Update on Sursum Corda - Kansas City choral opportunities and events
  • I have been contacted a number of times by forum readers, since my original post discussing Sursum Corda - my Kansas City-area polyphony ensemble. I've been meaning to post again for some time now to clarify what is going on with the choir.

    What is going on in Catholic choral music (especially polyphony) in NE Kansas? Not much beyond the regular parish level...that's why I started a choir! There are plenty of singers around who are too advanced to find a regular parish choir challenging, but not at a level where they could audition for a professional vocal ensemble. I am careful not to conflict with regular parish events and rehearsals, because I don't want to be 'stealing' singers from parishes. At the same time, we need choirs that are advanced enough to be challenging and musically rewarding for those more experienced parish singers. That's the particular niche I am trying to fill with Sursum Corda.

    We currently have 5 current and former music directors in the choir - part of the fun is banding together to accomplish music we could not do with our regular parish choirs. There are other limitations (i.e. political pressure) we can completely ignore because Sursum Corda is not connected to any one parish. The 'floating' regional choir (notice that it is not even the official 'archdiocesan choir') is my model for musical success in the current Catholic climate.

    Our first performances centered on the feast of Corpus Christi this past June. We sang the Byrd propers from the Gradualia, as well as the Palestrina Missa Lauda Sion and the Tallis O Sacrum Convivum. This was for the EF Mass at Old St Patrick's Oratory (Institute of Christ the King), on the external solemnity. On Sunday night, June 6th, we sang vespers (according to the new Liturgy of the Hours) in english, with extra polyphony around the edges.

    This fall our focus has been Spanish-Renaissance-Marian polyphony. Pieces include Guerrero's 6-part Tota Pulchra es, Morales 5-voice Ave Maria, Guerrero Magnificat Primi Toni, Victoria Alma Redemptoris Mater. Our events this fall are two sung vespers services - Dec. 4th at Most Pure Heart of Mary in Topeka and Dec. 12th at the St. Lawrence Center on the University of Kansas campus. A concert with higlights from our first year together is upcoming, on the 23rd of January at St. Michael in Leawood KS.

    Repertoire for the upcoming year is still TBA - I have to do a little planning dance each semester as we look for good feast days to sing for, or I find new opportunities in parishes. My general conclusion so far is that sung vespers is the best possible goal for a choir like this. It is still liturgical music - vespers is not a concert - however there is more flexibility with what we can do musically than there would be at either form of the Mass. In addition, vespers is virtually politics-free, because nobody knows what to expect from a vespers service. You can get an enthusiastic turnout from the parish, without even touching the issue of what music to use at Mass.

    After polyphony in the spring, Sursum Corda will be taking a radical break from the Renaissance. In the summer and fall, I will be conducting a larger (but still auditioned) archdiocesan choir in the organ/orchestra version of the Durufle Requiem. The rest of the program is TBA, but may include the complete Durufle (motets and Notre Pere) and open with Faure - Cantique de Jean Racine. I'm still debating whether this is too much Durufle...
    Rather than trying to juggle a Renaissance schola at the same time, I've asked Sursum Corda to step in in a leadership role.

    I think that gives a good picture of what we're up to. A website is under construction. In response to questions, I am always open for auditions - please contact me if you are interested either in Sursum Corda or in performing Durufle with the larger choir. We can always add to Sursum Corda - whenever I get two more good singers on a part we can move to the next level of complexity. Right now, with 12 singers, we stop at 6-part polyphony. Also, as with any choir, there is always some turnover.

    My contact info is:

    Jared Ostermann - jostermann84"at"gmail.com

    Thank you!