Four local choirs will strive to join Heaven and Earth together this weekend. In song, anyway.
The Durango Choral Society will play ringmaster for a vocal extravaganza that also includes Tellurides Renaissance Singers, the Fort Lewis College Chamber Choir and the Durango Womens Choir for two concerts.
An early highlight will be the Womens Choirs premiere of A Song of Grace, by Linda Rice Beck, who will attend both concerts. Then it will get loud, as the combined choirs will sing in the round, surrounding the audience, for two Russian Gems.
The first of the final two works is Rachmanifnoffs Bogoroditse Devo. Afterward, will be the finale, Bortnianskys Cherubic Hymn. About 125 singers will ring the audience for the Russian numbers.
Bogoroditse Devo is probably the best known of Rachmaninoffs Vespers cycle, the common name of his All Night Vigil.
It was composed during the last period when sacred music was still legal until the Revolution of 1917. The result is a liturgical sound with all the power of Rachmaninoffs signature sound, and the piece should be right at home at First United Methodist Church.
The Ukrainian Dmitry Stepanovich Bortnianskys entry also is unmistakably religious in tone.
He composed in many different musical genres and styles, including choral compositions in French, Italian, Latin, German, Church Slavonic and Russian.
In 1882, Pyotr Tchaikovsky edited the liturgical works of Bortniansky, which were published in 10 volumes.
The Cherubic Hymn is the primary cherubikon, or song of the angels, sung during every Divine Liturgy of the year after the Gospel reading except those of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday.
The tune Bortniansky wrote for the Latin hymn Tantum Ergo eventually became known in Slavic lands as Kol Slaven, in which form it is still sung as a Christmas carol today.
It traveled to English-speaking countries and is now known as Russia, St. Petersburg or Wells.
In Germany, the song became a well-known chorale and traditional part of the military ceremony of the German army, rendered as an honor for distinguished persons on special occasions.
Before the October revolution in 1917, the tune was played by the Moscow Kremlin carillon every day at midday.
James Blish, who novelized many episodes of the original series of Star Trek, noted in one story, Whom Gods Destroy, that Bortnianskys Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe was the theme to which all Starfleet Academy classes marched to their graduation.