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The Classical Beat: No rest for Grammy winners Charles Bruffy and the Kansas City Chorale

Charles Bruffy recently won his ninth Grammy, this time for the Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale’s recording of Rachmaninoff’s “All-Night Vigil.”
Charles Bruffy recently won his ninth Grammy, this time for the Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale’s recording of Rachmaninoff’s “All-Night Vigil.”

Winning a Grammy never gets old for Charles Bruffy and the Kansas City Chorale.

Bruffy recently made his ninth trip to the podium to accept a Grammy Award, this time for best choral performance for the Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale’s recording of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “All-Night Vigil.”

Shortly after their triumphant homecoming from Los Angeles, Bruffy and the Kansas City Chorale will present three concerts of Irish music, one with the acclaimed folk ensemble Danú at Yardley Hall and two concerts of traditional and contemporary Celtic music at Visitation Church and Leawood United Methodist.

But first, Bruffy needs to catch his breath.

“It was just over the top,” he said. “I admit it, winning does not get old, but the anxiety was downright excruciating this time. We were the 39th category to be awarded, so 38 times we had to listen to speeches. I was doing pretty well for the first 20 or 30 minutes, but just the waiting and not knowing and the possibility of winning, the possibility of not winning, that part of it gets overwhelming.”

The waiting was worth it because win they did. And for what Bruffy considers the Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale’s finest recording.

“We were successful at making a recording that feels very human and genuine,” he said. “There is nothing ‘performance’ about it. I never wanted it to be showy. And it has the greatest historic significance. When ours was released, it was the 35th recording of the ‘All-Night Vigil,’ so there was already a lot of reference to how the song goes by some heavy hitters.”

Now it’s time for the Kansas City Chorale to switch gears, from Russian Orthodoxy to Irish Catholic. In spite of the obvious differences of language and culture, Bruffy says the Chorale’s approach to both is similar.

“The similarity is that we always try to make the sound that is appropriate to the song,” he said. “When we sing (Johannes) Brahms, we want to sound like a German choir, when we sing Rachmaninoff, we want to sound like a Russian choir. We always want to sing as authentically to the repertoire as we can. We’ve had a native Irish speaker come in and coach us on the language. We listen to a lot of Irish choirs and try to assimilate their sonority.”

According to Bruffy, the Irish repertoire has its own special challenges. In fact, he considers Irish a more difficult language to sing than Russian.

“Because like French there are so many letters that are not pronounced,” he said, “and then the letters that you do pronounce don’t sound like our eyes want them to. But that brogue thing just lends a sweetness and simplicity. It’s a simpler sound.”

The Kansas City Chorale will join Danú at Yardley Hall for a lively pre-St. Patrick’s Day concert featuring some of the Irish band’s most popular songs. Danú was founded in Waterford in 1993 and is hugely popular in its native Ireland. This is not touristy Irish music à la the Irish Rovers.

“I wasn’t as familiar with this band as some of their Irish counterparts like the Chieftains,” Bruffy said, “but since we agreed to do this show together, I’ve listened to them a lot. I was recently doing some work in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and everyone I told we were doing this concert with Danú oohed and aahed appropriately. I’m very excited about it.”

Following the Danú concert, the Kansas City Chorale will present two performances of “Sláinte! The Music of Ireland.” Rather than the rowdy music of the pub, “Sláinte!” will focus on the loftier side of Celtic music.

“We’re doing some old pieces that are based on old Irish chants and some sweet Irish folk songs to make you tap your toes,” Bruffy said. “We’re also going to Ireland’s next-door neighbor and singing a piece called ‘Cantos Sagrados’ by the Scottish composer James Macmillan. It’s a huge, three-movement work. It’s very dramatic and hard-hitting with Elisa Bickers playing the organ.”

Bruffy may be one of the hardest working people in show business, not only flying back and forth from Kansas City to Phoenix to conduct his ensembles but also directing the Kansas City Symphony Chorus. He’d have it no other way. Bruffy finds his joy in making music. Perhaps that’s why his recordings touch so many people’s hearts. The Grammy Award is just frosting on the cake.

“I’m just so thrilled that the work of all of the singers has been recognized in this way, and, of course we’re grateful to all of Kansas City for their support of what we do,” he said. “It’s nice to bring home another prize for our city.”

▪ Danú featuring the Kansas City Chorale: 8 p.m. Saturday. Yardley Hall, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. $15-$40. 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu/performing-arts-series.

▪ “Sláinte! The Music of Ireland”: 2 p.m. Feb. 28 at Visitation Church, 5141 Main St., and 7:30 p.m. March 1 at Leawood United Methodist, 2915 W. 95th St., Leawood. $10-$30. 816-235-6222 or kcchorale.org.

Musica Sacra

Music by 17th-century English composer Henry Purcell just isn’t heard often enough live in concert. Musica Sacra Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Timothy McDonald, will help remedy that situation when it performs two anthems by Purcell Sunday in Arrupe Hall on the Rockhurst University campus.

The two anthems, “O Sing Unto the Lord” and “Rejoice in the Lord Alway,” are typical examples of Purcell’s genius for writing soaring, inspiring choral music. Music Sacra also will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Missa Brevis in G, K. 140. Known as “Pastoral,” the Mass uses melodies evocative of shepherds’ folk music. It’s a sweet, lovely work, and like the Purcell anthems, deserves to be heard live.

Arrive early for McDonald’s “Live Program Notes” at 6:15 p.m.

7:30 p.m. Sunday. Arrupe Hall Auditorium, Rockhurst University, 1100 Rockhurst Road. $12-$22. 816-235-6222. Tickets also will be available at the door. For more information about Musica Sacra, visit rockhurst.edu/center-arts-letters/musica-sacra-kansas-city/concerts.

Te Deum Antiqua

Dietrich Buxtehude may not be that well-known today, but when he was alive, he was an organ rock star. Johann Sebastian Bach walked 200 miles to hear Buxtehude play the organ and conduct his own choral music.

Te Deum Antiqua, conducted by Matthew Christopher, has made it easy for you to hear one of the Baroque master’s greatest masterpieces. You just need to go to the Folly Theater Sunday, and you’ll be able to experience Buxtehude’s “Membra Jesu Nostri,” a meditation on “the most holy limbs of our suffering Jesus.” Written in 1680, it’s considered the first Lutheran oratorio and an especially appropriate work for the Lenten season.

Te Deum Antiqua will be accompanied by the Kansas City Baroque Consortium performing on period instruments.

7 p.m. Sunday. Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St. $10. te-deum.org.

Classics Uncorked

Bach was known to have enjoyed an occasional goblet of wine, so he would feel right at home at the Kansas City Symphony’s Classics Uncorked concert this Tuesday at the Kauffman Center. Associate conductor Aram Demirjian will lead the Kansas City Symphony in Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor; “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” by George Frideric Handel; and “Battalia à 10,” by Heinrich Ignaz von Biber. And your ticket price includes a glass of wine or champagne after the concert.

7 p.m. Tuesday. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25-$30. 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.

La Cucharada

La Cucharada is one of Kansas City’s best-kept musical secrets. The top-notch trio, made up of flutist Guy Montes, guitarist Sean Mawhirter and violinist Tina Bilberry, will be joined by baritone Robert McNichols for what the group is describing as a “lyrical night of tango” Monday at Grünauer restaurant. The evening will include selections from the golden age of tango, the 1930s and 1940s, as well as more contemporary tango from modern day Buenos Aires.

8 p.m. Monday. Grünauer, 101 W. 22nd St. $10. artful.ly/store/events/8271.

Park University

The faculty of Park University’s International Center for Music are world-class virtuosi, so when they give a concert, you should pay attention. Ben Sayevich, professor of violin, and Daniel Veis, assistant professor of cello, will give a recital Saturday. It promises to be an evening of exquisite and intimate music.

Sayevich and Veis will perform Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, and the Duo for Violin and Cello by Zoltán Kodály. They will be joined by pianist Lolita Lisovskaya-Sayevich and Park violin graduate student Anna Sorokina for Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E Flat. Perhaps the most astounding thing is that you can enjoy such high quality musicianship for only $10.

7:30 p.m. Saturday. Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel, Park University, 8700 N.W. River Park Drive, Parkville. $10. Tickets available at the door or at park.edu/concert.

You can reach Patrick Neas at patrickneas@gmail.com.

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