His Majestie's Clerkes | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

His Majestie's Clerkes 

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HIS MAJESTIE'S CLERKES

In 1993 Frank Ferko wrote a set of motets for His Majestie's Clerkes that were based on the works of the 12th-century German abbess Hildegard von Bingen. They displayed not only erudition but a keen understanding of how elastic music should be in conveying the meaning of a text, as they adroitly updated the religious sentiments of a medieval genre. Ferko has immersed himself in early music, most of it liturgical, since studying music at Valparaiso University in the 70s and at Northwestern University a decade later. Yet he has gravitated toward French composers from the first half of this century for stylistic inspiration, and like Poulenc and Messiaen, he uses a grab bag of idioms and striking colors to accentuate moods and feelings. Now he has written an eclectic work for the 24-voice a cappella Clerkes, a Stabat Mater, the devotional poem that describes Mary's grief as she watches her son being crucified. In Ferko's version the voices thicken and swell into anguished climaxes, then smoothly thin out for a moment of lament. This intricate, 45-minute-long work is sure to test the Clerkes' stamina, but the ensemble is disciplined, poised, and extraordinarily flexible. The guest soloist is soprano Rauquaia Hale Wallace, who grew up in Cabrini-Green and has a voluminous, lustrous voice. Saturday, 8 PM, Immanuel Lutheran Church, 616 Lake, Evanston, next Saturday, February 27, 8 PM, St. Procopius Abbey Church, 5601 College, Lisle, and next Sunday, February 28, 3 PM, St. James Chapel, Quigley Preparatory Seminary, 103 E. Chestnut; 312-461-0723. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Frank Ferko and Rauquaia Hale-Wallace uncredited photos.

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