St. George’s Choral Society (SGCS), founded in 1817, will present Arthur Honegger’s King David on Sunday, April 26 at 3 PM at the Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Avenue at 35th Street. Matthew Lewis, the group’s Artistic Director, shares his insights on this piece.
Laura Daly: What was behind your selecting King David for SGCS’s Spring Concert?
Matthew Lewis: This is a piece I have wanted to do for some time now! It is really an ideal fit for our choir. I first heard it many years ago and have loved it ever since. It has it all: great choral writing, beautiful solos, colorful orchestration and...drama.
LD: Honegger was an interesting person and seemed very much a part of his age, Paris in the twenties. What about him as a person interests you?
ML: Honegger was one of Les Six, a group of six composers in Paris who were followers of Jean Cocteau. This group includes Poulenc and Milhaud. It's a time in French music that is of particular interest to me. I love the whimsical style. And the "miniature" aspect, where a piece of music can be less than a minute long, and still can communicate a complete sentiment. This sort of "mosaic" approach can be so colorful and dramatic.
LD: This is an eclectic work that combines many different styles of music. Which composers can be recognized in this piece?
ML: I'm not sure about which composers can be recognized, but there are many styles of music in one piece here, including chant, Baroque style and even jazz. Some movements contain polytonality, which is very adventurous for this time period. Ives had done it here in the US, but it wasn't very common in Europe.
LD: Is there a part of this piece that is pure Honegger?
ML: Hard to say, since Honegger is an unpredictable composer. For me, the very short movements intrigue me, as I mentioned earlier. Then, there are longer, more developed ones, which, by contrast, become very effective.
LD: What are your personal highlights of the piece?
ML: I love so many parts, it's hard to say. But highlights definitely include the opening "Song of David," and "The Dance Before the Ark," which is perhaps the most developed movement. Of course, "The Witch of Endor" is probably the most memorable, with an actress supported by very evocative and haunting music. The concluding "Alleluia" is powerful. Honegger really knew how to build suspense, and how to provide a satisfying conclusion.
LD: Regarding the SGCS, how does rehearsing/performing King David add to the group’s expertise?
ML: We try to cover many periods and styles of music in the course of rehearsals and performances. This piece requires a lot from choral singers: the ability to "settle into" a movement very quickly, adapting to tempo and mood changes immediately. And, there are many complex rhythmic, intervallic and harmonic elements in this piece. We have our work cut out for us! The payoff is huge, however, so I know the singers will be rewarded for their efforts.
Tickets are $25. Visit www.stgeorgeschoralsociety.org to reserve tickets or for more information on this concert and the St. George’s Choral Society. For more info on singing with the group, go to www.stgeorgeschoralsociety.org/members_become.html.
Laura Daly is manager of marketing and artist relations for the St. George's Choral Society.