Pasadena Master Chorale presents Rachmaninoff’s “All-Night Vigil” – Los Angeles concert report

PMC - Xmas
Pasadena Master Chorale performing at Christmastime.

“A stunning a cappella tour de force!”

Some performances are just a bit more personal than others… Without question, this will be the case when Pasadena Master Chorale (PMC) presents Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil (op.37) on Saturday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 24 at 4 p.m. at Altadena Community Church in Altadena, California.

“One of the editors of the definitive edition of the All-Night Vigil, Alexander Ruggieri, sang with and supported PMC for many years,” explains the Chorale’s founder and artistic director, Jeffrey Bernstein. “Alex loved this piece dearly and was its ardent champion. It seemed the perfect way to honor his memory, to dedicate these two performances of the All-Night Vigil to him.”

Bernstein has also asked Ruggieri’s longtime partner – and PMC Board member – Jamie Martin to sing the alto solo.

“This piece touches me very deeply,” says Martin.  “From the first time I sang it with Alex’s group in 2000, I have felt his words and emotion resonate through me as I listen to or perform the work.  Alex studied and knew the piece intimately and loved it even more deeply for his Russian Orthodox heritage.  In his own words, ‘I never fail to be touched by the spirituality of the music.  It is mystical, emotional, and with the sonorities and the sound and the harmonies, it just touches you.’”

Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil is a beautiful and quite technically demanding work.


Rachmaninoff composed his All-Night Vigil during a three-week period in 1915. It is a towering achievement and a work of deep faith. Comprised of fifteen movements and based largely on Russian Orthodox chants the All-Night Vigil is a technical and emotional tour de force. Sung without instruments and lasting just over one hour the piece evokes many moods and stretches the choir to its limits of range and endurance.

His family fortune gone, Rachmaninoff fled Russia in 1917 and moved to the United States, settling in Hollywood, California. In this country he enjoyed great success as a concert pianist, traveling and concertizing extensively. Though his success afforded him a measure of material luxury, he felt like an exile, missing his homeland and the Russian Orthodox church. In 1943, months before his death, he completed what would be his final work, the Symphonic Dances, commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra. In the final minutes of that work Rachmaninoff, reaching back nearly 30 years, quoted a section of his All-Night Vigil, a powerful statement of faith from a composer creating his final work.

“The Vigil is a stunning 65-minute a cappella tour de force,” says Bernstein.  “It evokes an array of moods – sorrow and joy, peace and hope – and stretches the choir to its limits of range and endurance.”

Members of Pasadena Master Chorale are well aware of the challenges of the work, having performed it only last June to enthusiastic acclaim. Bernstein, a self-described “firm believer in repeating great works of music,” sees this as far more than an opportunity for devotees of choral music to re-experience a work that many consider one of the a cappella repertoire’s most extraordinary – and moving – achievements.

“Since we already know the Vigil, we get to dig more deeply into it and polish it more,” says Bernstein. “It’s also nice to perform it around the vernal equinox, since the All-Night Vigil is a work that contemplates the loss of light, and then its return.”

In fact, the “light” is mentioned in the text of the 5th movement, the movement when Bernstein’s thoughts invariably turn to his friend, Alex Ruggieri.

“I’m paraphrasing quite a bit here,” says Bernstein, “but basically the text asks God to let ‘thy servant depart in peace,’ to be ‘a light’ and ‘the glory.’ I know I speak for so many when I say that Alex was a glorious light in our lives. And, now, he shines, forever bright, in our hearts and in our memories. The 5th movement reflects this so eloquently. It is music filled with indescribable peace and awe.”

Summer Concert 2012 (Border)

Pasadena Master Chorale presents

Rachmaninoff’s great a cappella work,

The All-Night Vigil (op.37)


Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.


Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 4 p.m.

Altadena Community Church

943 East Altadena Drive,

Altadena CA. 91001


$25.00 general admission,

$20.00 senior,

$15.00 student.

Tickets may be purchased by visiting the Pasadena Master Chorale website, through any Chorale member, or at the door.

FREE ADMISSION at door to Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) students and their parents.

For more information, visit their official site or call (626) 208-0009

Complete details on concerts, ticket prices and venue locations can be found on the website as well. Recorded information is available by phone at 626.208.0009.


Founded in 2009, the Pasadena Master Chorale is one of Pasadena’s newest and most vibrant arts organizations. A volunteer choir with professional standards, PMC presents well-loved and affordable concerts of the highest quality to the greater Pasadena community. Specializing in the pinnacles of choral music spanning five centuries, PMC has thrilled audiences with recent performances of Orff’s Carmina Burana, Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem, a folksong program entitled Songs of the World, and a Renaissance program entitled The Golden Age.

PMC is also committed to engaging Pasadena’s young choral singers and fostering their love of the choral art. Through partnerships with four PUSD schools, PMC offers performance opportunities to dozens of Pasadena students each year, including a vocal competition and a mentoring program that pairs student singers with experienced chorale members.

From a first season of three concerts in 2008-2009, PMC has grown rapidly, presenting 11 performances of 7 programs in its third season (2010-2011).

A non-profit organization, the Pasadena Master Chorale is the proud recipient of a grant from the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts.


This is a sponsored Post.

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Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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