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A 360-degree view of the choir in St. Mark square. In the center of the plaza is one of the many old wells that dot Venice.
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Harry Kollatz Jr.
Choir member Antonia F.D. Vassar with son Casimir
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The Parish Choir of St. James's Episcopal Church at the Basilica of St. Mark
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Greetings, Richmond, the Hat is back from Over There. On June 28, I was in Venice, Italy, with my partner-in-art Amie Oliver, and together we attended a concert by the St. James's Episcopal Church Parish Choir at the Basilica of St. Mark. The Richmond group performed during the evening Mass and then took their voices and made a joyful noise unto the hosts of tourists and passersby in the square.
The music, directed by Mark Whitmire, included Palestrina’s Missa Aeterna Christi Munera, pieces by Claudio Monteverdi, Arvo Pärt, Benjamin Britten, Giovanni Gabrieli, and three spirituals arranged by Moses Hogan. I’m acquainted with a few of the choir members including singer/musicianAntonia F.D Vassar, Mary McMillan Horton and architect Scott Corwin.
“This will be something I’ll remember the rest of my life,” Whitmire says, “because we were able to sing pieces by my most favorite composers of all time,Gabrieli and Monteverdi, in the place where they composed. The music minister we’ve coordinated this with told me, ‘Ah, yes, when you sing Gabrieli and Monteverdi,’ ” Whitmire lifts his shoulders and raises his hands, closing his eyes as though tasting something delicious, " 'the cathedral sings, too.’ ”
The choir sang its way through Italy this past month, ending its tour today. The trip included two dates in Venice, June 25 in “The Marble Church” of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and St. Mark’s Basilica on the 26th, then performances in Florence and at St. Peter’s in Rome.
We’d received an email mention of this series of music from Antonia, and it just so happened that we were around to hear it, and we're mighty glad we did.
Outside in the plaza, the choir sang "Jubilate Deo" by Gabrieli and two robust arrangements by Hogan of "I’m Gonna Sing ‘Til The Spirit Moves In My Heart" and "The Battle of Jericho." All were well receivd, but the spirituals really got the crowd enthused. Here are some clips of their music: