Bel Canto’s Next Performance Will Sing to the Heavens

The concert’s choral pieces will resonate throughout the Basilica of St. Josaphat.

Bel Canto’s upcoming concert, “Cathedral Music,” is as much about the space in which it’s performed as the music itself. The selection of pieces, which will be played on May 20 at the Basilica of St. Josaphat (2333 S. Sixth St.), was chosen with that vast, elaborately decorated place of worship in mind.  

“The Basilica is awe-inspiring,” says Richard Hynson, the music director of Bel Canto, a choral group which has been performing in Milwaukee for 91 years. “It enhances the sound, almost like being in the resonating chamber of an organ. … When you fill it with this extraordinarily rich sound, it can be almost an overwhelming experience.”  


 

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Hynson chose seven liturgical and religious choral pieces originally composed to be performed in a cathedral for this concert. The selections date from the 17th century, with Gregorio Allegri’s famous “Miserere Mei,” to 2012’s “Runatal” by Martin Romberg, a hymn to the Nordic god Odin that Hynson has never conducted before. 

“It’s primal-sounding, entirely different from every other piece we’re doing,” he says. The program also includes work by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff, and a contemporary piece, “Earth, Teach me Quiet” by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds. 

The concert marks the final performance in Bel Canto’s 2021-22 season. 

“People are coming out of this slow and isolated period. They’re hungry for the emotional expression and release that the arts provide,” Hynson says. “We need to experience that to be whole humans, and we’ve had to deny ourselves that social, artistic connection for so long.” 


In-person and virtual tickets for “Cathedral Music” are available at belcanto.org.


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s May issue.

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Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.