Cantatas for Christmas and Easter highlight this CD with more than 70 minutes of music! Both cantatas offer superb, liturgically sound texts from librettist Almeda Berkey, who also conducts these premiere recorded performances. With the composer at the piano throughout, the choral forces bring the words of Christmas and Easter to life!
"The Glory of His Majesty" (Christmas) is an eclectic mixture of musical style and textures in whcih we experience the angularity of the baroque, jazz of the 20th Century, as well as dissonance associated with the avante garde. The simplicity of a treble solo is juxtaposed with the robust sound of a male quartet, and the suggestion of Gregorian chant is also heard. Jackson and Almeda call it their personal gift of praise to the God of might and power, and to His son. "The Glory of His Majesty" is scored for large mixed chorus, varied soloists, piano, organ, electric piano and synthesizer.
"Come, Follow Me!" (Easter) was written to function as a major, dramatic presentation for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, or during the Great Fifty Days following the Resurrection. This cantata was performed annually in Omaha by the Berkeys from 1980 into the late 90s. From 1988, it opened the Great Fifty Days Concert Series at St. Cecilia's Cathedral, the tenth largest Catholic cathedral in the United States. "Come, Follow Me!" is scored for large mixed chorus, varied soloists, piano, 2 organs, synthesizer, full percussion, earthquake and dramatic narrator.
QUOTES & REVIEWS
"Almeda and Jackson are truly gifted musicians and their [cantatas] reflect their talents...I am moved musically and spiritually. It is an amazing experience..."
Alison Hart Cirenza
Essex Fells, NJ
"It's never Christmas (Easter) until I've heard the Berkey Cantata."
"When the quartet started after the lullaby solo [The Glory of His Majesty], I could feel Christmas in my toes."
"The Berkey Cantatas have been part of my holidays since 1984, and I enjoy the music and spiritual uplifting more each year. They make the Christmas and Easter season complete for me".
"I accompanied a church choir in Douglasville, Georgia, Palm Sunday last. We performed Come Follow Me. I found it an amazing experience and would like to order another copy of the CD to pass along to other Atlanta musicians..."
Susan Schreer, Atlanta, Georgia
ALMEDA BERKEY • CONDUCTOR / SINGER
Almeda Berkey; conductor, lyric soprano, and lyricist; co-founded Nebraska’s Professional Chorale Soli Deo Gloria Cantorum in 1988 and continues to direct its artistic endeavors. Forty-five years conducting credits include the Cantorum recordings: “Arma Lucis”, “Gaudete”, “The Mountains and The Sea”, “Arvo The Magnificat”, “American Shadows”, “Cantorum Christmas”, and “Norman Luboff Remembered:. Her Master of Music degree in voice was augmented by much conducting study, and her choral conducting style is derived from such diverse sources of inspiration as America’s Norman Luboff and Sweden’s Eric Ericson. Ms. Berkey was the American jurist for the annual International Folksong Choir Festival in Barcelona, Spain, where she conducted the Cantorum in the opening and closing concerts in 1999. For nine years Almeda served on the Board of Directors of Chorus America, an organization representing North American professional and independent choral ensembles, and on the international ChoralNet board.
After having sung many American-Canadian tours with the Norman Luboff Choir, she was Director of Choral Activities at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for four years. For Berkey Meets Horowitz on the 503, she recorded Jackson’s “Voices from the Earth” song cycle with her husband playing the Horowitz Steinway. She sang the 1990 premiere of two Berkey songs with the Omaha Symphony Chamber Orchestra, Bruce Hangen, conducting. She has also sung with the Scott Air Force Band, Captain Philip Waite, conducting. Playing keyboards with Mannheim Steamroller in concerts since 1973 has taken her across America, Canada, and Europe.
As a lyricist (ASCAP), Almeda has written texts for several choral and solo works by Jackson. She maintains a private voice studio. As the century turned, she conducted a Berkey piece for the Omaha Millennium Choir (2000 voices, trumpets, and snare drums). Ms. Berkey continues to guest conduct, including the 3379th telecast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in May 1994. She conducts Berkey premières for choir and orchestra at Carnegie Hall for Mid-America Productions. She conducted 350 voices at the première of Berkey’s ”L’Ultima Amor” for the AmericaFest 2001 International Women’s Choir Festival in Seattle. Being comfortable in all styles of music, Almeda is especially gifted at creating a diversity of tonal color and a full range of emotional intensity of the choral ensemble as she develops its complete performance potential.
JACKSON BERKEY • COMPOSER / PIANIST
Jackson Berkey’s artistry encompasses that of an acclaimed pianist, an inventive and highly creative composer, a meticulous producer and recording artist. His range of accomplishments in music combine with a depth of talent that is formidable indeed. His New York Town Hall Debut in 1969 launched a remarkable and highly varied career.
First known as touring pianist for the Norman Luboff Choir, Jackson has recorded and toured as “Featured Keyboard Artist” with Chip Davis and Mannheim Steamroller for the past 30 years. With his advanced degree in performance from New York’s Juilliard School, Berkey’s musical foundation lies in the classical, sacred, and chamber genre.
His earlier American Gramaphone releases “Sunken Cathedral”, “Ballade”, and 109 featured compelling performances of classical piano works by Scriabin, Beethoven, Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Persichetti. That pursuit now continues with performances of works by Scarlatti, Debussy, Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt. American Gramaphone’s “Holiday Musik” series offers Berkey’s performances of Harpsichord works by Domenico Scarlatti and J. S. Bach.
On SDG Records®, Jackson’s solo CD, “Facets”, includes stunning performances of many “signature” works throughout his career, including classical pieces by Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Sibelius, Beethoven, Chopin, and Fauré. On that label the artist has also released “The Mountains and The Sea”, “Berkey Meets Horowitz on the 503”, “Cape May Preludes”, “Harpsichord Carols”, and in 2004, “Atlantic Fantasy”. All CDs offer performances of original solo keyboard and instrumental works from his published catalog.
An accomplished composer, Jackson Berkey’s publications include music for solo voice, solo instruments, chamber ensemble, orchestra, symphonic band, and choir. His “Chamber Concerto for Organ, Winds, Percussion, and Strings” and his “Conversations for Harp and Chamber Orchestra” were both premièred in 2004. From solo musicians to full orchestra and multiple choirs, Berkey’s compositions create excitement through brilliant rhythmic patterns, metric modulations, and intense dance rhythms. His sensitivity to text and to both joyous and tender melodies give pleasure to every performer, including those oft-neglected players of the inner lines in ensemble music. Every musical force interacts with its musical partners, whether they be solo or duet melodies or a percussion ensemble with organ. His writing reveals careful attention to structure, form, and performance success; even with difficult-to-balance entities such as harp and orchestra. Highly evident in his intelligent and expressive solo piano works is Berkey’s unique ability to shape phrases and draw extraordinary color from the instrument.
Jackson and his wife Almeda - herself a distinguished conductor, singer, and librettist - have documented their work with SDG Records®, which also records the professional choir, Soli Deo Gloria Cantorum. Almeda conducts pristine performances of many of Jackson’s compositions, as well as beautiful music from all periods of classical music and folk music. A beautiful sampling of Luboff choral arrangements is showcased on their nostalgic “Norman Luboff Remembered”. Six other Cantorum CDs include Berkey compositions among other classical works. Also recording two CDs of Jackson’s treble choral music on SDG Records® is the internationally recognized Seattle Girls’ Choir conducted by Dr. Jerome Wright.
An ASCAP award-winning composer, Jackson’s catalog of over 300 works is enjoying hundreds of fine performances across the United States and abroad. Recent honors include First Prize in the New Music for Young Ensembles Composition Contest in New York City for his Piano “Trio Kassarjian”; the Alienor Harpsichord Festival at Hilton Head, S.C; and the Nebraska Individual Artist Fellowship for Performing Arts, Distinguished Achievement in Composition Award. Jackson Berkey appeared on the artist roster of Baldwin Piano and Organ Company for more than two decades. Performances of several of Jackson’s longer works have been conducted by Almeda in New York’s Carnegie Hall. She also conducted the world première of his “L’Ultima Amor” for triple women’s choirs, commissioned for the 400 voices of the AmericaFest 2001 International Women’s Choir Festival. Some works have been set to film and to dance, such as “ Arma Lucis”, performed at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
SDG Records® and SDG Press®
Soli Deo Gloria - "To God, alone, the glory."
J.S. Bach used this phrase as a signature at the end of many of his works. One sees it over doorways and music instruments in Europe. SDG Press® was founded in 1985 in Omaha, Nebraska by Almeda and Jackson Berkey.
For many years, both Almeda and Jackson worked directly with Norman Luboff, the extraordinary choral performer, composer, and publisher. It was at Norman's suggestion that the Berkeys formed "Soli Deo Gloria Cantorum" which Almeda conducts. Jackson has many works published by Walton Music Corporation, Norman's highly regarded publishing company. Those works are available from Walton. They are easily distinguished by their "W" and "WW" catalog numbers.