Bel Canto chorus sings transcendant Russian works

By Michael Barndt

The Bel Canto chorus marked the 25th year of Music Director Richard Hynson’s tenure with an ambitious pair of Russian choral works at the St. Joseph Center Chapel on Sunday afternoon, March 10th.

BCC commissioned Russian-born Alexander Levine, now living in the United Kingdom, to write a new work for this occasion. At All Times, and At Every Hour is grounded in the passion of the Russian Orthodox faith. Traditional Orthodox prayers of praise and supplication, in English translation, fill the four sections.

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The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom CD Launch

Tenebrae made the Liturgy sound effortless, bringing a clarity and depth of sound, which belied the technical difficulties of such close singing. However this piece deserves to become a much performed edition to the choral repertoire.

Crotchet Classical, 10th March 2013

Bel Canto Chorus celebrates Hynson’s anniversary

By Elaine Schmidt, Special to the Journal Sentinel

Hynson and the Bel Canto Chorus were joined by the Bel Canto Boys Choir, prepared by director Ellen M. Shuler, as they opened the program with a work commissioned for this concert: “At All Times and At Every Hour” by Russian composer Alexander Levine.

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Comments from Richard Hynson, the conductor of the Bel Canto Choir, and members of the Choir on the performance of Prayers for Mankind

“…Did you notice how still and attentive the audience was? It was a long and challenging listen for them, but they, too, stayed focused and engaged as the prayers unfolded. Stacey Naffah’s eight-year-old son Jack told me that the concert “…felt like it lasted only one second…” he was so involved in the music. Time compressed for me as well. Did it FEEL like 75+ minutes of performing to you?”
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Prayers for Mankind Reviewed by John Quinn MusicWeb International

The Russian-born composer, Alexander Levine, who has lived in London since the early 1990s, has selected six of Father Men’s prayers and set them powerfully and prayerfully for a cappella chorus. He describes Men’s prayers as “a gem in the spiritual treasury of Mankind” and says of them: “contemporary in their language and in the problems they give voice to …[they] express in essence the expectations of every human being living on Earth.” Read More

Prayers for Mankind reviewed by Ivan Moody, Gramophone

Alexander Levine: “Prayers for Mankind” / Tenebrae

Signum Classics SIGCD212•DDD•T

…The texts, while they are permeated with reminiscences of the Byzantine liturgy, are very personal indeed, and for that reason Alexander Levine has been able to react to them in an equally personal fashion, being guided by the words and the emotional contours of the prayers. Read More

Prayers for Mankind

…Russian composer Alexander Levine  fashions a remarkable six-movement “choral symphony” for unaccompanied voices, which is given its premier recording on this CD… Read More

Prayers for Mankind, Tenebrae, Signum Classics

The subtitle of Russian-British composer Alexander Levine‘s Prayers for Mankind is “A Symphony of Prayers of Father Alexander Men.” In six contrasting movements lasting well over an hour, the designation of symphony is not inappropriate, even though the scoring is for a cappella chorus. Read More

War and Peace, GSMD, Barbican

It is not often you go to the theatre and get an orchestra thrown in: not providing cues for numbers but underscoring dialogue with a grand swell, like a soundtrack for the big screen. …Alexander Levine burgeons into an alternative expression of Tolstoy’s vision… 

Kate Bassett, The Times