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SACRA / PROFANA And Choral Music For The iPod Generation

Above: Local choral ensemble SACRA/PROFANA, who will perform "The Little Match Girl Passion" Sunday, April 1 in La Jolla.

Aired 3/28/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Krishan Oberoi, artistic director of SACRA / PROFANA.

Mark Wischkaemper, chorus manager of SACRA / PROFANA.


American composer David Lang may be versed in classical tradition but his category-defying compositions are very much of the modern age.

Lang's Pulitzer Prize-winning work “The Little Match Girl Passion” fuses Bach’s “Saint Matthew Passion” with the Hans Christian Andersen short story “The Little Match Girl”, a tale of a poor young girl who sells matches in the freezing cold on New Year's Eve. Unable to make sales and afraid to return home for fear that her father will beat her, she takes refuge on the street, lighting matches to stay warm while reminiscing about happier memories and her grandmother. During the night, she freezes to death.

Lang states on his website, "What drew me to 'The Little Match Girl' is that the strength of the story lies not in its plot but in the fact that all its parts—the horror and the beauty—are constantly suffused with their opposites. The girl's bitter present is locked together with the sweetness of her past memories; her poverty is always suffused with her hopefulness. There is a kind of naive equilibrium between suffering and hope." (Read his full program note.)

On Sunday, local choral ensemble SACRA / PROFANA will perform "The Little Match Girl Passion", which The New Yorker calls "one of the most original and moving scores of recent years".

Composer David Lang received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his work,
Enlarge this image

Above: Composer David Lang received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his work, "The Little Match Girl Passion".

Lang, who is based in New York, emailed Krishan Oberoi, artistic director of SACRA / PROFANA, to suggest that the group perform his composition. Oberoi shares, "I loved the idea of the piece before I got into the music. People have been writing musical settings for the gospel passion for years. The fact that a modern composer wanted to tell the passion story in a way that is completely re-invented and re-imagined is very daring."

And the piece fits nicely with SACRA / PROFANA's commitment to perform the works of modern, living composers as much as possible. "The work doesn’t feel like what you would expect to hear from a choir singing about the passion," says Oberoi. "It feels very much minimalistic, but at the same time there are some really heart-breaking moments in it that you don’t typically find from minimalist composers. It does draw very heavily on choral tradition while very much being a piece of its time."

Founded in 2009, SACRA / PROFANA's 24-voice ensemble—composed of young singers in their mid- to late-20s—is dedicated to promoting the choral tradition, through both contemporary and classic works. "Our singers have a strong choral background but at the same time they’re the iPod generation," says Oberoi. "They have a different way of thinking about music, they don’t see these boundaries between pop and classical music. A lot of the repertoire we do would have been called 'crossover' in previous generations but it just feels organic to me."

SACRA/PROFANA presents the San Diego premiere of David Lang’s “The Little Match Girl Passion” this Sunday, April 1 at the Torrey Pines Christian Church in La Jolla. The performance is free.

KPBS Midday Edition speaks with Krishan Oberoi, artistic director of SACRA / PROFANA, and Mark Wischkaemper, chorus manager at SACRA / PROFANA, about composer David Lang and his award-winning composition.

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Avatar for user 'avmusic'

avmusic | March 29, 2012 at 10:12 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Great interview about a very interesting piece. Looking forward to the concert. Thanks for covering stories about cultural organizations both large and small in our community.

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christian | March 29, 2012 at 10:21 p.m. ― 5 years ago

These guys are great! Thanks for the story.

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MollyK | March 30, 2012 at 8:40 a.m. ― 5 years ago

How cool that a NYC based composer found one of our local treasures!

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msparaco | March 30, 2012 at 9:28 a.m. ― 5 years ago

Wow, sounds like a very cool concert. I saw them perform Messiah last year and was very impressed with this group. I'll for sure be there Sunday.

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Avatar for user 'stephany78'

stephany78 | March 30, 2012 at 9:43 a.m. ― 5 years ago

I saw this group perform downtown a couple of months ago. AMAZING VOICES! My 15 year old was so impressed she started talking about getting into an adult choir after High School. The chosen music is unusual and moving. Can't wait to see them again on Sunday!

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Avatar for user 'Smashton'

Smashton | March 30, 2012 at 10:06 a.m. ― 5 years ago

I've been hearing about this all over town, and it sounds great in the recording - if that was just a rehearsal, I can't wait to hear the performance! This group is great, I'm looking forward to hearing what they bring next.

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Avatar for user 'wademck'

wademck | March 30, 2012 at 11:16 a.m. ― 5 years ago

This group brings choral music to the San Diego area and is very talented. I'd suggest you attend the April 1 performance which is free admission and hear them soon.

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Avatar for user 'wdca'

wdca | March 30, 2012 at 12:08 p.m. ― 5 years ago

What a treat to hear these guys on my midday drive on Wednesday! I've been lucky enough to hear them several times now--at the SD Museum of Art, Anthology, with Orchestra Nova, and a few smaller concerts. Their vocal blend and energy are unparallelled, and their repertoire is always full of surprises. Can't wait to hear the Lang on Sunday! Thanks to KPBS for featuring this great addition to the SD music scene!

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Avatar for user 'younglady2009'

younglady2009 | March 30, 2012 at 11:27 p.m. ― 4 years, 12 months ago

I've been to one of this group's concerts before and it was wonderful! I am so excited to hear them again! More power to a group that promotes San Diego musicians as well as this group does!

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Calisuni | March 31, 2012 at 12:15 p.m. ― 4 years, 12 months ago

I love these kids so much. Brilliant musicians.

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dangading | March 31, 2012 at 5:31 p.m. ― 4 years, 12 months ago

I can't wait to see this performance. How cool is it that San Diego has a group like Sacra Profana. They are always singing the weirdest most awesome modern unique trippie music. Yeah!

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Avatar for user 'avalfaro9'

avalfaro9 | April 1, 2012 at 8:34 a.m. ― 4 years, 12 months ago

Great Job Sacra/Profana! So cool to see this up and coming choir ensemble making great music. Very excited to see what pieces/concerts they perform in throughout this next season and can't wait to hear the David Lang piece.

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