Singers to lift your spirits this season

With the leaves falling and the magnificent colors of autumn fading to the dun and gray of winter and with the cobalt skies and golden sunlight of October yielding to the dark and dreary skies of November, it’s hard not to feel melancholy or even downright grumpy.

Buck up, dear readers! The Chamber Singers of Iowa City have planned a splendid season of choral works sure to lift the spirits of even the melancholiest among us.

The singers will perform “Fall” and “Winter” from Haydn’s “The Seasons” at 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at Opstad Auditorium at City High. Readers will recall that the spring concert last season consisted of “Spring” and “Summer” from this remarkable work. With the fall upon us and winter about to blast us, what could be more appropriate? Three outstanding soloists will perform, as will the Chamber Singers Orchestra.

The Chamber Singers will present “Agony and Ecstasy: Works of Victoria and Gjello” on Feb. 23, 2014.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548-1611) was the most famous composer of the 16th century in Spain and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso. Victoria was a composer, an accomplished organist and singer, and a Catholic priest. The Chamber Singers will perform his remarkable “O vos omnes” and other works. “O vos omnes” is an exquisite example of the music of the period. With its simple beginning in the tenor line, building with the altos, then the sopranos together with the basses, we are drawn in, then lifted gently and carried on the rise and fall of the line, a swirl of sound.

Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978, and moved to New York in 2001 to study composition at the Juilliard School. He has more than 30 published works, which are performed worldwide. His “Dark Night of the Soul” was written in 2010 and premiered that same year by the Phoenix Chorale. It was commissioned by and dedicated to Gunilla Luboff, in memory of her husband, the great choral master, Norman Luboff.

The text is three stanzas of St. John of the Cross’ mystical poem of the same name.

Gjeilo composed the piece in such a way that the choir and piano are equals — with the choir becoming an orchestra. The piece is at once ethereal and powerful, like the poem upon which it is based.

The season will close at 3 p.m. May 18, 2014, at First Methodist Church with Duruflé’s “Requiem” and additional works. This “Requiem” is, unlike most, a gentler though still powerful version of the form. There is no terrifying “Dies irae,” and Duruflé adds several pieces that are not normally part of the Mass for the Dead, including the exquisite “In paradisum” and the heart-rending “Pie jesu.”

For concert information, tickets and more, go

James Petersen sings with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City and the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre Chorus.