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Regency Voices features two compositional perspectives of ‘The Prodigal Son’

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The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni
March 3, 2015

On Friday, March 6, PLU’s Regency Voices ensemble presents two musical realizations from Debussy and Sullivan of the iconic story of the Prodigal Son as part of the 2015 SOAC Focus series on perspective.

The concert in Lagerquist Concert Hall, features Janeanne Houston, soprano, James Brown, tenor, Charles Robert Stephens, baritone, Sheila Bristow, piano, Paul Tegels, organ, and PLU’s Choir of the West directed by Richard Nance.

The idea of perspective is explored through two compositional views of the Prodigal’s humility in his return: Debussy with piano, and Arthur Sullivan’s oratorio, performed with organ and Choir of the West. The two versions give the same perspective from different compositional voices. Jim Brown, director, explains the differences.

“Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) is a real Victorian era compositional voice. There are moments where you can almost imagine some kooky choreography, and then moments of Mendelssohn-esque grandeur,” Brown notes. “Debussy’s music is ethereal and beautiful. This is a lyrical Debussy, as opposed to the later modernist that was influenced by Eastern musical modes and non-traditional harmonies.”

Other differences include language: Sullivan’s composition is in English, and Debussy’s is in French. Sullivan focuses on the father’s perspective, and Debussy focuses on the mother’s.

“They are vastly different pieces on the same story, so it’s quite fascinating,” Brown says.

The 2015-16 is the premiere season for the faculty ensemble, Regency Voices. It has a rotating membership with two concerts a year (the first was this fall). The March 6 performers are different than the ones who sang in the fall.

For this special concert, Regency Voices is collaborating with Richard Nance and Choir of the West.

“It’s been a real treat. Faculty/Student collaboration is an important part of [the focus] series, and I am thrilled they are involved,” Brown says. “The finale, in particular is really stunning. Paul Tegels gets to really open up the organ and the students join with faculty voices for a rousing ending to the concert.”

Purchase tickets through the PLU Campus Box Office at the Concierge desk in the Anderson University Center and on the phone at 253-535-7411. Tickets are $8 General Admission, $5 Senior Citizens (55+) and PLU Alumni, and Free for PLU community, students, and 18 and under.

To learn more about the 2015 SOAC Focus Series, visit