Laura Lane, longtime director of Nova Singers, has been looking forward to this weekend’s concerts for over two years.

The 19-member choir opens its 2022-23 season with two performances of A Procession Winding Around Me, Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at First Lutheran Church, 364 E. Water St., Galesburg, and Sunday, Oct. 9 at 4 p.m. at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 2136 Brady St., Davenport.

Classical guitarist Angelo Favis will accompany the ensemble as they explore the unique sound of choir and guitar.  This concert includes Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Romancero gitano, a musical snapshot of flamenco culture in southern Spain. 

Classical guitarist Angelo Favis teaches at Illinois State University.

“I am thrilled to be able to feature Angelo Favis, whose skill and expressiveness on the guitar are truly extraordinary,” Lane said. “Every moment of this music is unique and beautiful!”

A Procession Winding Around Me is utterly gorgeous and deeply moving.  Romancero is a delight for the ears, with its sweet melodies and lush harmonies,” she said. “It’s also full of fantastic rhythms, as the composer evokes a variety of flamenco-style dances from Andalusia, Spain. The audience will love hearing the solo voices that soar above the choral texture. Plus, both works feature special effects for the guitar that are rarely heard.”   

Angelo Favis – professor of guitar at Illinois State University — is a prizewinning performer of solo and chamber music and has been a featured soloist with the Saigon and Philippine Philharmonic Orchestras. Favis earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in guitar performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and his D.M.A. from the Manhattan School of Music.

He previously accompanied a Nova Christmas program in 2018.

Rescheduled from 2020

“Right away, we both just really felt a connection,” Lane said. “I just loved working with him and after that concert I said, we have to do something else and he said, I would like to do Romancero gitano by Tedesco. It’s one of the best things ever written for classical guitar and choir.”

Nova originally planned to do this concert in the fall of 2020, but COVID scrapped that.

Nova Singers (led by Laura Lane, at left in glasses) will perform Saturday in Galesburg and Sunday in Davenport.

“It’s incredibly thrilling singing with a guitarist this good,” Lane said. “Procession” was written by classical guitarist Jeffrey Van and it’s very unusual.

“He wrote very unusual special effects for the guitarist to do things you would never hear in any other piece,” she said. “He wanted to sound like a snare drum, so he makes the guitar sound like a snare drum. He makes it sound like all different kinds of drums. He does all kinds of unusual things that you normally don’t hear guitarists do. It’s very haunting.”

The text uses Walt Whitman’s poems, from his experience in the Civil War.

“He actually walked through to try to find his brother and he walked and walked and walked and walked and walked,” Lane said. “And that’s where he saw all of this stuff that inspired him to write the poetry and he was so changed by it. He was transformed by the war.”

The choral writing in the four-movement work is beautiful, she said.

“It’s gorgeous. I mean, it’s beautiful,” Lane said. “There might be some dissonant passages for some phrases and then suddenly it becomes very sweet and very warm and harmonically, incredibly satisfying.”

“The second movement is completely different from all the others. It’s fast track. The text is beat, beat drums,” she said. “It seems really obvious to say, but war is such a horrible thing that it affects everybody. It doesn’t just affect the soldiers who are fighting it. It affects the people that are wounded and died, it affects everybody in every country, no matter how far away from where you are, everything else stops. Normal life stops, and normal life is impossible.”

The music is beautiful when it reflects Whitman’s thoughts.

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1891) American poet, democrat and author. (Photo by Edward Gooch Collection/Getty Images)

“When he’s sitting around the fire, for example, he’s remembering people at home and when he remembers home and feels like he wanted his family and he wants to go home, that music is utterly gorgeous, really beautiful,” Lane said.

“There’s another part that’s really haunting and strange, and it’s when the group is supposed to whistle, we have to whistle,” the director said. “They’re whistling this melody, and he says, ‘Come down, fair moon, come down moon and heal us of all of this.’ So he evokes nature several different times, to help to heal the situation. And the last movement is the most beautiful, and that’s because it’s called ‘Reconciliation’ in the last movement.” 

That poem includes the lines:

WORD over all, beautiful as the sky!

Beautiful that war, and all its deeds of carnage, must in time be utterly lost;

That the hands of the sisters Death and Night, incessantly
softly wash again, and ever again, this soil’d world
:

…For my enemy is dead—a man divine as myself is dead;

I look where he lies, white-faced and still, in the coffin— I draw near;

I bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.

Evoking the colors of Spain

The Flamenco piece is seven short movements, evoking dance and the Andalusia region of Spain.

“They are original poems by Lorca. It’s incredibly Spanish music and that’s sounds really stupid to say, but you can really tell that both poet and composer works as a package and it’s got its got some of what we think of in this country as it evokes Spain in in its rhythms and melodies, it really does,” Lane said. “You feel transported to Spain.”

A Nova Singers selfie.

“Another thing that’s cool about the Spanish pieces, is that if they feature a lot of solos, so the audience is going to get to hear the individual singers of Nova Singers,” she said. “Their voices just pop out of the texture. All of a sudden, there’s change in these beautiful moments and they all sound incredible on their solos. They’re doing a great job.”

“There is a lot of drama in those pieces, in both sets, but especially I would say in the Spanish pieces, there’s a lot of drama and there’s a lot of beauty and it’s really exciting music,” Lane added.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for seniors (62+), available HERE, as well as at the door.

Students are admitted free of charge. For more information about tickets, recordings, or other Nova Singers events, call 309-341-7038, or e-mail nova@knox.edu.