Concert Review

SunBreak Review of Venice in the North

Venice in the North

“Russian music for most of us tends to be romantic, often orchestral, always rich; or else, as sung by Cappella Romana, chant sung in distinctive style, often monophonic, serious church music. Last Friday night’s concert at St. Mark’s Cathedral was a complete change from what we have come to expect from this group. … Baroque in style, cheerful, upbeat music in beautiful polyphony filled the cathedral. Thirteen singers plus conductor/tenor Alexander Lingas brought their trademark purity of sound, no vibrato, to the performance. … These pieces were rhythmically steady, usually in a beat of four, and only rarely a run, a group of eighth notes, a dotted rhythm or a word emphasized in a melismatic phrase, yet they were anything but dull. … It was originally performed at the Utrecht Early Music Festival in the Netherlands last year, one of two the group was asked to perform with the theme of “La Serenissima: Venice.” Cappella Romana will perform the second one here at the end of next year’s concert series and if it is anything like this first one, something not to miss for the sheer beauty of it.” —Philippa Kiraly, The SunBreak

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Early Music America: Reveling in Byzantine Chant

Philippa Kiraly has published a wonderful feature including reviews and interviews with Mark Powell and Alexander Lingas in honor of our 25th Season, as well as a preview of our upcoming Hagia Sophia “Icons of Sound” recording:

“Cappella Romana opened its 25th season in October in Seattle and Portland with “Icons of Sound: Byzantine Chant from Hagia Sophia.” Enhanced by the reverberant acoustics of Seattle’s St. James Cathedral, the sound of early Byzantine church music created a hypnotic effect as eight men — more than half of them Greek Orthodox cantors — and five women sang music from scholarly editions, much of it prepared by the singers themselves.…

“The sound created by Cappella Romana’s men singing early chant is like nothing heard elsewhere. There’s an initial firm start to phrases that seems almost to come from under the note, though it doesn’t. There’s a rich resonance, a strongly cored, open sound with a lot of depth, and no vibrato. The music often has a limited range, spanning not much more than an octave, while its highly ornamented melodies are usually sung over one or more drones that indicate the tetrachord (a four-note range) of the mode in use. When you hear the ensemble, it only takes a few measures to know that this is Cappella Romana.…

“Participation since 2010 in Cappella Romana’s ongoing Stanford Research Project — from which the October concert was a natural offshoot — had the choir heading to San Francisco immediately after the Hagia Sophia concert. “Icons of Sound: Aesthetics and Acoustics of Hagia Sophia” was a collaboration between Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics and the Department of Art and Art History.

The aim was to use real-time digital signal processing to synthesize the acoustics of Hagia Sophia itself. In Istanbul, the Stanford crew was allowed only to work in the middle of the night. They popped balloons in Hagia Sophia, measuring the reverberation times and signal response at all frequencies around the cathedral, capturing this information into their computers, and bringing the results back to Stanford. Cappella Romana’s part was to sing while wearing tiny microphones on their foreheads in Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall, with the signals processed and distributed to an array of 24 loudspeakers distributed throughout the hall. “I was prepared for it to sound fake,” says Powell, “but it sounded and felt like the real thing.”

The resulting Cappella Romana CD will likely come out in 2017, adding to its catalog of more than 20 recordings. To get a taste of the ensemble’s distinctive and unmistakable sound, go to YouTube to find dozens of excerpts.…” —Philippa Kiraly, Early Music America

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Smithsonian Magazine Features Icons of Sound

Our “Icons of Sound” concert and collaboration with Stanford University gets a fantastic feature in the Smithsonian Magazine:

“Hagia Sophia, a former church and mosque, is an important part of Istanbul’s long history. Who knew its sublime sound could be transferred to Stanford? Twice in the past few years, Stanford scholars and scientists have worked to digitally recreate the experience of being in Hagia Sophia when it was a medieval church. Collaborating with choral group Cappella Romana, they digitally recreated the former holy building’s acoustics, and performed medieval church music in the university’s Bing Concert Hall as if it was Hagia Sophia. Their efforts are part of a multi-year collaboration between departments at Stanford that asks the question: can modern technology help us go back in time? … The music that Cappella Romana performs is historical Christian music. Much of their work for the Hagia Sophia project has not been heard in centuries, writes Jason Victor Serinus for Stanford’s events blog. It certainly hasn’t been performed in the former church in all that time. … There’s no substitute for being there, as the saying goes. But since it’s impossible to travel back in time to be present at a tenth-century church service, this is maybe the next best thing.” —Kat Eschner, Smithsonian Magazine

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25th Anniversary Season Opens This Weekend!

Cappella Romana 25th Anniversary Season

Cappella Romana 25th Anniversary Season

This Weekend: Opening Concerts of Cappella Romana’s 25th Anniversary Season!

Orthodox Music: Ancient & Modern

A reprise of Cappella Roman’s debut performance, which was given in 1991! The program includes selections from Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, rarely heard Byzantine chants from Constantinople, and Greek American choral works.

25th Anniversary Features in the News!

Pre-Concert Talk

Alexander Lingas
Orthodox Music & the Concert Hall: Some Reflections on the Last 25 Years
Dr. Alexander Lingas, Cappella Romana Founder and Artistic Director

Free 30-minute talks given one hour prior to each performance

Friday 23 September, 7:30pm
St. James Cathedral

Saturday 24 September, 4:00pm
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral


A Night on the Aegean: 25th Anniversary Gala

Following Orthodox Music: Ancient & Modern the opening performance of Cappella Romana’s 2016-17 Season

Friday, September 23, 2016
St. James Cathedral
804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

Saturday, September 24, 2016
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
147 NW 19th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209

Unable to be there in person?

Make a gift today in honor of our 25th Anniversary:

And follow along throughout the weekend with the #CR25 hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Il Giornale Della Musica Reviews Utrecht Early Music Festival

An Utrecht Early Music Festival mention for Cappella Romana in the Italian outlet Il Giornale Della Musica:

“The connection of the Republic of Venice with the Adriatic, and more generally, Mediterranean, world was well represented by an interesting concert of the ensemble Cappella Romana, directed by Alexander Lingas, centered on the presence of the liturgical Byzantine chant and the affinity between the Easter services in Greek and in Latin rites.”

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Utrecht Early Music Festival Review


“For centuries Venice was politically and economically one of the most important centers of Europe, which led to a multitude of relations, for instance to the East and its dominant Byzantine culture. Due to political developments residents of eastern areas also settled in Venice, including Greeks who took their own version of the Christian faith and the accompanying liturgy with them. Cappella Romana, directed by Alexander Lingas, sang a programme with chants in Latin and in Byzantine Greek that in terms of pronunciation is more akin to modern Greek then to its classical version. The programme was divided into four chapters: Crucifixion and Deposition, Resurrection, Eucharist Songs and Hymns to the Mother of God. It revealed both the similarities and the differences. A striking feature of the Byzantine hymns are the long melisma’s which explains that pieces on a rather short text still can take quite much time. The last part of the programme included a passage with a vocalise on “terererere”; these meaningless syllables are termed teretismata and make their appearance in Byzantine manuscripts since the 14th century. Such a passage may actually be extended or shortened at will. This repertoire is particularly fascinating and largely unknown. Cappella Romana has specialized in this kind of music and recently released a CD with liturgical music from Cyprus. The style of singing is somewhat reminiscent of that of sacred music in the Russian Orthodox tradition, with an important role for the lower voices. In this concert women also participated but their role was relatively limited. The acoustics of the St Willibrordkerk was perfect for this repertoire. The performances of the Cappella Romana were extremely impressive.” —Johan van Veen, musica Dei donum

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Festival de Namur: Time Travel With Cappella Romana

Many thanks to Kerry McCarthy for translating this wonderful review from Crescendo Magazine! Click here to read the original review.


Festival de Namur: Time Travel With Cappella Romana

By Aline Giaux, IMEP reporter

Cappella Romana: Cyprus, dir. Alexander Lingas

Cappella Romana gave an extraordinary concert this Monday, July 4, at the Namur Festival. This chamber ensemble from the west coast of the United States (Portland, Oregon) offered a selection of medieval and renaissance Cypriot music, combining the polyphonic Christian songs of the Greek East and the Latin West. These specialists in their field highlighted the creative richness of the era as well as the diversity of Orthodox and Catholic music. The program was a joy for musicologists and sparked the interest of all through the magic of the surroundings and the performance. Since these chants require more reverberant acoustics than that of the church of Saint-Loup in Namur, the festival relocated temporarily to the abbey church of Floreffe. The room was set up so that the listeners were turned toward the back of the church, where they could see part of the Chagall exhibition (which continues until October 2.) In this way, they were able to benefit from both a large acoustical space and an intimate physical space.

Although the program was very specialized, it was anything but monotonous. On the contrary, it took us by the hand and plunged us into a universe which we would never have imagined to be so interesting. The vocal drone, steady and mesmerizing, seemed to perfume the air with incense and myrrh as complex and ornamented phrases rubbed against it. The voices mingled and rejoined, often in a stunning fashion. The most puzzling detail for the modern ear was doubtless the use of an unequal temperament, creating harmonic colors that are rarely heard nowadays. Recall that equal temperament, the division of the octave into 12 equal semitones, did not become popular until the baroque era, simplifying the tuning of certain instruments but leading to the loss of the “colors” specific to each tonality. The ten singers, with their rich and firmly anchored timbre, showed great expertise in sustaining a completely a cappella concert, with a beautiful cohesion at the heart of the group and a presence which kept the audience holding their breath until the end. A discovery we will not forget.

Cappella Romana will return to Liège for the Nuits de Septembre with their program “Venice in the East” (on September 3 at the Church of St. Denis.)

Frozen Music Reviews

Aalto Library

Reviews from our “Frozen Music” concert with Third Angle New Music:
Aalto Library

The Oregonian

“The transition from Lindberg’s dense, hectic music, performed in the auditorium off the library, to the sounds presented in the library proper symbolized the passage from outside world to sanctuary. … The atmosphere was one of appropriately reverential, quiet cacophony.” —James McQuillen

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Northwest Reverb

“Eventually, the members of Capella Romana gathered in the center of the library for the recitation of the Gregorian Chants. I expected a lot from that ensemble and was not disappointed. The members performed the chants with a lovely tone. The concert concluded with the Rautavaara’s “The Lord’s Prayer” for mixed choir, which featured exquisite balance and faultless intonation. Given the library’s fine acoustics and spiritual nature of the work, the conclusion to the concert was most moving.” —James Bash

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Benjamin Tissell Reviews Rachmaninoff All-Night Vigil

A wonderful heartfelt review of our Rachmaninoff All-Night Vigil concert from artist Benjamin Tissell:

“…it was with great relish that I spent last Saturday night trying to finagle my way into a choir concert for the student price. The choir was Cappella Romana, one of the best around. The piece was Rachmaninoff’s “All Night Vigil” or “Vespers”, which is one I return to again and again. Eight rows back in the breathtaking St. Mary’s Cathedral, I sat alone. I was tired down to my bones and craving a slice of beauty, like we all do on our most run down days. And for once I was seeking it in the right place. … The “All Night Vigil” is not new to me. At least once a week it plays as the background music in my office. So I was surprised to find myself moved (deeply moved) from the first chord. It hit me in the chest, I felt stomach drop, and my breathing changed as the music washed over. I wept quietly. So did my neighbor and the man behind me. It has been a long time since I was so moved by music. A few minutes in, I closed my program, stopped following the translation, and shut my eyes. I spent the whole evening that way.” —Benjamin Tissell

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CityArts Reviews Seattle Rachmaninoff Concert

CityArts critic Philippa Kiraly reviews Cappella Romana’s Rachmaninoff All-Night Vigil performance in Seattle:

“This wasn’t a requiem, but the beautiful All-Night Vigil of Sergei Rachmaninoff was highly appropriate to the day (9/11), the occasion and the cathedral, and perfectly suited to Cappella Romana. … The Vigil is replete with colors, rhythms, textures and emotion, creating a tapestry which feels sacred and often solemn. Bailey drew a masterly performance from the choir, with the Rev. Nicholas Denysenko singing the Deacon, who leads in solo chants. The caliber of the singing, strong with rare, minimal vibrato and spot-on pitch, created pure harmonies which soared through the cathedral, while Bailey elicited expressive phrasing that enhanced every detail of the text’s meaning. … The soloists of the choir deserve mention for their movingly beautiful work: alto Kerry McCarthy, tenors Nicholas Ertsgaard, Leslie Green and David Hendrix, and bass John Michael Boyer who sang the Priest. … St. James Cathedral felt the right venue for this, and a large audience gathered to hear this profoundly moving work. At the end, after the applause, the choir sang a brief coda: a prayer in English for the dead of 9/11, sung in the same style to a standard Western melody used for funerals in the church. It felt fitting.” —Philippa Kiraly, CityArts

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