Men’s acapella group to launch its second season
On Nov. 17, Castañeda Concert Series artistic director Ronald Maltais is bringing de Profundis, a men’s acapella group to Las Vegas to open its second season. The performance will be at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person.
Maltais, a pianist who is also a vocalist and composer, knew by age four that piano and music would be his life’s work. He began formal lessons at age eight and studied with Maurice Hoffman. He has degrees from the New England Conservatory for piano performance, and Boston University for music composition. He is currently composing an opera based on the life of Camille Claudel. He premiered his Star Axis Prelude for a select audience at the Light Spectrum Concert in March 2016, at the Dwan Light Sanctuary.
Through Castañeda Concerts and the Meadow City Academy of Music, Maltais’ goal is to bring talented musicians to perform in Las Vegas venues, such as the Castañeda Hotel, the Plaza Hotel Ballroom and Immaculate Conception Church, and provide a broader range of classical entertainment. Although the Castañeda won’t be available for performances this season, Maltais said he is thrilled that this historic landmark is getting the attention it deserves due to the tireless efforts of Allan Affeldt who purchased the property three years ago.
David Poole, founding member and director of de Profundis, has an extensive background as a conductor, composer and vocalist. He is former director of music at La Mesa Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, N.M., is currently teaching voice privately, working as a consultant to churches on their music programs, and teaching at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, N.M. The group is comprised of men from different professional backgrounds who love music and performing.
The Nov. 17 concert will include selections that range from Gregorian chant-based works to a jazz-like arrangement of an African-American spiritual, in languages from Spanish to Russian to Gaelic.
The following Q&A features comments from Maltais and Poole.
ORP: Ron, how did you find out about de Profundis?
Ronald: I was initially planning to present the Pleiades String Quartet, which performed in Las Vegas at the Castañeda a year ago. When they were not available I thought an acapella group would be a great contrast to the three events we presented during our first concert season. I did some research and found information about de Profundis, and called the conductor, David Poole. We managed to find a date the group could fit into their performance schedule.
ORP: What do you most want patrons to know about the group?
Ronald: This group is based in Albuquerque and has been together for well over twenty years. I believe David is the original conductor and founder. Comprised of several tenors and basses, they sing a repertoire which is wide ranging in style and time periods. I was impressed by the fact that these are professional men who get together once each week mainly because of their love of music and their passion for performing.
ORP: You started the Castañeda Concerts Series last year. How do you feel the performances are going?
Ronald: The Castañeda Concert Series came about through my interest in the Castañeda Hotel and the amazing acoustics in the dining room. Our first performance there, Sept. 10, 2016, featured a dynamic string quartet from Santa Fe. The remaining concerts of that season were moved to other venues throughout Las Vegas because of the condition of the hotel at that time. Now that the restoration is underway we will not be able to return there until 2019, but we have chosen to retain the name of the series regardless of where we are performing. The second concert featured Emi Arte Flamenco of Santa Fe, at the Plaza Hotel Ballroom. The final concert at Ilfeld Auditorium featured two string players from Santa Fe and percussionist Ralph Marquez. I joined them as a pianist and keyboardist in an original work titled Suite for Percussion and Keyboard, which was composed for Marquez.
ORP: As artistic director, what are you looking for to fill out the season in the coming months?
Ronald: I am hoping that the second event this season will feature another dramatic dance presentation. The third conert will involve the Knabe grand piano (currently under restoration), at the Plaza Hotel, and several other classical musicians from neighboring communities. Our recent recital on Sept. 20 featured Marcos Vigil, tenor. Marcos and I were quite taken with the sound of the nine-foot Knabe grand piano (1909) which wants to be played more often.
ORP: How long has de Profundis been performing?
David: de Profundis had its inaugural concert in the fall of 1994.
ORP: What does de Profundis mean?
David: The name is Latin for “out of the deep.” It is both a kind of play on words – invoking the deeper range of the male voice – as well as the conviction that making music together has the power to reveal and express that in our lives which is truly deep or profound.
ORP: Why did the group select this name?
David: I had the name in mind before I recruited my first singer! In addition to the considerations cited above, it had a certain musical cadence as well as an air of mystery.
ORP: How many members are in the group and how did they qualify?
David: The group started out as a group of 12, essentially a triple-quartet. After a couple of seasons, it became evident that to achieve a better vocal balance as well as provide some flexibility, it would be necessary to add one or two more tenors. The group has numbered either 13 or 14 ever since. The vision remains of a small, intimate chamber ensemble, so there is no plan or desire to increase the size. Members are selected based on an audition, which consists of an assessment of range and vocal ability, sight-reading capability and ensemble sensibility.
ORP: Is this like a barbershop quartet, and if not, how is it different?
David: de Profundis is most definitely not a barbershop group. Barbershop is a very specific style, involving a “straight” tone, close voicing and certain harmonic conventions. de Profundis does every type of music intended for male voices except barbershop.
ORP: How many of the original group members are still active and how often do you bring in new members?
David: The longevity of our members is one of the attributes that distinguishes the group. The average tenure at this point is well in-excess of ten years. There is one founding member still singing in the group and three who started in the second season.
ORP: What can patrons expect at the Nov. 17 performance?
David: The Nov. 17 performance will provide a sampling of gems – rough-cut turquoise to polished diamonds – from the treasure trove of male choral literature. The selections will range from Gregorian chant-based works to a jazz-like arrangement of an African-American spiritual, in languages from Spanish to Russian to Gaelic.
ORP: Describe the de Profundis sound.
David: The unique sound of de Profundis has been characterized in the press as “rich, resonant tones…” “finely-shaded phrasing…” “subtlety and elegance…” and “refinement . . . unearthly.”
ORP: Where can people get more information about de Profundis?
David: More information about the group can be found at www.depro.org.
What: Castañeda Concert Series, second season
Featuring: de Profundis Chorus, an acapella men’s group
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17
Where: Immaculate Conception Church, 5th and National Ave.
Tickets: $15 per person at the door,
or in advance from the Las Vegas Arts Council, 140 Bridge Street.
Order on line here. A $1 processing fee will be added.