Chamber Music Amarillo’s Concerto Extraordinare on January 12 at the Amarillo Botanical Gardens was beyond extraordinary, enough so that one blog of coverage is inadequate. I will address the performance of the first-ever commissioned work by CMA, “Rejoice, Again!”by Nathan Fryml, as well as Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy in C Minor.”
Michael Palmer, whose impressive list of credentials begins with Associate Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony to his current position as the artistic director of the internationally-recognized Bellingham Festival of Music served as conductor. Besides featured soloists, the participants included the Amarillo Master Chorale and the Amarillo Virtuosi chamber orchestra.
Nathan Fryml, director of choral activities at Amarillo College, elaborated in the scriptural text of “Rejoice, Again!” a life of praise contrasted with a life in the world. The latter is a source for pain, persecution and frustration: in other words, a complete picture of the mortal condition. The message is intensified by a structural dissonance which emphasizes the spiritual walk – it ain’t all harmony!
“Rejoice, Again! is an epic paean of praise and thanksgiving for chorus and orchestra. This is anything but a pastiche of iconic choral adulations, and is destined to become a 21st century standard.
The parts at times seem almost antagonistic creating what amounts to an arythmic cacophony. And, over the vocal melee, a soaring soprano transcends human noise with a heavenly sound. “And again, I say, rejoice!”
Nate’s staggering achievement put this listener in mind of another Texan who set the bar high for sacred music in the last decades of the 20th century, the late Lloyd Pfautsch of SMU. But Nate has his own song to sing, which is destined to set a new standard for a new century.
As if this world premier were not enough, Nate then served as soloist for Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy.” Composed by Beethoven specifically to conclude a fund-raiser for Beethoven, the work, in the words of conductor Michael Palmer, “plays to Beethoven’s base.”
In fact, the work was incomplete at performance time, so Beethoven improvised, beginning with the opening solo. If Nate threw in extra cadenzas, he made it sound effortless and seamless, testimony to his own artistry. The response of the Mason & Hamlin grand, along with the Amarillo Virtuosi and the Master Chorale, in this closed setting, was majestic and ethereal!
As we approach the 250th anniversay of Beethoven’s birth, the shade of the master must have smiled at his creation’s performance, alongside a world- premier of another budding luminary, in this most unlikely of places.
That’s why we can say from the heart of the windswept plains, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!”