Yale Institute of Sacred Music

In the Church of the Redeemer, the singers in the Yale Camerata performed before a towering screen that added a multimedia experience to the Sunday afternoon concert.

Led by conductor Marguerite L. Brooks, the ensemble presented a program featuring works by Gabriel Jackson, Mohammed Fairouz and Paul Hindemith to a packed crowd in the church’s main sanctuary, while the screen displayed images of the global effects of climate change.

“The program is an exploration of the miracles around us, the way in which we treat the environment and how we act towards others,” said Joseph Kemper MUS ’18, a choral director in the School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music.

One piece performed by the ensemble was the American composer Fairouz’s five-movement piece, “Anything Can Happen.” Kemper said that the Fairouz piece “addresses climate change, rising waters and the destruction of the earth.”

Kemper described the music as “haunting” and noted the piece’s accompaniment of both instruments and images: Fairouz’s piece calls for choir with a baritone soloist and amplified viola, and slides featuring recent natural disasters from across the globe were projected during the music.

Marjorie Shansky MUS ’74 thought to pair Fairouz’s music with images when she learned about the text of the piece and how it relates to climate change.

Since 2016, Shansky has been a certified presenter of slideshows for the Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit founded by Al Gore that strives to solve today’s climate crisis.

“I had some brand-new images that are evocative of the kinds of things this piece is discussing — floods, ash, disaster, peril,” Shansky said.

Shansky added that she worked with the words the Camerata sang to select a progression of slides that evoked each of the piece’s movements.

The program opened with contemporary English composer Gabriel Jackson’s “To the Field of Stars,” which juxtaposes texts that describe miracles experienced along pilgrimages to the Spanish city Santiago de Compostela with other writings about miracles, including excerpts from Walt Whitman and John Adams.

The program ended with “Apparebit Repentina Dies” by 20th-century German composer Paul Hindemith, who taught at Yale during the 1940s after he fled World War II Europe. According to Kemper, Hindemith assigned music to anonymous fifth- through seventh-century texts about the Last Judgement. Kemper characterized the music as “tumultuous and filled with lots of dissonance and commotion.”

Kemper emphasized the link between a line of text in the final movement of the Hindemith — “flee debauchery if you want to seek the stars” — and the images evoked in the Jackson piece “To the Field of Stars.”

Kemper added that the program “addresses our journey as individuals through life,” specifically regarding the impact of our treatment of the environment and those around us.

“The ‘field of stars’ is in the distance. We all must take the pilgrimage to reach this place of accord, both metaphorical and actual,” Kemper said.

The Camerata is sponsored by Yale’s Institute for Sacred Music and features Yale graduate students, undergraduates, faculty and staff, as well as members of the greater New Haven community.

Brooks founded the Camerata in 1985.

Julia Carabatsos | julia.carabatsos@yale.edu