Anybody promenading through the Essex House Ball Room last Tuesday was instantly transported to the heart of Venice during the frenzies of its carnival. Indeed, the Gala celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Clarion Music Society was a masked one, and its guests obliged appearing in scintillating gowns, prodigious headdresses and spectacular masks. Some would say it was to be expected as the Clarion encompasses one of the oldest and most highly regarded period-instrument orchestras in America.
It was founded in 1957 by conductor and musicologists Newell Jenkins and then revived in 2006 under the directorship of Steven Fox before rising to prominence as a fresh and innovative force on the international period-performance scene. As I dillydallied through the ostentatious congregation I was told many fascinating stories about the performances and the history behind some of them. For example, the Clarion Choir gained popular acclaim this year when its recording of Passion Week received a Grammy nomination for best Choral performance. Most interestingly the piece of music was was composed in Russia just before its communist revolution. The bolshevists forbade any religion, so this musical piece stayed dormant until this day. It was written for a cappella choir, like all music for the Russian church, and based on ancient chants.
The soundtrack to those wonderfully striking anecdotes was the enchanting music played by members of the Society. Guests were also buzzing about the prizes one could bid on during the gala’s live auction that would be held later on that evening.
Indeed, the Clarion society relies on its donators and its anniversary was the occasion to thank one of its most generous supporters, Tatiana Pouschine, awarding her the Clarion Philanthropic Award. The evening continued onto a seated dinner graced with concertos, solos and duets conducted by the artistic director Steven Fox and sung by Mr. Wang and Mr. Chang also of the Society.
After such an admirable evening where the liveliness and talent of the Clarion Society was so well demonstrated one can only wish to see a lot more of these anniversary celebrations.