On Sunday afternoon, December 20 at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Chorale presented an impressive concert of assorted works. Under the guidance of conductor and Artistic Director Christian Grube, the Chorale presented eleven works that historically covered a substantial time frame: Exsultate Deo by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) to Serenity (O Magnum Mysterium) by Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978). Other works performed in high style were by Monteverdi, Tchaikovsky, J. S. Bach, Telemann, Tavener, Rossi, Mendelssohn, Owolabi, Kverno, Poston and Praetorius, certainly a full program!
More than 400 Chorale supporters braved the most welcomed “inclement weather” of very badly needed rain to attend the concert. Of course considering this number, parking is always a challenge, however, the enthusiastic crowd politely filed into Holy Cross four or five abreast and more than packed the venue.
In addition to the Chorale that numbered 15 sopranos, 17 altos, 9 tenors and 11 basses were The Monterey Bay Sinfonietta consisting of 2 violins, viola, cello, bass, bassoon, cor anglaise, 3 sackbuts and continuo. Keyboard artist Vlada Volkova-Moran accompanied the chorale on organ and harpsichord, adding to the program one of the preludes from Bach’s Orgelbüchlein. Additional orchestral support came from the Community Music School Collegium consisting of 4 recorders and harp to round out the instrumentation.
Under the directorship of the charismatic Maestro Grube, who also serves as Emeritus Professor of Choral Conducting at the University of Arts in Berlin, the Santa Cruz Chorale has risen and developed far above and beyond the concept of amateur status. In 1995, Grube was awarded the National Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest civilian honor given by the German Government to an artist.
The vividly detailed choral textures came across quite well in this compelling concert. The balance between song and orchestral accompaniment was impressive and every note was not only in place, but invested with the profoundness of the Holiday Season. In several works the chorale was pitted against each other in an antiphonal setting. The use of both vocal and instrumental members stationed in the choir loft boldly and imaginatively created the spatial separation and depth of surround sound that contrasted and differentiated between double choirs. The voices ranged from full to splendidly light and delicate, the instrumental support was discreet, but colorful.
The Santa Cruz Chorale has made its mark among many competitors and judging by this concert will continue to grow with enthusiasm and without limits.