On April 5 and 6, the Santa Barbara Master Chorale will celebrate the birth and death of Queen Mary, although both events happened centuries ago. Like the Baroque palaces where the 17th-century English queen lived, Henry Purcell’s choral works soar skyward to celebrate her glory. Steven Hodson, the group’s conductor, explained the programming: “Purcell has always been a favorite of mine, and it’s unfortunate that he didn’t live long. I knew that the theme of English ceremonial music would enable me to find some works by Purcell and Handel that went well together and would display an extraordinary range of emotion-from the profoundly solemn to the ecstatically joyous.”
The S.B. Master Chorale sings that full range of emotion well. According to Hodson, “It’s wonderful to find a group so committed to great musical art. The chorale has a combination of maturity and hard work that’s extremely difficult to find-people here really consider the ensemble part of their lives.” The group’s instrumental accompanists will also have a chance to perform an interesting, newly compiled Baroque masterpiece. “It’s called the Occasional Suite by Handel, even though he didn’t write it to be a suite. It’s essentially a set of occasional pieces, all in one key, that Trevor Pinnock of the English Consort put together. The overture has an absolutely beautiful melody; there’s a wonderful minuet and trio, a truly moving adagio, a march, and then a grand finale.” Although the English Consort’s recording of this compilation was easy enough to find, there was no sheet music available. Hodson emailed the English Consort to ask where he could find it, and they graciously sent him the parts. “There’s a lot of generosity in the world of choral music,” Hodson added. “People all over the world are working on making music easily available through the online Choral Public Domain Library. There’s an enormous amount already in the database, and more appears every day.”
Hodson, a professor of music at Westmont College, has a wide range of experience in the world of choral music. He graduated from Lewis & Clark College and the University of Colorado at Boulder and has conducted choral groups and judged competitions all over the western U.S. He also has a great deal of admiration for the Santa Barbara community’s dedication to choral music. “There’s a remarkable number of choral groups here for a city this size, not to mention all the fine church choirs. People often migrate between these groups, and that’s great, too.”
When Hodson leads the Santa Barbara Master Chorale at First Presbyterian Church, the magnificence of 17th-century English royalty will resound again-don’t miss it.
The Santa Barbara Master Chorale presents Music of English Pageantry on Saturday, April 5, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 6, at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church (21 E. Constance Ave.). Tickets are available online and at Chaucer’s Books. Call 967-8287 or visit sbmasterchorale.org.