The Palm Beach ArtsPaper ran a glowing review of Seraphic Fire’s world premiere performance of “The Hope of Loving.”
The United States has a long, rich choral music tradition that extends from the Moravians to William Billings, from spirituals to Morten Lauridsen. And now there are a number of prominent younger composers diligently adding to this repertoire.
Minnesota-based Jake Runestad, who is only 29, is among these creators, and his new cantata, The Hope of Loving, had its world premiere this past week as the Miami concert choir Seraphic Fire opened its 14th season with performances in Miami-area venues, Fort Lauderdale and Naples.
Runestad’s 15-minute piece, written for chorus and string quartet, was accompanied brilliantly by four members of the New York period-ensemble orchestra The Sebastians, and tastefully and beautifully sung by the choir under the direction of its founder, Patrick Dupré Quigley.
Composed to texts by mystics and saints from various centuries and traditions, The Hope of Loving is organized as six separate but continuous pieces, five for the chorus or soloists, and one for the string quartet alone. Its texts are thoughtful aphorisms about the power of love, and the work’s title is taken from the last of them, by the 13th-century German theologian Meister Eckhart.
Runestad has a natural lyric gift, and a pronounced ability to write effectively for the human voice. His music is firmly in the neo-Romantic style that draws much of its harmonic vocabulary from pop and jazz traditions, a style that has become the lingua franca of contemporary composers who write primarily along melodic lines.
And so, The Hope of Loving went down prettily and easily, particularly in the fifth and sixth movements, when the full chorus was brought to bear in expansive fashion, opening up in lush vocal terracing as Eckhart’s words spoke of life made bearable only by “the hope of loving, of being loved.” Tenor Patrick Muehleise was the charming soloist in the brief third movement, “Wondrous Creatures,” and soprano Sarah Moyer and bass James Bass blended admirably in the fifth-movement duet, “My Soul Is a Candle.”
Violinist Nicholas DiEugenio was particularly fine in his role as first violinist, displaying a dark, intense sound that fit Runestad’s heart-on-sleeve music well. The audience Saturday night at All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale gave the work a warm ovation, and Quigley and Seraphic Fire deserve credit for commissioning a work whose expert instrumental and vocal writing and clear, sincere message should earn it a place on imaginative choral programs.