Orchestra and chorus perform new oratorio based on three angels’ message
Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, DMA (second from left), and James Bingham, DMA (center), recognize the concert master of the New England Youth Ensemble just prior to beginning the West Coast premiere of “The Vision of the Apocalypse,” on Saturday, January 6, at Loma Linda University Church of Seventh-day Adventists. Joining the ensemble was the Columbia Collegiate Choir, conducted by Dr. Bingham.
An audience of approximately 1,500 people was on hand for the West Coast premiere of a ground-breaking oratorio on Saturday evening, January 6, at Loma Linda University Church of Seventh-day Adventists.
The oratorio, titled “The Vision of the Apocalypse,” composed by Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, DMA, was performed with full orchestra and choir.
The work is based on text from the book of Revelation, which includes “the three angels’ messages.”
A major emphasis of the Seventh-day Adventist Church since its founding in the mid- 1800s, the words of the three angels and other texts in Revelation form the basis for this new oratorio.
Performing the work were the world-renowned New England Youth Ensemble, directed by Dr. Rittenhouse, and the Columbia Collegiate Choir, directed by James Bingham, DMA, chair of the Columbia Union College (CUC) music department. Both musical organizations are centered at CUC, in Takoma Park, Maryland.
The oratorio was premiered two years ago at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The words of John, the revelator, were heard by the audience in this secular venue. The New York premiere was met by thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
Since its Carnegie Hall premiere, the work has been performed only a handful of times. The Saturday night performance was its West Coast premiere and also received thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Following a short intermission, the concert resumed with classic works for orchest
Dr. Rittenhouse (right) poses with NEYE alumna Lanu Stoddart, MD, a pathologist practicing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during a special CUC alumni and staff luncheon held prior to the Saturday evening concert. Dr. Stoddart played viola in the ensemble for many years and studied piano with Dr. Rittenhouse.
ra and soloists, as well as combined choral and orchestral works.
Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse organized the New England Youth Ensemble more than 30 years ago as a way for some of her students to gain experience in an ensemble. Four young violinists, accompanied by Dr. Rittenhouse, performed a number of concerts at local churches and in other area venues. The orchestra was centered in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, for many years, which is reflected in the “New England” portion of its name.
From those inauspicious days, the orchestra has grown to more than 50 members, ranging from elementary to college age.
During the late 1970s, the ensemble first met Dr. Bingham and his choir from Kingsway College, in Canada, where he taught at the time.
In the years since, Drs. Bingham and Rittenhouse have collaborated in numerous concerts and tours, with their respective organizations garnering international reputations for excellence and dedication to the great musical classics.
The New England Youth Ensemble has performed in such venues as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, the Dom Cathedral in Salzburg, and Trafalgar Square’s St. Martin-in-the-fields in London, as well as in U.S. venues such as the Kennedy Center and Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, and New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall.
During one performance at Carnegie Hall, they were introduced to and conducted by well-known composer and musician John Rutter, CBE, who has since directed them numerous times and describes them as being among his favorite orchestras.
Dr. Rutter even invited the orchestra to visit his home in England on several occasions, and toured with them to South Africa.
According to Dr. Rittenhouse, Dr. Rutter was one of the first musicians to hear the new oratorio in its early stages, and he encouraged her to finish and perform the work. He has since become a major fan of the oratorio.
Hundreds of young people have benefitted from the life-changing experiences of being a part of the New England Youth Ensemble, which is a tribute to Dr. Rittenhouse and her commitment to young people.
A world-class violinist, pianist, and composer, she has dedicated her life to passing on the skills and passion necessary for performing the world’s greatest musical works at the highest levels of excellence.
Alumni of the orchestra have gone on to distinguish themselves in music and numerous other fields, applying the same principles of excellence and dedication to their careers and lives.
Many former New England Youth Ensemble members have attended Loma Linda University, earning degrees in medicine, dentistry, and other fields. A handful are currently enrolled at the University.
The January 6 concert was co-sponsored by the Calimesa Concert Series and the Loma Linda University Church of Seventh-day Adventists.
In addition to Loma Linda, the orchestra performed in Santa Monica, Camarillo, Glendale, and in Orange County.
By Larry Kidder, MA