Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Festival of Sacred Music at Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja is an icon in Reykjavik and a temple not only of worship to God but to music. Over the last few years we have enjoyed many concerts and performances at the church so when we learned that American virtuoso organist Douglas Cleveland would be performing at the 13 Arts (Kirkjulistahátíð), we jumped at the opportunity to support it.  The opening ceremony witnessed magnificent performances by the Schola Cantorum, the Festival String Ensemble, and Douglas Cleveland as well as a haunting dance by Sigríður Soffía Níelsdottir. The performance that stunned everyone was one of the doves released by Sigríður Soffía which landed on Mary’s head and stayed put until the end of the performance.

Douglas Cleveland’s uplifting performance

The next day we attended an unforgettable performance by Douglas Cleveland, who hails from Reykjavík’s sister city Seattle. He selected pieces that demonstrated both his range and versatility. The program began with Mozart’s Fantasia in F Minor; a piece of impossible complexity originally written for a music box inside a clock. He followed it with Prelude and Fughe in E-Flat Major by C. Saint Saens, and with Kairos by Pamela Decker which one could easily imagine as the music that accompanied the creation of the cosmos. He closed the program with Elegy by Ken Yuki and Sonata No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 42 by A. Guilmant.   Both of these were at once overwhelming and exhilarating.

Douglas will be performing again on Thursday when he teams with two trumpet players, Stephen Burns from Chicago and Baldvin Oddsson. They will perform pieces by Telemann, Nicholaus Bruhns, James Stephenson, Louis Marchand, and Vivaldi.