Thursday, April 14, 2011

Merciful Jesus, they sure do sing to you pretty

They have been giving concerts at noon at the Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus on Wednesdays since forever. OK, since 1953. But what a gift to the community these performances are. I went yesterday to a performance of Fauré’s Requiem, one of my favorite pieces of music of all time. They have a marvelous choir director in Marika Kuzma and you wanted it to go on and on.

Because I wanted it to go on and on, as soon as I came home I went to YouTube to get more of the Pie Jesu/Agnus Dei, the highlight of the piece. I wasn’t disappointed. Everybody and his cousin Vera has sung it, looks like. There’s a beautiful Kiri Te Kanawa version (what has she ever done that isn’t beautiful?). Unfortunately I can’t find any versions of her doing it without those friggin angel still shots. Keep your eyes closed and just listen to the voice.

Many prefer hearing Cecilia Bartoli do it. That would be like asking me to choose between chocolate and macadamia nuts. I’ll just listen to one on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the other the other days, thank you. And Dmitri Hvorostovsky all day Sunday.

A more consequential debate is whether it should be sung by a world class soprano or whether the vibrato detracts from the pure sounds. Listen to a couple boy sopranos do it and you tell me. There's the Winchester Cathedral Choir, a 12-year-old from Zagreb, another with the London Symphony Chorus, and another from King's College, Cambridge.

And you know there are more.

I’ve been a pushover for boy soprano voices ever since I had one myself for a brief spell. The Vienna Boys’ Choir never gets old, even if they have gone all pop and international, although I still prefer the classic knock your socks off dulcet tones of the Regensburger Domspatzen singing Schlafe, mein Prinzchen, Schlaf Ein.

But back to the Pie Jesu and the tug of war between the ladies and the boys. Perhaps the best way to resolve it is to put them together.

Like Andrew Lloyd Webber did when he wrote his version of Pie Jesu. Or, more precisely, when Sarah Brightman came to sing it with a string of choirboys, with each young voice more beautiful than the last. Here are three: Ben De’ath, Paul Miles-Kingston (and a younger Sarah Brightman), and Adam Clark.

Sarah puts on this fish face and the kid forgets to follow the conductor. And yet, this is what the music in heaven must sound like.

Jerry Falwell once told me that I would never get in. But if he’s there I wouldn’t want in anyway. I’ll just stand in the hallway with my RDP (registered domestic partner – our desire to marry is what’s keeping us out, you see) and our doggies, and listen.

Or a private booth in hell with access to YouTube would be OK as well, I should think.


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