Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Archdiocesan Festival Choir Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Published April 12, 2012

The Archdiocesan Festival Choir of Atlanta will celebrate its 10th anniversary concert on Saturday, April 21.

The concert will feature music from its previous seasons and will be highlighted by the Festival Choir’s first performance of Giovanni da Palestrina’s “Missa Brevis.”

“Now the Festival Choir has become a part of the musical fabric of the diocese,” said founding member Quentin Van Meter. “In addition to our annual concerts, we have taken part in dozens of liturgies for the archdiocese like the Eucharistic Congress, and permanent diaconate ordinations, and we were honored to present a program for the Southeast Liturgical Music Symposium last year. The music we strive to make challenges our esthetic needs while at the same time enriches our spiritual connection to the liturgy.”

Jean Nash, of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Smyrna, said, “It’s a whole lot of fun!”

In 2002, forming a choir of musicians from around the archdiocese seemed like an unreachable dream. The size of the diocese and the time commitment that such a choir would require from busy music ministers had always seemed too great an obstacle to overcome. But during the last 10 years, in spite of the constraints of time and distance, Catholic musicians from more than 30 parishes, from downtown Atlanta to Cumming and from Peachtree City to Covington, have gathered together to bring voice and substance to this dream.

The music of this year’s concert is diverse and could be said to represent the greatest hits of the Festival Choir’s previous 10 years.

This concert will represent the church’s great tradition. The program will traverse the music of the church beginning with Medieval Gregorian chant as well as touching on the music of the Spanish and English Renaissance with works by Victoria and Tallis. The Italian Baroque master Antonio Vivaldi will be represented, as well as diverse settings of “Ave Maria” compositions by 19th-century composers. French masterworks by late 19th-century composers Faure and Durufle will take their place alongside 20th-century settings of ancient Latin texts.

Of note is the fact that the featured work on the program, “Missa Brevis,” will be the first complete polyphonic setting of the Mass that the choir has sung.

Palestrina (1525-1594) was highly regarded and much published in his lifetime. He began his career in his hometown, but in 1551 he became choirmaster of the papal choir and remained in Rome, composing and directing for all the major churches of the city, for 43 years. His prodigious compositional output is comprised of at least 104 attributable Masses, over 375 motets, 68 offertories, 65 hymns, 35 Magnificats and five sets of Lamentations.

The “Missa Brevis” is one of his most frequently sung Masses and has an immediacy of melodic appeal and a notable clarity of texture. A transparently beautiful work, “Missa Brevis” is considered to be one of the finest settings of the Mass text of any period.

For this special anniversary concert, the Festival Choir invited Atlanta conductor David Brensinger to lead them. Brensinger was for 15 years the artistic director and conductor of the Atlanta Singers, the city’s premiere a cappella vocal ensemble.  He is director of music at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta, and his choirs have been heard in live and broadcast performances, locally, regionally and nationally.  He has also been a frequent guest artist with the Atlanta Symphony choruses.

The concert will be presented in the worship space at Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, 2855 Briarcliff Road, Atlanta. This beautiful church, dedicated in 2009, has one of the best acoustics in the archdiocese and a magnificent pipe organ that will provide the perfect sacred environment for this musical celebration.