At 80, Ned Rorem has been the most eloquent exponent of melodic contemporary music for decades, and the finest American art-song composer for nearly as long, thanks to his uncanny ability to match a touching melody to the rhythm of a poem. In addition to his songs, he’s written eight operas, three symphonies, and many works for chamber ensembles of every imaginable configuration. Although he’s a cosmopolitan, an atheist, and a Dionysian queer, Rorem has set many religious poems for chorus, and a strong spiritual core runs through much of his work. This all-Rorem concert by the William Ferris Chorale will honor this aspect of his oeuvre by performing his Festival Alleluia (Rorem said the chorale “sang the hell out of it” at its 1992 premiere) and two works for chorus and organ: Lift Up Your Heads (The Ascension) and Three Motets on Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The concert begins with Homer: Three Scenes From the Iliad, for chorus, four vocal soloists (including new-music star Julia Bentley), and eight instrumentalists. The chorale, now in its 32nd year and led by founding tenor John Vorrasi, is equally capable of full-throated brilliance or exquisite delicacy (and it’s no small task for a hundred voices to sing softly). Bentley will also perform selections from Rorem’s song cycle Poems of Love and the Rain, accompanied on piano by conductor and CUBE leader Philip Morehead; Rorem is expected to attend. Friday, May 21, 8 PM, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 690 W. Belmont; 773-325-2000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Rest.