On November 19th and 20th the Amarillo Symphony and Master Chorale, directed by conductor Jacomo Bairos, who lifted his baton the final time, and accompanied by extraordinary soloists, feted audiences to a new birth (a world premier), an amazing memorial service (Mozart’s Requiem), and all good things musically in between.
The symphony and soloist J’Nai Bridges melded perfectly to premier Chris Rogerson’s Sacred Earth. Rogerson, one of America’s most prolific composers composer-in-residence for the Amarillo Symphony has had six works commissioned and/or premiered by the symphony. That’s an outlay to rival Georgia O’Keefe’s Panhandle palette.
At thirty-three Chris is just getting started: let’s hope he doesn’t pull an exit like the other composer on the program and leave us unrequited.
The work consists of four parts, three drawn from the works of three Romantic poets, and the fourth, the perennial and always-pertinent Dona Nobis Pacem.
The text of the first work, The Lamb by William Blake, intermingled the themes of God, Creation, Nature and Perfection.
The Whale, by Joseph Edwards Carpenter, is a majestic evocation of endurance through the most adverse environments, apt metaphors for the travails along life’s journey.
“Hope” is the Thing with Feathers, by Emily Dickinson, portrays hope as a little bird residing in the human soul and sings without asking anything in return.
The final movement, Dona Nobis Pacem, is of unknown origin, but probably derived from the Agnus Dei of the Catholic Mass and expresses the hope of all creation: “God Grant Us Peace!”
J’Nai Bridges – wow! The privilege the symphony and audience had to heard this work sung for the first time by a silky voice laced with liquid gold! We fondly remember her Mahler in a previous appearance.
Just two of her Metropolitan Opera roles – Nefertiti in Philip Glass’s esoteric Akhnaten and a Covid-cancelled Carmen testify to her immense lyric capability. Her interpretation of Rogerson’s work fit perfectly with that of Maestro Bairos, and the orchestra’s dynamics showcased her talents to the max!
And to think that here on the High Plains we would be treated to a world premier by a world-class artist and soon-to-be world-renown composer! There’s a lot more culture here than two-steppin’ to Ferlin Husky.
Speaking of the conductor, the Mozart Requiem would be Jacomo’s swan song, after serving as artistic director for eight years. We say, Obrigado Senhor! May beautiful music attend your steps and bless all you encounter.
As to the Requiem, there’s enough Magnum Mysterium to make a movie. Wait-it’s already happened with Amadeus. The debate continues concerning which parts Mozart completed before his death, and which are done by Sussmayer and Eybler, either together or individually. And there’s the myriad mutations and emendations effected by more contemporary composers, trying to reclaim the pure Mozart sound.
Whatever version, the Amarillo Symphony, and the Amarillo Master Chorale, under the astute direction of Dr. Nate Frymyl, got it right! The collaboration was both monumental and epic, a fitting memorial to the proximal 230th anniversary of Mozart’s death. The timing is conspicuous.
The script for the Requiem derives from the Catholic Mass for the Dead, and even though the words are staid and rote, the artistry of Mozart elevates them to vocal transcendence.
Mezzo Amanda Crider and tenor Dominic Armstrong were most assertive of the soloists, though perhaps by direction.
A brigade of basses and tenors, an embarrassment of riches for any adult chorus, impacted the Dies Irae and Confutatis with great force. The contrast with the plaintive Voca me cum benedictus couldn’t have been more striking.
The quality of this performance doubtless elicited a smile from Mozart’s shade, a fitting tribute to the composer’s legacy. And, what was delivered by the Amarillo Symphony, the Master Chorale and soloists bore equivalence to similar performances on the great venues of the US and across the pond.
Such sublime artistry reinforces a sense of cultural superiority. That’s why we say, elevated and refined at this holiday season…
Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!