Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Chorale corrals Dvorak

Chorale corrals Dvorak

Caritas Chorale rehearse for their performance of "Stabat Mater." Photo by Tom Kubin

Caritas Chorale will be testing their limits this weekend with a performance of Antonin Dvorak's "Stabat Mater."

"Over the past five years we've performed some of the greatest pieces in the choral repertoire; Verdi's 'Requiem,' Haydn's 'Lord Nelson Mass' and 'The Creation,'" said the Chorale's founder and conductor Dick Brown.

"But this coming piece is pushing us to the next level, it is a big, sprawling, emotional piece, which is extremely demanding of the chorus."

"Stabat Mater" is the first important scared work by Dvorak. It derives from a Medieval Latin poem describing Mary's grief over her son, Jesus' crucifixion. The text was especially poignant for Dvorak, he began the work following the death of his two-day-old daughter, Josefa, in 1875.

He abandoned the work in mid-1876 and returned to it only when two more of his children passed away; 11-month-old Rose on August 13, 1877 and three-year-old Otakar a month later. Dvorak completed the work on Nov. 13, 1877.

The composer channeled his own grief into this passionate masterpiece that progresses through choral themes of anguish and suffering ending in themes of bliss and joyful hope of salvation in paradise.

Dvorak had great success with "Stabat Mater" and was invited to conduct the work at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1884. The performance was a huge triumph and the reception of his choral music in London inspired him to compose his great "Requiem."

So, how will Caritas Chorale approach this powerful and challenging piece? "For a work like this you need professional vocalists, it's a hugely demanding piece, they are singing for an hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission," said Brown.

The singers performing include four soloists; Wood River Valley resident, soprano, Katherine Edison, Idaho Falls-based mezzo soprano Solveig Nyberg-Akert—a former member of the Dale Warland Choir—Tyler Smith, a tenor from the Houston Grand Opera and bass Lynn Berg, a voice teacher at BSU.

The chorale will also be joined by several members of the Aban Cara Choir and accompanied by a 45-piece orchestra. All will be under Brown's masterful baton.

The crux of the performance however, is the 85 strong chorus splendidly performed by Caritas Chorale. Caritas is comprised of Wood River Valley residents of all ages and professions, "We have teachers, doctors, lawyers, ski bums, all sorts!" claims Brown.

Brown formed Caritas Chorale in 1999 with the intention of building a community chorus that could perform major choral pieces with an orchestra for the residents of valley.

"Our mission is to bring the best of choral literature to the valley and make it available to everyone."

Brown has conducted choirs, orchestras, chamber concerts, musicals and operas across the world and is well known as an accomplished cellist. Besides Caritas, Brown founded the Choral Rendezvous in Challis and the Chamber Choir of Idaho. He is also the musical director for St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ketchum and Music Director for The Community School, Ketchum.

"We have a big production coming up in spring. We have commissioned our first piece for the Chorale and will premier it here in Sun Valley in May. We'll then take it on a tour of Idaho and Europe.

"The piece is in celebration of the Lewis and Clark centennial, David Allen Earnest (a Boise music producer) is the composer and the libretto will be written by Diane Peavey (a well know Idaho author/broadcaster). It's a beautiful, powerful and emotional work that deals with the Native American reaction to Lewis and Clark, there will even be some singing in the native Shoshone language."

There will be two performances of "Stabat Mater," one on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. and on Sunday, Jan. 30 at 5:30 p.m. The performances will be at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood and are free of charge, with donations gratefully accepted. Caritas Chorale subsists solely on grants, gifts, donations and an annual fund-raising dinner, which takes place in the fall.

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