The Cornerstone Chorale performs Spring Concert
Story by Robin Lawless
Photos by Barry A. Ritter
People filled the pews of Holyrood Church in Washington Heights this past Sunday afternoon to hear the stirring sounds of The Cornerstone Chorale’s Spring Concert.
The musical ensemble performed works by Gabriel Faure, a famous 19th century French composer and organist most well-known for his elegant and expressive chamber and church music.
The Cornerstone Chorale is a mix of amateur and professional singers and musicians culled from talent found throughout northern Manhattan.
“The chorus is all-volunteer, and made up of largely people from the community with a wide range of ages,” explained Audrey Bishop, the group’s President of the Board on Sun., Apr. 29th.
As a result, “everyone pitches in to make the performance happen.”
The intricately layered choral music that weaves voices and melodies together harmoniously is not for beginners though.
The group rehearses for 9 weeks for the concert.
The choir performs several times a year but this recital is their most elaborate.
“Every spring we try to do a more ambitious concert that involves an orchestra,” Bishop said.
The concert featured 3 works by Faure, including his well-known Requiem.
The pieces were chosen because they could be easily adapted to a smaller orchestra and choir, according to Richard Stout, the chorale’s Musical Director.
Though most requiems deal with the serious subject of death and its aftermath, Faure’s work is more life affirming, noted Stout.
“All the great composers have requiems and Faure decided to do his own version and focus on a more positive angle,” Stout said.
“His is more humanistic and focuses on heavenly rest and paradise rather than the Day of Judgment.”
“He’s making a really strong theological statement about where he thinks we go when we die and you feel that not just in the words but in the music. It’s an interesting journey,” said Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, who has been a member of the choir for 11 years.
Ensemble members relish performing the intense and musically demanding work.
“It’s an honor to get to sing this stuff, a privilege,” Lorris Ritter said.
It is also a way to accumulate more knowledge about this style of music, according to Jan Moseman, who lives in Hudson Heights.
“A lot of us who sing feel like we learn a lot from working with this conductor. It’s that challenge of growing musically,” Moseman said.
Alma Albeniz of Washington Heights attended the performance because of Richard Stout’s reputation as a conductor.
“I know Mr. Stout to be a great conductor,” she said.
Afterward, said Albeniz, “I was moved; it was beautiful.”
The concert also featured solos by baritone Michael Babin, who has performed on Broadway, and soprano Jane Thorngren, an accomplished opera singer.
Thorngren, an Inwood resident, enjoys having the choir in the neighborhood.
“It’s nice to be able to walk to a job and to have this extended community of musicians here,” she said.
The chorale also reaches out to the community and has performed at Columbia Presbyterian and the Isabella Geriatric Center.Though they concentrate on Christian music, the ensemble is non-sectarian and open to all.
“We’re always looking for new members,” said Audrey Bishop. “People who love to sing, or are new to the neighborhood are always welcome.”
For more information on The Cornerstone Chorale, please visit www.cornerstonechoralenyc.org.