On Saturday, October 28, and Sunday, October 29, The Oriana Singers and City Voices will perform Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers, written in 1610 and considered a masterpiece of the early Baroque period.
The Oriana Singers, founded in 1979 by artistic director Bill Chin, is a professional a cappella group of six singers (eight for this concert). They will be joined by City Voices, which is an Oak Park-based amateur community chorus of 30 people started in 2009. In addition, the two groups will be accompanied by a 12-piece chamber orchestra of period instruments.
“This piece is something I’ve wanted to do pretty much since The Oriana Singers began almost 45 years ago, but I haven’t had the opportunity until now. It’s a very big project involving soloists [The Oriana Singers], a chorus [City Voices], and instruments from the 1600’s that require specialized players. Some parts call for very fast singing and some parts call for a big sound. Everything together will have more impact, more grandeur,” Chin said.
Including period instruments makes this concert unusual. “There will be sackbuts, which are earlier versions of the modern trombone and cornetts, which are a cross between a brass instrument and a woodwind instrument and sound like a gentle, muted trumpet,” said Chin. The concert will also include a theorbo, which is like a lute with an extremely long neck that allows for low notes. Violins and other stringed instruments, recorders, and a chamber organ will round out the sound.
“Monteverdi was an opera composer as well as a writer of sacred music so he knew how to write expressively. It really comes through in the music. It’s rhythmic and exciting with a lot of musical color,” Chin said.
The two concerts are being performed in two different locations and will have slightly different sounds. “First United has multiple balconies and gives us the opportunity to find different positions for music-making. It will make the echoes even more resonant,” said Matthew Dean ,who lives in Oak Park and has been with The Oriana Singers since 2005.
“And St. Josaphat is a slightly larger church with a lot of reverberation. It’s more like a cathedral,” Chin said.
Becki Streit, an Oak Park resident who has sung with City Voices since its beginning, said she is excited to see the audience’s reaction.
“It’s one of the best things about singing — to see their reaction while you’re performing music that they’re not familiar with. There’s a moment when you’re performing something, and you nail it that you can just feel the energy from the people around you. There’s just no experience like that.”
The concerts promise to be memorable experiences.
“Bill is so devoted to the music of the early 17th century. I think it will be special for the audience to hear his 2023 take on the 1610 Vespers,” Dean said.
The October 28 concert is at 8 p.m. at First United Church of Oak Park at 848 Lake Street. The October 29 concert is at 4 p.m. at St. Josaphat Parish at 2311 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago. Tickets are $35 general admission, $30 for seniors 65 and over, and free for students 22 and under. They can be purchased at www.oriana.org.