Rachmaninoff's 'Vigil' in new dramatic setting

Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff is best known for two wildly popular piano concertos, his sumptuous Second Symphony and some brilliant solo keyboard music. But if he had written nothing but the "All-Night Vigil," an unaccompanied choral work from 1915 also known as the "Vespers," Rachmaninoff would still rank among the greats.

This subtly powerful setting of texts from the Russian Orthodox liturgy will be performed by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society in an unusual presentation incorporating readings from Shakespeare, Chekhov and others.

"I think it can be difficult to listen to this work taken out of the context of a service," says Choral Arts music director Tom Hall. "The music purposely does not change dramatically from one movement to the next. My hope is that hearing the dramatic excerpts will give people a different way of considering these liturgical texts."

Naomi Greenberg-Slovin, the dramaturg at Everyman Theatre, researched non-liturgical readings that touch on many of the same themes in those liturgical texts. The readings, ranging from ancient Greek poetry to the 1960s play "A Man for All Seasons," will be done by Everyman resident actors Kyle Prue and Megan Anderson.

"This will be a theatrical performance," Halls says. "This will not be a worshipful environment. I think that using the theatrical art to shine a light on the music is worthy trying."

The concert is at 8 p.m. Saturday at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road in Towson. $25-$38. Call 410-523-7070 or go to baltimorechoralarts.org.

—Tim Smith

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