The next concert by Sanford Dole’s Bay Choral Guild (BCG) will offer two premier performances of works by contemporary composers, one of which, curiously enough, will be instrumental. The choral premiere will occupy the entire second half of the program. The work is a cantata by the English composer Gabriel Jackson, scored for chorus, cello, and percussion and entitled To the field of stars. The title is taken from the Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago in Spanish), the pilgrimage route that leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. The route is sometimes also called “The Milky Way” (Compostela in Spanish) because, according to legend, pilgrims were first guided by following the stars of the Milky Way. The cathedral is said to hold the remains of Saint James the Apostle, which is why it has become the object of pilgrimage.
Jackson composed his cantata under joint commission from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands Chamber Choir, and the Stockholm St. Jacob’s Chamber Choir. It was written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of the Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria. The libretto draws upon a wide variety of texts, one of which is the Codex Calixtinus, which is kept by the Santiago de Compostela cathedral. (Regular readers may recall that this manuscript went missing in July of 2011 and was discovered about a year later in a garage near the cathedral.)
The instrumentalists that will accompany BCG for this performance will be cellist Rebecca Roudman and percussionists Kent Reed and Timothy Dent. During the first half of the concert, Roudman will perform the world premiere of Jason Eckl’s Cello Sephardic Suite. Each of the three movements of this suite is based a Hebrew song, “Shalom Alechem,” “Mizmor L’David,” and “Tzur Mishelo.” The composer will accompany Roudman on guitar.
Appropriate to the circumstances behind the composition of Jackson’s cantata, the first half of the concert will also include two Victoria motets, “Veni Sancte Spiritus” and “O quam gloriosam.” These will be preceded by Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 226 motet, “Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf.” This set of motets will then be followed by an eight-part double-choir Easter hymn by Josef Rheinberger setting two ancient Easter texts, one of which is the famous sequence “Victimae paschali.” The first half will conclude with one of the “sacred concertos” by Dmitry Bortniansky, “Lord, Make Me to Know My End,” followed by the motet “Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz” by Johannes Brahms.
The San Francisco performance of this concert will take place at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church (500 De Haro Street) on Saturday, March 16, at 8 p.m. There will also be a pre-concert lecture at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors, and $5 for students. Tickets for this concert may be purchased through the secure Virtual Box Office (VBO) event page linked to the BCG Web site. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.