by Moira Cullings
Kansas City, Kan. — If you stumble upon the Cathedral of St. Peter here, you’re sure to notice its vast beauty and rich artistic detail.
But would you notice its acoustics?
The Kansas City and Phoenix chorales did and, because of it, they took home a Grammy award on Feb. 15.
The award, Best Choral Performance, was granted to Charles Bruffy, conductor, (with Paul Davidson, Frank Fleschner, Toby Vaughn Kidd, Bryan Pinkall, Julia Scozzafava, Bryan Taylor and Joseph Warner (soloists); Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale (choruses)) for their recording of Rachmaninoff’s “All-Night Vigil.”
The achievement is a great honor for both the chorales and the Cathedral of St. Peter, the venue in which the piece was recorded.
“I’ve known about the cathedral for a long time,” said Bruffy, artistic director of the Kansas City and Phoenix chorales. “I used to teach at Donnelly College [in Kansas City, Kansas].”
Listen to their performance below[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/181792104″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
This venue was the perfect fit, he said, because “we needed a special acoustic for this project — one that is a little more resonant than what we normally use. And we certainly found that in St. Peter’s.”
“The cathedral itself is a true gem here in the urban core,” said its rector Father Harry Schneider, who stated it was an honor to host the singers.
“Their voices are incredible,” he said. “They are professional singers, and they’re just amazing persons. They were delightful to talk to.”
For chorale members, a venue like the Cathedral of St. Peter is a dream come true.
“The cathedral was the absolute perfect location for our recording,” said Bryan Pinkall, a tenor in the Kansas City Chorale.
“We needed a large space for our large sound, and the beautiful interior only put us into a more reverent mindset as we tackled this orthodox liturgy,” he continued.
Father Schneider noted that the singers worked about 30 hours over a span of four days, carefully avoiding any of the regular Mass and confession hours.
Bruffy and his team were grateful for the warm welcome they received from the parish.
“The people were so nice and generous, helpful and hospitable,” said Bruffy. “They were the perfect hosts for us.”
The minimal amount of noise in and around the cathedral was also an added benefit for this project.
“The neighbors were kind about not mowing their lawns, playing their loud music and honking their horns,” said Bruffy.
“Because you can be in the middle of magic, and then somebody will drive by, honking their horn, and then you have to just quit and start all over again,” he continued. “So the community around the church was also really nice.”
Despite the extra caution that must be taken when recording in a church, Pinkall noted it’s the most preferable venue for this type of music.
“The architecture transports us and [our] audience into a more artistic and solemn place,” he said. “The way the sound echoes and fills the sanctuary only enhances the type of music that we do, whether it is religious or sacred.”
Pinkall, an assistant professor of music for the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at Kansas State University, is no stranger to success.
Despite all of his achievements, he noted that this one is special.
“We feel extra grateful because the quality of our competition was superb,” he said.
“Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vespers’ is such a famous piece of music, and we wanted to be as proficient and loving as we could,” he said.
Bruffy agreed, remarking that when the piece was recorded and released, it was the 35th recording to be made of the “All-Night Vigil.”
“So, there were already several standards set by many of our conducting heroes,” he said.
The high standards made winning a Grammy even sweeter.
For Father Schneider and his parish, “it was a real privilege.”
“Here at the cathedral, we’re really proud of the fact that we participated,” he said, “that we were in a sense part of their winning a Grammy, because of the place where it was recorded.
“This is a gorgeous, spectacular religious piece, so we’re just proud to be a part of it.”