Journeying, seeking, discovering home — they’re all themes in the music for this weekend’s Tacoma Symphony Chorus concert, and appropriate enough as the choir prepares to take the program on tour to Europe this summer.
“Journey Home: Songs of Travel and Place” at Christ Episcopal Church on Friday (June 3) will feature music by American composers including Morten Lauridsen and Moses Hogan, and were chosen to represent American traditions and culture to Europeans.
“European audiences love hearing American music,” said director Geoffrey Boers, who will take the 40-member choir on tour. “Of course, they are immersed in the traditional repertoire, and although that is also important to us to sing, they prefer to hear American choirs sing our own music.”
The late-July tour includes concerts in Dubrovnik and Trogir cathedrals, as well as St. Jakov church in Opatija, Croatia, plus a monastery concert in Mostar, Bosnia, and a finale in Venice, Italy. It’s the fourth international tour for the chorus.
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The tour is an opportunity both to introduce European audiences to American composers and to explore very American themes of immigration and sense of home. Works include Northwest composer Lauridsen’s ethereal “Lux Aeterna,” Abbie Betinis’ “Journey Home,” Rollo Dilworth’s recent “I Dream a World,” and music from American traditions such as shape-note songs and a Moses Hogan arrangement of the spiritual “Ride On, King Jesus.” Only one item on the program is European: Schumann’s “Zigeunerleben,” which itself refers to the nomadic Gypsy (Roma) life.
And that’s deliberate, says Boers.
“Choral traditions in certain countries are rather provincial and feel that perhaps no (other) choirs … can do justice to the music of their own composers,” he says. “If we think of hearing choirs from other countries sing American music … we can understand that the accent might not be quite right, or the ‘feel’ of the style might not seem as natural or authentic. So too, we sound to them when singing Brahms or folk tunes from various countries.”
Instead, Boers likes the sound of a well-trained American choir singing words and music they’re supremely comfortable with, whether it’s classical, gospel or Broadway.
“We will often get the endearing unison clap after these songs — which is the audience asking for more,” says Boers.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, @rose_ponnekanti