Back by popular demand for its third appearance at Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor, Accord, a harmonically gorgeous-sounding a capella group of women singers from an ensemble in residence at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church in the city, will offer a program of unusual and diverse pieces under the heading of what they’re calling “Celestial & Terrestrial” — music that represents “the duality of our existence.”
Known for embracing songs from lesser known regions around the world, the group will present love poems by Estonian composer Gustav Ernesaks, African American spirituals, a piece in Tamil based on an Indian raga, and two works by East Hampton’s own David Douglas — an original composition, “Evening Without Angels,” and an arrangement of a folk favorite by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now.” On Sunday, March 24, at 3 PM, the group will be welcomed by Old Whalers’ Church organist and artistic director Walter Klauss, the creator of Bach, Before & Beyond, a three-year-old chamber music group based at Old Whalers’.
Accord was formed in 2009 by veteran choral singers in the city with the proficiency to perform works that emphasize the beauty of the treble voice — a range that starts at G, above middle C. The repertoire ranges from medieval chants through Renaissance madrigals to many little-known modern-day pieces, sacred and popular. Audiences hearing Accord comment in awe at the group’s superb unity as it explores different languages and musical styles. Significantly, the group calls itself a “treble” choir, rather than a “women’s” choir because its mission is to be open to all ages, ethnicities, and identities, including transgender.
Relatively rare among choral groups, Accord prides itself on a democratic structure. Working collectively and collaboratively to prepare pieces in the spirit of consensus, its members — which can vary from six to nine — value themselves as both leaders and contributors. Typically, each member has an opportunity to shine as soloist, arranger, conductor, rehearsal head, or instrumentalist, creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Adult treble choirs are not as prominent or sophisticated in America as they are in Eastern Europe, according to Accord director and co-founder Liz Geisewite, a soprano who teaches music in Brooklyn.
Walter Klauss, who initiated BBB, was for many years Director of Music at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, where he met some of the women who sing in Accord. A few years ago, he also met David Douglas and his wife Sally through a mutual friend, and discovered that in addition to sharing a love of choral music, they both had gardens at EECO, the organic community garden on Long Lane in East Hampton.
Having attended a BBB concert featuring Accord in 2017, Douglas says he brought along some pieces and arrangements the next year that he thought “might be a possible fit.” And indeed, “Evening Without Angels” wound up being performed by the group in the city.
On March 24, audience members will have the pleasure of hearing the debut of Douglas’s arrangement of “Both Sides Now.” When he was choral director at East Hampton High School, Douglas says he was “always on the lookout for quality literature” for his groups. “I wanted pieces with intelligent texts, challenging but rewarding music and something that would stretch the students in some way,” he said.
And now, in retirement from the academic world, he is pursuing that goal as a composer. He remains a strong advocate of “good music programs in schools” and notes that Accord has “at least one member, a high school choral director, who has the essential ingredients of an outstanding teacher” — talent, seriousness, and engagement — all of which come across in performance.
He believes that young people especially should be given the opportunity to hear top-notch performances that are “convenient and affordable,” and he hopes that teachers, parents, and friends will get the word out and fill the aisles.
For concert information, visit www.bachbeforeandbeyond.net, stop in at the Romany Kramoris Gallery on Main Street in Sag Harbor, or pay $20 at the door. Old Whalers’ Church is at 44 Union Street, Sag Harbor.