Ryland Angel, countertenor, was the standout of the NYC-based vocal group TEи∃T's March 15th concert. In residence at St. Ignatius Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, they featured an artist of uncommon gravity and purity in Mr. Angel. In an austere Lenten program anchored around chapters from Charpentier and Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbres, this program was no walk in the park. Mr. Angel illuminated the profound truths chosen by the artistic director, Jolle Greenleaf, in the program notes:
“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest.” ~Dalai Lama
“What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.” ~Rumi
“Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow then this light is nearest to all of us.” ~Meister Eckhart
Of these six serious musicians, Mr. Angel embodied these dichotomies with a somber rapture, balancing divine anguish with earthly hope stayed with an unwavering commitment to the highest standards of musical line, prosody, pitch and diction. His contribution to the last piece, Charpentier’s Psaume 50 Miserere, coalesced the full ensemble in a crowning accomplishment. His final tone was a rare gift, a sound hollow yet profoundly chthonic.
The sopranos, Ms. Greenleaf and her colleague Molly Quinn sang Couperin’s Leçon pour le Mercredi with soaring ringing intonation, their youthful voices fresh at all times, verging on unripe. With Jory Vinikour as the director of the continuo, suppleness was established by the end, dispelling a certain dourness; and as moving as it was to watch the gambist Lisa Terry feel the music, and marvel at the theorbist Hank Heijink, their neglect of pitch contributed to an atmosphere of murkiness not necessarily inappropriate to the evening.
If one chose not to revisit a live recording of this concert again, investing in a studio production would be most consoling.