By Ed Kliszus

Maestro Kent Tritle and the Musica Sacra Chorus presented a remarkable evening of music at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. For those thirsting for a spiritual, uplifting musical event, hardly a better venue could be found than the Cathedral with its magnificent artists, space, and rich acoustics.

The concert featured works by women composers spanning eight centuries of music with English, German, and Latin texts. The extensive provenance of the works presented suggested a musical phylogeny, or evolution of liturgical music. While some of the composers lived in convents centuries ago and wrote liturgical music, two modern composers whose works were featured tonight, Kerensa Briggs and Rani Arbo were present and publicly recognized.

The program began with a pre-concert recital by the Newark Boys Chorus, directed by Donald C. Morris and accompanied by Dr. Brian P. Harlow. The bespoke ensemble sang several selections for the enthusiastic, appreciative audience. Marvelous indeed!

Most of the Musica Sacra Chorus’s offerings were performed a capella, an organic, intimate means of evoking a sense of transcendence and purity. The power of the voices and texts transported listeners towards virtual, mystical realms encompassed by emotive, spiritual experiences. The Chorus connected with the human experience in a way that transcends time and place, just as it inspired a diffusive synesthesia—evoking perceptions in multiple senses.

Kent Tritle Conducts Musica Sacra with composers (Front L-R) Kerensa Briggs and Rani Arbo. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Kent Tritle Conducts the Musica Sacra Chorus with composers (Front L-R) Kerensa Briggs and Rani Arbo. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Kent Tritle and Musica Sacra have once again brought important musical works to the forefront in an opulent setting with superb artists. Tritle’s conducting was expressive and precise, while the Chorus performed with an aplomb to which audiences have become accustomed. Listeners experienced glorious sweeps of sound, delicate shadings, impeccable clarity and vocal precision, superb blend, unerring expression, apposite dynamic range, ineffable artistry, and inspired interpretation. It was an awe-inspiring and memorable musical experience.

Musica Sacra ChorusA Multitude of Voyces

Kent Tritle, Music Director & Conductor

Michael Sheetz, Assistant Music Director

Margery Daley, Choral Contractor


Alma Redemptoris Mater – Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704)
Hear my prayer (New York Premiere) – Kerensa Briggs (b. 1991)
Stabat Mater – Sister Sulpitia Cesis (1577-c.1619)
Cessate tympany, cessate praelia – Maria Xaveria Peruchona (c.1652-p.1709)
Komm susser Tod – Ethyl Smyth (1858-1944)
Lord, now lettest thou (Nunc dimittis) – Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Crossing the Bar – Rani Arbo (b. 1968)
Jesu, meine Freude – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Blessed be! – Melanie DeMore (b. 1955)
We Shall Walk Through the Valley – Negro Spiritual Arr. Undine Smith Moore (1904-1989)


Soprano – Chloe Holgate, Amy Justman, Nola Richardson, Elisa Singer Strom, Elizabeth van Os
Alto – Phillip Cheah, Tracy Cowart, Heather Petrie, Clifton Massey
Tenor – Brian Giebler, John Ramseyer, Michael Steinberger
Bass – Joseph Beutel, Dominic Inferrera, Neil Netherly, Gregory Purnhagen

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine 1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th Street) New York, NY 10025 (212) 316-7540 For upcoming  concerts, click here or go to

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Kent Tritle in Concert,  Light of Paradise with Kent Tritle, the American Classical Orchestra presents Healing Bach, MasterVoices performs at Central Synagogue, and Drinking in America.