Charles Bruffy took Westport to new heights with Phoenix and KC Chorales last night
The Kansas City and Phoenix Chorales, Charles Bruffy conducting
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Redemptorist Church, Kansas City
Friday, May 23, 2014
A mostly older audience eagerly stormed into the pews of the beautiful Our Lady of Perpetual Help Redemptorist Church in Westport last night, cutting a wedding rehearsal’s reserved time in the powder blue and white nave and altar short. They came to be transported by Bruffy’s masterful conducting and the angelic voices of two Grammy Award-winning chorales: The Phoenix Chorale and Kansas City’s own.
Expectations were palpably high as singers filed onto the dias and excited applause broke out when chorale director Charles Bruffy stepped into view. A defining feature of Bruffy’s conducting style is his ear for perfection, which was apparent in his perfect elocution as he introduced himself and gave some background on Rachmaninoff and the piece the audience was about to experience, the All-Night Vigil. Standing as Russia’s crowning achievement in Orthodox choral music, the All-Night Vigil is a marathon arrangement – it’s meant to be sung all the way through, no breaks. In preparation, Bruffy led the audience in two guided breaths, which at first seemed silly, but immediately became necessary as the chorals exploded into song with “Come, Let Us Worship.”
That newly acquired breath was stolen from the packed house as the church pulsated with the hymn. Crescendos swelled with emotion as the soprano and tenor section raised the melody to the uppermost reaches of the vault. Decrescendos expanded across the nave and lingered in the recesses of the transepts. The drama of the first piece set the bar high, promising an unforgettable evening of brilliant Russian canticles.
Bruffy seemed to almost pull the music out of the chorale members. His gestures were gentle, almost tender, and grew with intensity as he signaled the powerhouse altos and bass sections to ascend the audience to aural orgasm in “Having Beheld the Resurrection” and “My Soul Magnifies the Lord.” Frank Fleschner’s exquisite tenor and Julia Scozzafava’s exceptional mezzo soprano solos showcased two of the KC Chorale’s world-class voices. Bruffy would stack the sections, let the melody swirl around the space in sublimity, and then proceed to drop the bottom out by engaging the bass section, where the rockstar baritones would emit impossibly low notes to bring each piece to a throbbing finish.
Kansas City witnessed an unforgettable performance of epic magnitude in Westport last night. The acoustics in the church brought Rachmaninoff to life and the 90-minute show seemed all too short. The magic sustained as Bruffy kept the chorales engaged for a length of time after he brought the last piece “To Thee, the Victorious Leader” to a close. The last vestiges of Rachmoninoff echoed in everyone’s ears as every pew sprang to their feet for a well-deserved standing ovation, applauding Bruffy, the chorales, and Kansas City itself – recognized for fostering such a vibrant culture for the performing arts.
I. Come, Let Us Worship
II. Bless the Lord, O My Soul
III. Blessed is the Man
IV. Gladsome Light
V. Lord, Now Lettest thou
VI. Rejoice, O Virgin
VII. The Six Psalms
VIII. Praise the Name of the Lord
IX. Blessed Art Thou, O Lord
X. Having Beheld the Resurrection
XI. My Soul Magnifies the Lord
XII. The Great Doxology
XIII. The Troparion “Today Salvation Has Come”
XIV. The Troparion “Thou Didst Rise from the Tomb”
XV. To Thee, the Victorious Leader