Encore Vocal Arts isn’t your ordinary stand-and-sing ensemble of 36 voices. Emerging from the long-standing Indianapolis Arts Chorale, programming for the newly renamed group moves “innovation and creativity” along paths not taken. Singing starts the journey, collaborative arts are fellow travelers and the audience is motivated to savor sights and sounds from multiple points of view. Performed in the grand sanctuary of the Zionsville United Methodist Church, a feeling of reverence pervaded.
Director Chris Ludwa intends to motivate and create community between groups that might not otherwise connect, while at the same time delivering a quality vocal music experience.
The combination of adult and youth voices added a different dimension for John Rutter’s moving Mass of the Children, here featuring the 81-member Zionsville Community Schools Choir Collaborative and a 23-member orchestra. The weight of adult voices presses into the innocence of children singing of God’s glory. The effect here is of a loss, an undercurrent of mourning for that innocence. Leah Crane and Christopher Johnson, as adult soprano and baritone soloists, equally colored the intentions of the standard mass into which Rutter interweaves texts from poetry, including William Blake’s “Little Lamb.”
Ludwa added slides to illustrate the worldliness of the text.
Rutter’s Mass premiered in 2003 and since has become a favorite of children’s choruses with its melodic flow, catchy rhythms and harmonies akin to pop. It is immediately accessible despite its religiosity. In an odd turn of programming, the Indianapolis Children’s Choir presented the same work at the Hilbert Circle Theatre April 13.
For Ralph Vaughan Williams’ sweeping Toward the Unknown Region, a trio of Susurrus dancers entered from the audience, moved up the aisles toward the altar, as if coming into the music and lyrics rather than the usual “evolving out of” interpretation ascribed to modern dance. It was a seamless blending of the Encore Vocal Arts, orchestra and Susurrus, advancing into “that unknown region” as a spiritual, aesthetic journey.
Art by students from Ben Davis High School was exhibited in the vestibule.