UC Santa Cruz professor hopes to promote musical connection with Monterey through concert at Carmel Mission

UC Santa Cruz music professor Nicole Paiement is particularly looking forward to a rare appearance by the UCSC Chamber Singers at the Carmel Mission on February 21.

The 24-voice ensemble will perform an evening of early music featuring Renaissance and Baroque styles from England and France--including works by Thomas Morley, John Dowland, John Wilbye, and Marc-Antoine Charpentier. But it is the opportunity to finally perform at the mission that excites Paiement the most.

"It's a beautiful space; I think the walls are meant to have music within them," observed Paiement, the conductor of UCSC's acclaimed choral ensemble since 1988.

"I've always wanted to bring the Chamber Singers to the Carmel Mission because it's a great place acoustically to sing, and there's an audience nearby that enjoys early music. And I'm also very interested in establishing a musical rapport between UCSC and that part of Monterey Bay," she added.

Paiement noted that every building brings a different texture to live music, depending on the materials used in its construction. "Because the mission is a combination of wood and stone, it will bring a very warm color to the sound," she said. "It's such an inspiring place. It's a building from an earlier time, and we are bringing music from an earlier time--so the setting fits."

But the same qualities that make the Carmel Mission such a grand and majestic concert venue also present the biggest challenges for UCSC's choral ensemble.

"Voices will float very beautifully there," Paiement said. "But because there is a lot of reverberation, the singers have to work on having extra clear diction and enunciation--otherwise it just becomes a big wash of sound."

"To prepare for the delay of sound, the vocalists must also sing extremely rhythmically," she added. "They need to practice singing on the beat and also be very aware of articulation--how long each note is held."

A great deal of the repertoire that will be performed at the February concert was not originally sung by choirs, but rather by one singer for each harmony part. But over the years, choral tradition has made it acceptable for larger ensembles to perform these compositions. Although the UCSC ensemble will have six people singing on each harmony line, the goal is to create a sonic texture that will be as light and transparent as just four voices singing in harmony.

"Musical enjoyment is what we're aiming for," Paiement observed. "It's not pretentious music--it definitely won't be heavy or difficult to listen to."

The upcoming performance will include a difficult composition that requires the Chamber Singers to re-create the sound of birds.

"We plan to perform a Renaissance piece titled Le Chant des Oiseaux by Clement Janequin," Paiement noted. "This is a popular work that is technically challenging for an ensemble since it involves imitating bird calls. When well executed, the audience members feel as if they are surrounded by birds."

In addition to her role as conductor of UCSC's Orchestra and Chamber Singers, Paiement is the founding artistic director of the California Parallele Ensemble, which specializes in performing contemporary music, as well as compositions by lesser-known composers of other periods. Founded in 1994, it is now the resident professional ensemble of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Paiement will travel with several members of the ensemble to Australia this summer for a series of concerts.

Paiement is also the founder of the BluePrint Project in San Francisco, a series of new music concerts and collaborations, which she began last year in an effort to promote contemporary music from around the world.

Paiement recently traveled to Seoul, Korea, where she conducted the world premier of Chan-Hae Lee's opera Back to the Origin. She has also recently guest-conducted the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Ensemble Kochi of Japan, and the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra. Paiement's work can be heard on more than 20 CDs on such labels as Helicon and New Albion Records.

The UCSC Chamber Singers will perform at the Carmel Mission on Saturday, February 21, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 general, $8 seniors, $6 students, available in advance at the UCSC Ticket Office, (831) 459-2159.