A computer screen, a downloaded program booklet and a decent pair of headphones. These are the accoutrements you need to "go" to classical concerts this fall, with the coronavirus wiping live events from the schedule.
The Singers are the latest Twin Cities ensemble to go virtual. They recently launched their 2020-21 digital season with Timothy C. Takach's "Helios," an hourlong choral work in 12 movements that the composer-in-residence with the Singers calls "a musical exploration of our solar system."
The online stream of "Helios" was a video recording of the piece's premiere in May 2019 at First Lutheran Church in Columbia Heights. A superbly prepared and immaculately executed performance, it must have thoroughly delighted the composer.
"Helios" has plenty of technical difficulties for the choir, beginning with a string of precisely etched staccato rhythms in "Pluto," the opening movement.
These were dotted in effortlessly, while the manifold challenges of "Neptune" — with swooping glissandi and rippling undulations mimicking "the swollen sea" in lines from Virgil's "Aeneid" — were met with unassuming conviction by the choir's 44 singers as artistic director Matthew Culloton shaped the performance beautifully.
A variety of camera angles and close-ups gave insight to how Takach put "Helios" together compositionally. But there's a limit to how interesting you can make a choir look on video over a 60-minute period — a point at which you crave the raw immediacy of a live performance.
That's not possible at present, however, and fans of choral music can confidently invest in the three remaining concerts (in December, March and May) of the Singers' digital season. They come at $16 each, and can be pre-booked online at the choir's website, singersmca.org.
Terry Blain is a freelance classical music critic for the Star Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.