The Capitol rotunda will be filled with the sounds of medieval chanting Sunday when Seattle’s Choral Arts Northwest performs Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers.”
“This work was written for that kind of space,” said Matthew Blegen of Union, the choir’s executive director. “It will be like bathing in the music rather than just listening to it.”
The concert, sponsored by St. John’s Episcopal Church, was originally scheduled for Oct. 16. It was postponed due to a predicted ice storm that never materialized.
It took a while to reschedule the performance, mostly because the rotunda has limited availability, Blegen said last week.
The choir’s singers — many of whom have graduate degrees in music — learn songs independently and then rehearse together for just a week before each performance, so this change is giving them the rare luxury of more time together.
“We’ll be dusting off this repertoire for the first time since October, and I have a suspicion that it will have grown on its own,” he said. “No matter how good you are, things are always better after they’ve had time to mature a bit.”
Sunday’s concert is believed to be the first Olympia performance of the complete “Vespers,” also known as “All Night Vigil.” Some have praised the piece as Rachmaninoff’s greatest achievement, and the composer asked that the fifth movement be sung at his funeral.
The piece, performed a cappella, will feature tenor soloist Leslie W. Green.
“It’s unusual and surprising and beautiful,” Blegen said. “It’s one of the premiere examples of choral orchestration — using the voices as instruments.”
“It’s an utterly exquisite piece,” said Warren Guykema of Des Moines, who organizes the St. John’s concert series with Curt Sather, St. John’s organist and choirmaster. “I lobbied them to do it here.”
Tackling such complicated material is nothing new for Choral Arts Northwest, whose next project is “But Who Shall Return Us Our Children: A Kipling Passion,” a world premiere oratorio for choir and chamber orchestra, composed by John Muehleisen of Seattle. The oratorio, to be performed March 24 and 25 in Seattle and Everett, tells of the death of John Kipling in battle during World War II and its profound effect on his parents, Rudyard and Carrie Kipling.
In December 2015, Choral Arts Northwest performed at the White House at a reception for the Democratic National Committee.
“It was an amazing adventure,” Blegen said.
The singers had a private meeting with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
“The Secret Service warned us, ‘OK, the Obamas are coming in, and there’s one thing you need to know about them: They’re huggers,’ ” Blegen said.
What: Seattle’s Choral Arts Northwest will sing “Vespers,” an a cappella piece that consists of settings of texts from the Russian Orthodox all-night vigil.
When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Washington State Capitol rotunda, 215 Sid Snyder Ave. SW, Olympia.
Tickets: $28, $24 for seniors and military, free for students.