For this remarkable project, Richard Toensing composed an ambitious new a cappella work for Cappella Romana, requiring two choirs (24 singers), three male soloists (the Magi), treble and baritone duet (Christ), and soprano soloist (the Mother of God).
Entitled “The Kontakion of the Nativity of Christ,” Toensing set an English translation of the majority of the famous poetic sermon by St. Romanos the Melodist.
The 35-minute work will form the cornerstone of a new Christmas CD for future release.
In the week prior to the recording sessions, on Thursday, August 30, Cappella Romana’s donors and subscribers were treated to a free private open rehearsal, which featured not only a true working rehearsal to show how Cappella Romana prepares its programs, but also a complete performance of the Kontakion.
Here Dr. Alexander Lingas is shown addressing the crowd of donors and subscribers:
Following the rehearsal and performance, the audience was treated to a wine and cheese reception, hosted by Cappella Romana’s board of directors.
The ensemble completed recording Dr. Toensing’s magnum opus on Thursday night, September 6, at 12:30am (technically Friday morning) after three full nights of sessions to record this challenging but very beautiful, exhilarating and satisfying work. Producer Steve Barnett captured a bit of the ensemble’s mood in the following photograph of the ensemble, taken at 12:35am.
Front row: Wendy Steele, Amy Russell Cathey, Catherine van der Salm, Dr. Alexander Lingas, Dr. Richard Toensing (composer), LeaAnne DenBeste, Stephanie Kramer, Heather Roszczyk, Maria Karlin, Tuesday Rupp. Back row: Gayle Neuman, Aaron Cain, Linda Tsatsanis, Cahen Taylor, Ben Kinkley, Adam Steele, Daniel Burnett, Kristen Buhler, Les Green, Mark Powell, Stephen Marc Beaudoin, Dr. Virginia Hancock, Paul Sadilek, Melanie Downie Zupan, Jim Rose, Brian Francis, and David Krueger. Not shown: Blake Applegate, Kari Ferguson, David Stutz, Steve Barnett (producer), Bill Levey (engineer).
On Friday and Saturday nights, September 7 and 8, a smaller ensemble of 14 recorded a number of carols, also by Dr. Toensing, for inclusion on the future CD. Printed scores of these works (generally in no more than four parts) may be found here.
The recording sessions took place in St. Agatha Catholic Church in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland.
The project was made possible through the support of a small number of private donors and a major grant from the Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund.