SACRED MUSIC IN A SACRED SPACE | New York, St. Ignatius Loyola

As the interval between Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Haydn’s Harmoniemesse began, there was a strange conversation going on near the front of the pews of St. Ignatius Loyola — the frankly regal setting for this evening’s music.

Two audience members were complaining about a ‘lack of shape’ which made absolutely no sense given the curvaceous rendition we’d just heard. It wasn’t until they started discussing inflatable donuts that it became clear the gripe was with the unshapely pews rather than the glorious music we were hearing. Phew.

This is certainly a spectacular venue that demands music-making to match. The Jesuit church on New York’s Upper East Side is dripping in gold leaf and ornate design which is almost overwhelming in its grandeur. However, conductor K. Scott Warren and the Choir and Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola are up for the challenge. Starting the evening with the Dixit Dominus, the voices of this well-drilled choir swell to fill the grand space. It’s an enveloping audio experience and the tender dynamics taper in all the ways you’d hope. Given Handel’s desire to relay what the Lord said, the diction needs to be crisp as a thin-crust pizza and it is that. The word ‘Dixit’ summons the attention of all in the room and the solos from the choir are certainly worth a mention — especially Heather Petrie’s in the Dominus a dexteris.

After the intermission, both choir and orchestra returned with bolstered numbers, notably the impressive line up of horns in the back row. With chorus numbers spilling over on either side of the stage, Haydn’s Harmoniemesse is a larger work that delivers pace and volume where the Handel had more subtlety. The quartet of soloists (Wendy Baker, Kate Maroney, John Tiranno and Neil Netherly) bring a heightened sense of drama to proceedings and K. Scott Warren does well to steer the forces around him in a nimble, spacious fashion.

There’s one more bonus event in the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space calendar on June 2 which you can find out about here

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