Concert Preview: “Sursum Corda set for voyage through ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ Sunday at Canterbury UMC”

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Singing about somber subjects is never easy to do, especially for an entire concert, but the Birmingham-based chamber choir Sursum Corda has never shied away from music just because it is difficult.

Their concert on Sunday, Nov. 3, titled “Dark Night of the Soul,” is focused on death and memorial, and is centered around a work of the same title by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo. At 35, Gjielo is making a name for himself with a style that has cinematic sweep as well as reverent reflection. Scored for chorus, piano and string quartet, “Dark Night” is the centerpiece of the concert, which starts at 7:30 p.m. at Canterbury United Methodist Church, in Mountain Brook.

J.S. Bach’s motet, “Komm, Jesu, Komm,” for double chorus and continuo, will also be performed. Sursum Corda director Lester Seigel calls it a “meditation on the end of life. Bach seems to always treat this delicate subject with special sensitivity, and this motet is no exception.”

Composed in the late 1940s, Jacob Avshalomov’s setting of Psalm 13 for choir, soloists and organ is “a very dramatic setting of this most dramatic psalm,” says Seigel. “It is imbued with the modernist sound of that era, and I think, an undeniable response to the recent world war and cataclysmic losses of life and acts of criminality.”

Shorter works include Salamone Rossi’s 17th century setting of Psalm 137, Stephen Paulus’ “Pilgrim Hymn” and a work set on the Beatitudes by Birmingham native David Bloom. A senior music major at Bard College, where he studies with composer Joan Tower and conductor James Bagwell (a Birmingham-Southern graduate), Bloom composed the work when he was a senior at Indian Springs School.

Assisting the 18-voice choir will be violinists Daniel Szasz and Mayumi Masri, violist Zakaria Enikeev and cellist Andrew Dunn, all Alabama Symphony musicians, BSC organist Leon W. Couch and pianist Kenneth Watson.

Sursum Corda has also produced a Christmas CD titled “Welcome, Yule,” which will be available at their web site.

Canterbury United Methodist is located at 350 Overbrook Road.

Written by: Michael Huebner for (Alabama Media Group, The Birmingham News) on October 30, 2013.