An Evening of Memory and Music

Blessed Sacrament Church, Providence Hosts Altera Ensemble

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PROVIDENCE — Readers of The Boston Globe were recently encouraged by the newspaper’s Arts section to seek out Blessed Sacrament Church in Providence for the first post-pandemic live performance of Ensemble Altera on Sunday, July 11.
“Tickets have just been selling like gangbusters ever since the Globe article came out,” said Altera’s Director, Christopher Lowry.
A native of Johnston, Lowrey studied music at Brown University before beginning Ensemble Altera in 2007. It wasn’t until the pandemic, however, that the chorus went professional.
“So many of us lost our accustomed sources of revenue as performers because of the quarantine,” Lowrey explained. “We really reorganized over the course of the past year in order to turn Ensemble Altera into our livelihoods.”
The pandemic was also the inspiration for the theme of the concert, entitled “We Remember: Music of Reflection, Repose, and Renewal.”
“We wanted to frame this to echo the emotional experiences we’ve all shared in the past year — to dedicate it to those who were lost, to those who experienced loss, and to those who worked on the frontlines to keep us safe,” said Lowrey.
These sentiments were echoed by Father Charles Grondin, pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
“When they approached me to describe the project, I thought that this seemed like a perfect opportunity for the parish,” said Father Grondin.
The event is the largest the church has hosted since the onset of the pandemic, although seating remained capped at 50 percent.
“Music like this gives us all an opportunity to reflect spiritually and emotionally on the challenges of the past year,” he said. “It’s something we all need now.”
In addition to Blessed Sacrament, the July 11 concert showcased two other local parishes as well: the musical directors of both Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Bristol and Providence’s Church of St. Mary’s on Broadway are both members of the ensemble. Brother and sister Michael and Rachel Garrepy have been involved with the chorus since 2016, with Michael now serving as the group’s artistic advisor. His arrangement of “Amazing Grace” (which The Globe described as “luminous”) served as the concert’s final number.
“As a director and composer, Christopher and I work together extremely well,” Garrepy noted, mentioning that the two had collaborated extensively in the past.
As described in Lowrey’s program notes, Garrepy’s arrangement borrows “from the best traditions of the American school of open, pastoral chord spellings, inflected by the richness of Catholic polyphony.”
Garrepy’s arrangement was recorded as a music video by the group and released earlier this month; it can be found on the group’s website at www.ensemblealtera.com. A digital edition of the concert at Blessed Sacrament will be made available on August 13 at the same web address.

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