The Sacred Veil
Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

Los Angeles Master Chorale recently mounted one of its finest recitals, THE SACRED VEIL. With a score by Eric Whitacre (who also conducted) and lyrics by Charles Anthony Silvestri, THE SACRED VEIL was inspired by the Orpheus/Eurydice myth. The connection between grief and art was at the heart of this new work, which was co-commissioned by LA Master Chorale and the Monash Performing Arts Center in Australia.

The genesis of THE SACRED VEIL dates from the death of Silvestri's beloved wife, Julie, a dozen years ago. It took him all this time to be able to visit that "deep, dark place" in his poetry he confided in a program note. "It was like picking the scab off and again feeling the fresh wound." At the same time, giving himself permission to write these texts "allowed me to revisit my grief in a very powerful way. In a way, I understood I hadn't fully grieved, because I hadn't processed it in art."

Eric Whitacre, photo: Marc Royce

Whitacre, who has collaborated with Silvestri on numerous other works, then began writing music to his partner's poetry, music that skilfully matched its simplicity, intensity and beauty. Sometimes writing for a solo voice (soprano Suzanne Waters), other times for chorus and ensemble, Whitacre showed his dazzling gifts as composer, gifts that have won him a Grammy and world-wide acclaim for his Virtual Choirs.

With Cecelia Tsan making hauntingly beautiful sounds on the cello, THE SACRED VEIL looked hard at loss and death, but managed to find catharsis and hope as well.