Typically, beloved a cappella group Quire of Voyces’ symbiotically inspired performance home is the reverberant, old world–esque Garden Street Academy. But in recent years, they have made trips over the hills to Los Olivos’s St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley, where the group — founded and maintained by director Nathan Kreitzer — officially ended its validating 25th season on Sunday.
St. Mark’s, another complementary sacred space, has a much drier acoustic than the group’s primary haunt but boasts a long legacy as a music-friendly venue. With a program largely stocked with Russian, British, and American scores, the Quire summoned up its signature rich, luminous, and exacting choral weave. Its reliably strong collective musical voice and diverse, balanced programming spin — from Medievalism to beyond post-Modernism — makes it a jewel in Santa Barbara’s “serious music” scene, and beyond, on transatlantic tours.
The first half of Sunday’s concert sported Russian Orthodox framing, including Nikolai Kedrov, Nikolai Tolstiakov, and the more familiar turf of Rachmaninoff. Of the Brits, my ears favored the beguiling, slightly cryptic “Hymn to the Mother of God,” by John Tavener (1944-2013) — a legend who converted to Russian Orthodoxy. Tavener’s early music obsession was shrewdly underscored by placement between programming neighbors — early 19th-century Robert Pearsall and the contemplatively luxuriant psalmody of Renaissance composer Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere mei, Deus,” circa early 1600s (featuring fine soloists Nichole Dechaine, Alison Nikitopoulos, Temmo Korisheli and Michael Solano.)
Americans ruled the second half, from New Yorker David Hurd and René Clausen from Minnesota (a choral music hot spot) to closure from the late Stephen Paulus, another Minnesotan. Paulus’s sophisticated emotionality lent a tranquil benediction to the finale, and to the concert and milestone season. Here’s to the next 25.