Over” ended with striking bells.
McGlynn performed as soloist on a few pieces with the trickier lyrics. During “Hinbarra” and “Dúlamán,” his emphatic pronunciation declared his presence, though tenor Matthew Gladden, soloist on “Fionnghuala,” was also fantastic, with syllables that ripped off the back of the tongue and against the teeth.
“Danny Boy,” set to the tune of “Londonderry Air,” was the encore, a melancholic, but traditional, send-off.