Musica Viva

All Souls Unitarian Church seen from the choir loft

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, for 7 years, I was privileged to be a member of the Musica Viva choir at All Souls Unitarian Church in NYC. Director Walter Klauss was a sublime inspiration and achieved remarkable results from our talented ensemble. Many well known opera stars had emerged from the group, including Samuel Ramey and Renée Fleming. Renée performed a benefit concert with our group during my first year there. One of our soloists, Jennifer Lane, went on to teach voice at Stanford, and another, the late Alexandra was a soloist and live-in partner with Philip Glass. Some of the other male singers were as – if not more – talented than those that achieved notoriety, and I was constantly inspired by performing in their company. Leonard Bernstein cut the first check for our organ, and the executor of his estate, Schuyler Chapin, was on the board. The first concert I participated in was a performance of Handel’s Messiah with orchestra playing period instruments. One of the violin player’s instruments was stolen and later recovered, built by a contemporary of Stradivarius. The group commissioned and performed a number of new works, including one by Kenyan composer Jean-Louis Petit, “In Praise of Rain.” Everyone had trouble learning the unusual African vocabulary of the lyrics, but we must have done well, because during the performance, it began pouring outside.

Before I moved west for grad school, we began recording the first of several CDs. Because the church is located directly above the Lexington Avenue subway line, and due to continual outside traffic even late in the evening, we had to do multiple takes to make it through each work. I didn’t get to perform on all the tracks of the first CD, but here are a few from it.

Mendelssohn: “Sechs Sprüche – Weihnachten”
Palestrina: “Tu es Petrus”
Honegger: from “King David”

Britten “Jubilate Deo”
Father Guido Haazen: Missa Luba – Kyrie
Father Guido Haazen: Missa Luba – Sanctus
Holst: Psalm 86
Holst: Psalm 148
Copland: At the River
Chilcott: The gift to be simple
Duruflé: “Requiem – Kyrie”

Desprez: “Tu Solus Qui Facis Mirabilia”
Baynon: “When rooks fly homeward”