In a typically eclectic program, the Irvine Camerata concert Saturday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre is going to include works by a friend of founding music director Robert Hickok.
In addition to Renaissance motets based on the Gregorian chant "Alma Redemptoris Mater," and Mozart's "Vesperae Solennes de Confessore", the program will include music by three U.S. composers--Robert L. Sanders, Ross Lee Finney and William Billings.
Hickok calls Sanders, who died in 1974, "an old and dear friend."
"He became fascinated with Walt Whitman and wrote a great deal on Whitman texts," Hickok said. "Two works of his we're doing--'When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed' and 'Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking'--I did premiere performances of in the '50s in New York."
Finney, a composer and music educator who was born in 1906, will be represented by a cycle entitled "Spherical Madrigals."
"Every one of the texts relates to a round thing," Hickok said, "be it physical, philosophical or aesthetic. He draws on a wide range of poetry--by Herrick, Lord Herbert, Dryden, Donne."
For fun, Hickok has included "Modern Music," a challenge to listeners, among the pieces by Billings. The only thing is, Billings lived from 1746 to 1800!
The Mozart Vespers, Hickok said, are "our tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus" in the bicentennial celebration of the composer's death.
"Mozart's output in the area of religious music is a lot smaller than one would expect of a composer of that stature," Hickok said.
"His contributions to the Mass literature is small, in comparison to Haydn, for instance. . . . (But) Mozart was in a very bad position in terms of church music. The Archbishop of Salzburg," who employed Mozart for a while, "couldn't have cared less about music."
Hickok admitted that his interest in eclectic programming has presented a problem. "Building an audience has turned out to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated," he said.
"That has to be a little tempered by the fact that we do unusual repertoire. We do a lot of Renaissance music. We do the best music of some composers that aren't the most popular, and we do little-known works of some of the most popular composers.
"It's repertoire that's not at the outset calculated to appeal to the broadest area of chorale-music lovers."
Offering more concerts would help. "But the logistics are against us," Hickok said. "First of all, there is my own schedule. My duties as dean" of the UC Irvine School of Fine Arts "restrict my activities in that area of life. In addition to which, while this is a professional chorus in the sense that they get paid, no one could put together anything like a living on what the Irvine Camerata is capable of paying.
"For those two reasons, plus the problems of scheduling in the Irvine theater, we're restricted. But I think that we've done OK."
Who: Robert Hickok will conduct the Irvine Camerata in works by Mozart and Renaissance and U.S. composers.
When: Saturday, Feb. 9, at 8 p.m.
Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine.
Whereabouts: UC Irvine campus across from the Marketplace mall.
Where to Call: (714) 856-5000.