SAL FERRANTELLI BID FAREWELL to his loyal I Cantori de Carmel choir by conducting two emotional performances last weekend at Carmel Mission. Heard Saturday, the event included a vocal quartet—Katherine Edison, Linda Purdy, Arthur Wu and Reg Huston—and a chamber orchestra led by David Dally. For thirty-six years Ferrantelli has inspired and enlightened thousands of singers, concertgoers and students with his passion for music and demand for attention to detail while always striving for artistic excellence. It has been a blessing to the Monterey Peninsula to have had such a person on the podium. Ferrantelli was originally chosen by a group of local singers from the Carmel Bach Festival chorus who wanted to form a year-round choral ensemble. At that time. Ferrantelli had only recently arrived as a professor of music at Monterey Peninsula College. Since 1982 he has led the ensemble through a full range of music from ancient to modern, including a number of his own original compositions written expressly for I Cantori.
The program for this weekend was a retrospective of sorts. It included the first composition performed by the group in its inaugural concert, Thomas Weelkes’ madrigal “Hark, All Ye Lovely Saints Above.” The acapella piece was accurately and expressively presented. One could immediately sense the love and melancholy filling each singer. These were the elements that permeated the whole of the evening’s selections. The highlight of the concert was “Wie Lieblich sind deine Wohnungen,” the middle of three movements from Johannes Brahms’ great Ein Deutsches Requiem. The orchestra and singers united in a rich, sonorous rendering of this great chorus.
The second half of the concert began with Ferrantelli’s 2008 composition, “Selig Sind die da Leid Tragen.” The influence and inspiration of Brahms was apparent in this setting, especially having just heard the same text as it was set by Brahms in the first half of the concert. Ferrantelli dedicated the piece to I Cantori, “with deepest gratitude for 36 years as their conductor.”
The rest of the concert was all Beethoven. The choir with orchestra and solo quartet performed first the “Kyrie” from Beethoven’s massive Missa Solemnis, Op.123, followed by the “Kyrie” and “Gloria” from Beethoven’s earlier Mass in C Op.86. The music filled the basilica and an enthusiastic audience stood and applauded as Ferrantelli wiped the perspiration from his face and the tears from his eyes.
It is a noble legacy that Ferrantelli has left on the Monterey Peninsula. To have an opportunity to hear a full, well trained and rehearsed chorus and orchestra as they perform the great works of the masters is becoming more and more a rarity in our country. Although the limitation of amateur singers, and the under-rehearsing of the orchestra due to time and financial restraints may lead to an occasional wrong note or intonation, what one gets instead is an enthusiasm and emotional commitment to the music that may not always be the case with paid professionals and an ample budget. The obvious love of music and for Dr. Ferrantelli filled the Carmel Mission, and the audience responded in kind.