Julie Carter, a longtime fixture on the Fresno-area choral music scene, knew nine years ago she wanted to start a high-quality vocal ensemble in the Fresno area.
And she knew that when it comes to choral music in this community, there always are more interested and qualified women singers than men.
That’s why she founded an all-women’s choral ensemble.
But what to call it?
“I wanted the choir to bring glory to God through its music, though we sing both sacred and secular. So our name is Soli Deo Gloria, named after J.S. Bach, who signed many of his manuscripts with that phrase (“Glory only to God”).
We caught up via email with Carter, who teaches at Fresno Pacific University (and directs the Women’s Chorale there) and is the director of worship and music at First Presbyterian Church. She talked about Soli Deo’s Gloria’s “Songs of the Soul” concert on Friday, Nov. 20, which celebrates the holiday season.
Q: What do you consider some of the group’s achievements over the last eight years?
A: Several things come to mind:
▪ In only our third year we were accepted to participate in the California International Choral Festival in San Luis Obispo at Cal Poly. We received several awards.
▪ We are performing a concert at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on Feb. 19, 2016.
▪ Last year we performed Vivaldi’s “Gloria” with chamber orchestra, remaining true to Vivaldi’s original scoring for female voices and performed it in Fresno, Carmel and also at the Fresno Pacific Artist Series.
We have high commitment with very little turnover now from year to year; the group has steadily increased in its dedication to musical excellence and choral artistry and every singer is invested in the highest level of communication and execution of the text and music.
Q: Pick one song on the program and tell us about it in detail.
A: American composer Norman Dello Joio composed “A Jubilant Song” in 1946 set to Walt Whitman’s poem. It’s an exciting piece with difficult piano accompaniment. It’s through-composed (material doesn’t repeat) but is based on a specific motive heard first in the piano introduction then in the voices and piano in a variety of ways. This motive helps tie the piece together. Dello Joio has masterfully depicted the poem to the music. The singers exhort the listener to “listen to a jubilant song”; they joyously proclaim “our spirit sings a jubilant song that is to life full of music and harmony.” The piece slows and quiets in the middle reflecting on prophetic joys and lofty ideals. It ends with a rhythmic, pulsing, driving, piano accompaniment and dancing, exulting singing on “Listen to our song!
Q: Why does choral music go together so well with the holidays?
A: Music has the unique ability to touch us deeply on many levels. I think the holidays can be a time when music takes us back to fond memories and stirs our hearts. There is so much fabulous music tied to Christmas/the holidays – more so than any other time of year. Music becomes intertwined with those times.
Q: You feature the Yosemite Brass Quintet on the program. Tell us about it.
A: It is comprised of Jennifer Broussard and Evan Johnson on trumpet, Keith Pepper on horn, Braden Salvatore on trombone and Matthew Sanchez on tuba. Established in 2014, it continues to be a group of young and experienced musicians who want to spread good music in the Central Valley and promote music education.
Q: The ensemble has just 18 members. What are the advantages of a small choir?
A: Someone described our performance recently as a “sonic symphony.” The fact that we’re a small group enables the listener to really hear the purity of the musical phrasing, tonal beauty and vocal timbres. You can really connect with the singers! I’m excited about what we’re singing this Friday night. From the 16th century “Exultate Justi’ or Victoria’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” two varied arrangements of “Ave Maria,” or the “Magnificat” originally composed for Venice’s female orphanage chorus, to the 1946 setting of Walt Whitman’s “A Jubilant Song” and 21st century “Lux Aeterna,” Soli Deo Gloria sings about the promises of hope and joy delivered to all of mankind.
Soli Deo Gloria
- 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20
- University Presbyterian Church, 1776 E. Roberts Ave.
- www.brownpapertickets.com, 559-473-6486
- $15, $10 students and seniors