On Friday evening I had the great pleasure of attending a performance given by the choral chamber group known as Bella Voce, accompanied by an ensemble called the Callipygian Players at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois. Bella Voce has been performing, recording and otherwise entertaining audiences with a broad range of music from around the world since 1983. Under the capable watch of Artistic Director Andrew Lewis, Bella Voce has brought such distinguished guest conductors as Sir David Willcocks, Paul Hillier, Simon Preston and Alice Parker to Chicago and itself appeared as a guest ensemble in concert series from England to Nashville, Tennessee.
The whimsically named Callipygian Players are an ensemble of Chicago’s finest period instrument musicians and singers under the leadership of Director and Baroque Violinist Martin Davids. Dedicated to performing music of the Baroque Era, the Callipygian Players have performed in many of the Chicago area’s most resonant churches and concert halls as well as WFMT, appearing in the Dame Myra Hess series frequently. The Callipygian Players were founded in 2003 and have presented many concerts in the Chicagoland area.
Regarding Friday evening, the program consisted of Handel’s Messiah. Arguably, the Messiah is the most-performed choral work in the classical tradition. From 1749 until George Fredric Handel’s death in 1759, the Messiah was always performed at Eastertime. In our modern time this work has become a Christmas holiday musical staple, often inaugurating the holiday season with scores of performances in churches and concert venues throughout the country.
Bella Voce and the Callipygian Players certainly did the Messiah justice on Friday evening. From the depth and richness of Ken Whitney and Eric Miranda’s bass voices to the clarity and brightness of Kirsten Hedegaard’s soprano, coupled with the virtuosity of the Callipygian Players, specifically Kris Kwapis and Sharon Stine on trumpets, the entire performance was a tour de force. Baroque music has been described as the medium by which heaven is brought down to earth. The argument supporting this statement could certainly have been made at Saint Luke’s on Friday, judging by the passion and emotion on display at this performance. Bella Voce is hands down a Chicago cultural treasure.
On a personal note, I find it fascinating that on a Friday night, for the relatively small ticket price of fifteen dollars, one can walk into the peaceful confines of a neighborhood church like Saint Luke’s Episcopal and be transported to a different place by the power and soul stirring passion of great music and great performers like Bella Voce and the Callipygian Players.
The Bella Voce 2012-2013 season will continue with the following performance dates:
- Saturday, November 17, at 7:00 P.M.
Grace Lutheran Church
7300 Division Street, River Forest
- Sunday, November 18, at 7:00 P.M.
Fourth Presbyterian Church
126 East Chestnut Street, Chicago
- Saturday, December 8, 7:30 P.M.
St Procopius, Lisle
- Sunday, December 9, 4:00 P.M.
St. Luke’s, Evanston
THE SWEETNESS OF SPRING
- Saturday, April 27, 7:30 P.M.
St. Luke’s, Evanston
- Sunday, April 28, 7:30 P.M.
Fourth Presbyterian, Chicago
- Saturday, May 4, 7:30 P.M.
Grace Lutheran, River Forest
877-755-6277 – box office
312-479-1096 – Administrative office