As music director for Florida Pro Musica, Larry Kent can argue a strong case why it’s worth the time and the money to attend one of the group’s concerts.
The professional singers are top-notch and talented. The venue at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Tampa is magnificent. The works they perform are grand and elaborate. Ticket prices are very reasonable.
And for Sunday, this season’s final performance, he offers up an even more compelling reason.
To Kent’s knowledge, one of the works on the program by 16th century German Lutheran composer Johann Walter – “Verbum caro factum est” (The Word was made flesh) - has never been performed before.
“I’ve been digging all around and can’t find any recordings,” says Kent of the piece, which was written over 400 years ago. “Not sure why, because it’s so beautiful in its sacredness and solemnity. It’s difficult to perform well, so this is a very rare treat, especially for this area.”
Kent had to make some of his own updated notations so the singers could read the music. Each part has an individual melody, making it a fairly complex arrangement.
Another major work on the program is William Byrd’s “Mass for Four Voices,” a 30-minute piece described as angelic and ethereal.
Except for two English madrigals, the a cappella chorus will be singing all of the works in Latin.
The nonprofit group, now in its 15th year, has an ensemble that changes every season and in some cases, with every performance. Sunday’s program will feature eight parts – two tenors, two basses, two altos and two sopranos. Kent, who occasionally performs at other concerts, will conduct.
“This isn’t Broadway fare,” Kent acknowledges. “That’s not what we’re about. In this case, Sunday’s concert is serious and sacred music. If you grew up in the church, you’ve heard some of this music and it will bring you back to another time.”
Performing centuries-old ambitious pieces is a benchmark for Florida Pro Musica. What these singers bring to the arts and music scene in the Tampa Bay area is invaluable, particularly for classical music buffs, Kent says. While he wishes all of the concerts were sellouts, he’s encouraged by the steady and enthusiastic support the group has been given over the years.
“We offer something out of the ordinary,” he says. “Something compelling and memorable that you generally don’t get to hear. The possibilities are endless, and we’re going to take risks.”