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Classic songs get modern treatments

The all-male ensemble de Profundis will give a holiday concert this afternoon.
The all-male ensemble de Profundis will give a holiday concert this afternoon.
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Listen for percussionist Sean Umstead playing pitched pipes – and even a hub cap – in the vocal work “Gaudete”.

It’s only four minutes long but David Poole thinks of it as the centerpiece of de Profundis’ holiday concert. Umstead, a University of New Mexico student, is the accompanist in the piece.

“The juxtaposition of ancient, lyrical tune and the modern treatment is very riveting,” said Poole, the artistic director of the all-male Albuquerque vocal ensemble.

If you go
WHAT: de Profundis
WHEN: 3 today
WHERE: Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 114 Carlisle SE
HOW MUCH: $15 general public, $12 seniors, $10 students, those 12 and under are free. Tickets in advance at www.depro.org or at the door

Last year, Michael Engelhardt arranged the 16th-century Dutch tune, which is from a collection of sacred tunes.

“It’s an arrangement that’s so original. He’s modernized it with very interesting percussion. It’s very edgy, raw, metallic percussion, and with different pitched pipes,” Poole said.

The text of “Gaudete” is, broadly speaking, in praise of the Nativity. It is sung in Latin.

The work opens today’s concert at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, which is titled “These Beads: Carols and Original Music Celebrating Our Human Bonds.”

The title refers to a 2006 song on the program by Clyde Thompson that carries the same name.

“The text is distinctive,” Poole said.

“It is the words of Chief Como of the Potawatomi Nation that he spoke in ratifying a treaty with George Washington. It talks about how we are brothers. (Como) said these beads are a road between us, how he tends this road every day and how our children walk as brothers.”

These are some of the other works on the program:

♦ Franz Biber’s “Ave Maria,” which Poole said is one of the most beloved pieces in the choral repertoire.

♦ Three pieces by Robert Kyr – “Good People All,” “Sir Christemas” and “Balulalow,” all from a set called “Carols Ancient and New.”

“They are old texts but Kyr’s style is modern. They’re surprising, dissonant and unpredictable,” Poole said.

♦ “Haramee” by Joseph Jennings. It’s intended to celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

♦ “A Stable Lamp is Lighted” by David Conte, based on a poem by Richard Wilbur. Poole said the lyrics reimagine the Christmas story and its cosmic implications.

♦ “Tiny Child” by Marian Harrison. “It’s disjointed but a very brilliant composition with woodblock accompaniment,” Poole said.

♦ William Billings’ “Peace Be on Earth, An Anthem on Sundry Scriptures.” Billings was an American composer, writer and theologian.

“It’s bold, audacious and very inconventional. It’s infused with the spirit of revolutionary America,” Poole said. “At six minutes, it’s the longest piece on the program. It’s almost like a mini-cantata.”

Amy Woolley is the featured piano accompanist.

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