The overall theme of Clerestory’s 2015–16 season, the season marking its tenth anniversary, has been that of light. They began this past September with a program entitled Brightest Lights. Over the course of ten years, the nine-man a cappella vocal ensemble built up a rich repertoire, covering a wide diversity of genres and styles and reaching chronologically from the Renaissance to the immediate present. Brightest Lights was based on a poll of past audience members asked which of the many pieces in the repertoire they would like to hear again. Brightest Lights was then followed in November by Holiday Lights, launching the Christmas season with an all-British program coupling traditional selections with new works by Jonathan Dove and Bob Chilcott.
At the beginning of next month, Clerestory will close out its tenth anniversary season with a program entitled New Lights. As the title suggests, all the selections will be contemporary; and, to complement the Holiday Lights program, all of the composers will be American. However, the text sources, all of which involve reflections on the theme of light, will have an international scope. The overall plan for the program was to offer selections of luminous and exciting music by American composers, some of whom have become close friends of Clerestory over the course of the group’s first decade of making music.
In the international vein of the text sources, Ben Bachmann’s contribution to the program will be “At All Times” a setting of an English translation of a poem by the Sufi mystic Rumi. On the prose side Eric Banks has chosen to set the words of the Dalai Lama. The most explicit reference to the theme of the season will come from Jan Gilbert’s setting of Rabindranath Tagore’s “Light.” Gilbert chose to set this setting in the improvisatory “alap” style. The poem itself is from Tagore’s collection Song Offerings, written in Bengali; but it is likely that he provided his own English translation. The program will also include the California premiere of “God of Owls” by Abbie Betinis.
The San Francisco performance of New Lights will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 5. The program will run just over an hour with no intermission. As with past San Francisco performances, the venue will be St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. They may be purchased in advance through an Eventbrite event page.