Robert Ingari “Sacred Choruses”
Robert Ingari is the director of choral activities at l’Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec, where he has developed a unique and innovative French-speaking masters degree program in choral conducting. He is also the artistic director of l’École d’été de chant choral, a week-long summer choral intensive where his students, joined by choristers from around Quebec, study, prepare and perform choral repertoire of all styles and periods. Before coming to l’Université de Sherbrooke, he was an assistant professor at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montreal where he conducted choral ensembles and taught conducting. Ingari is an active choral clinician and guest conductor, sought after for his pedagogical ingenuity and dynamic approach to choral rehearsing. As a composer, Ingari has composed choral works of varying styles and difficulty for unaccompanied voices as well as works for choir and instrumental accompaniment including keyboard, marimba, string orchestra and chamber orchestra. His music has been praised for its lyricism, rich sonorities and expressive power.
Psalm 23, composed in 2006 for Le Choeur Classique de Montréal, is a cantata in five movements for soprano and tenor soloists, choir and string orchestra. The first movement, which sets the first three lines of the psalm, is a slow movement for chorus and orchestra, whose poignant dissonances and widely spaced chords express the calm assurance of the text. In the second movement for two soloists, the pizzicato in the strings evokes a slow, determined march to the text “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. In “Prayers”, the central movement played by the orchestra alone, we hear a regal accompaniment, which turns around a series of rising and falling melodic arches played by the violins giving a sense of pleading and questioning. The counterpoint and soaring melodies of the fourth and fifth movements make for an emotionally charged tour de force where choir, soloists and orchestra unite in a Handelian display of grandeur to express the final lines of the psalm.
Three pieces for choir and marimba was composed in 2009 at the request of Mario Boivin, marimbiste and colleague of Ingari at l’Université de Sherbrooke. The three works are settings of sections of Psalms 100, 102 and 150 respectively. In the first, “Make A Joyful Noise”, the virtuosic linear writing for marimba interspersed with the driving rhythms of the choral writing makes for an exciting musical celebration. The middle section slows as the choir sings the words “Come before his presence with singing” followed by a gradual return to the music of the first section. In “Hear My Prayer” the mantra-like repetition of a motive sung on “ah” becomes the accompanying backdrop to a series of vocal supplications expressed by widely spaced sonorities and colorful harmonies. The musical drama is enhanced by frequent interjections by the marimba. In “Praise Ye The Lord” the dance-like text declamation in the voices is accompanied by a forward moving rhythmic pattern of eighth-note scale passages in 7/8 played on the marimba. Here again the writing for the marimba is virtuosic, making for an exhilarating finale to the set of three pieces.
Dona nobis pacem was originally composed and published in 1994 as a work for chorus with keyboard accompaniment. In 2000, it was rearranged for chorus and string orchestra and it is this version that appears on this recording. A unique characteristic of the work is that it remains entirely in the scale of G major without a single accidental. The melodic and harmonic interest is found instead in the subtle use of dissonance and the addition of seconds and ninths to the chord structures. Tension is also established and maintained by the gradual ascent in vocal range, volume and intensity, toward a climax where the choir cries out in a plea for peace, only to descend back to the original music of the opening music.