St. Matthew’s Music Guild will continue its 39th season of concerts at 8 p.m. on Friday, November 10, with “Songs and Dances.”
Soprano Holly Sedillos and tenor Jon Lee Keenan will be the featured vocalists, and will be accompanied by the Guild orchestra, under the direction of Dwayne S. Milburn.
Highlighting the program will be Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Barber wrote his moving song for soprano and orchestra in 1947 on a prose poem by James Agee.
The poem later became a preamble to his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Death in the Family. It is a nostalgic picture in sound of Agee’s native Knoxville, Tennessee.
The composer described the richly textured work as a “lyric rhapsody.” Agee likened the poem, with its free, improvisatory style, to jazz and remarked that once it was written it would no longer be revised, much like a jazz improvisation cannot be revised once it is performed.
Also on the program is Benjamin Britten’s Nocturne for Tenor, written in 1958. The piece is an unbroken sequence of eight songs by different poets, each concerned with some aspect of sleep or dreams.
Unusually, each of the songs features not only the tenor soloist but a single solo instrument from the orchestra, accompanied by the strings.
Imogen Holst wrote, “Without any suggestion of incongruity, the mewing of the cats on the roof in a minor Elizabethan comedy merges into Wordsworth’s terror at the evils of the French Revolution.”
The work begins with a gentle lullaby on words by Shelley, moves on to Tennyson’s Kraken (“Below the thunders of the upper deep”) and the Coleridge’s The Wandering of Cain.
Solo singers Sedillos and Keenan are well known to Los Angeles audiences.
Keenan, a native of Las Vegas, has been a featured soloist and member of the LA Master Chorale since 2007. He received high praise for his role of the “Evangelist” in the Master Chorale’s performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion.”
Sedillos splits her time between the studio and the stage, performing with the LA Master Chorale and on numerous TV and movie soundtracks. She grew up in Santa Monica and attended Dartmouth before building a career in the US and in Europe.
The concert will be held at St. Matthew’s Church, 1031 Bienveneda Ave. Tickets are $45. Season passes for all seven concerts are available for as little as $285. A free pre-concert lecture offered by Music Guild president Tom Neenan begins at 7:10 p.m. prior to each concert. Visit MusicGuildOnline.org or call (310) 573-7422.