The Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra will present a free concert featuring François Poulenc’s “Gloria” this Sunday at St. Joseph The Worker Church.
The program also includes J. Mueller’s “23.5 Degrees” and Ernst Bacon’s “Hymn to the United Nations” under the direction of Arlene Sagan. Sunday’s 4:30 p.m. show is the finale of a three-performance series at the church at 1640 Addison St. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
The selection of Poulenc’s “Gloria” (1959) for the concert is a tribute to Arlene Sagan for her 16 years of leadership of the Community Chorus and Orchestra. The piece is a late composition by the composer, who lived from 1899 to 1965, which consolidates a lifetime of musical influences and explorations.
“Gloria” is “remarkable not only for its wide range of emotions, from teasing impudence to pensive reverence, but for the sheer amount of material it packs into its 25 minutes,” according to critic Peter Gutmann. “Of grand scope and intensely human focus,” Poulenc’s masterpiece “reaches back at the very beginning to the past with a majestic and exciting fanfare, which immediately recedes into a warmer, richly harmonized register ... probing chords add a sense of quest ... as the chorus builds a rising affirmative figure over swirling strings.”
Poulenc debuted as one of “Les Six,” the group of French composers sponsored by Erik Satie, which also included Darius Milhaud, later resident at Mills College. Considered unusually melodic for an avant-gardist, Poulenc returned to Roman Catholicism in the 1930s, and commenced a new career as composer of sacred works from 1936, a surprise to those who considered him essentially a “boulevardier.”
Other choral and operatic works include “La Figure Humaine” (1943), concerning the French Resistance; “Les Mamelles de Tiresias” (1944), from the play by Guillaume Apollinaire; “La Voix Humaine,” from the play by Jean Cocteau, and “Dialogues des Carmelites” (1955). Cocteau hailed Poulenc as a composer who set poetry perfectly to music for singing—he set pieces by Cocteau himself, Apollinaire, Paul Eluard and Federico García Lorca.
Ernst Bacon, American composer (1898-1990), composed “Hymn to the United Nations” in 1951. Jerry Mueller, composer of “23.5 Degrees,” teaches music theory at San Francisco City College, where he founded the electronic music studio, an early music group and a composers’ collective. Besides choral works, Mueller has composed for piano and organ, sound tracks for short films and the incidental music for nine theater productions.
Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra presents Francois Poulenc’s “Gloria,” J. Mueller’s “23.5º,” Ernst Bacon’s “Hymn to The United Nations,” and other music highlights Sun., Dec. 18, 4:30 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. Admission is free; donations accepted. www.bcco.org.›