Love is in the air this weekend at Central Baptist Church
Spring has arrived, and romance will be in the air this weekend courtesy of the Jamestown Community Chorus. The venerable singing group will present a program of quixotic music titled “Isn’t It Romantic? Brahms To Broadway.” The concert will feature music from the 19th century to the present day, with a number of interesting stops along the way.
More than 50 chorus members will participate in this year’s spring concert. Their program will begin with tunes from German composer Johannes Brahms, and will go on to incorporate music by Mendelssohn, Schubert, Samuel Barber, Morton Lauridsen, Paul Hindemith and Jerome Kern. “Fields of Gold,” a song by Sting, will conclude the concert and complete the bridge from past to present.
According to music director B.J. Whitehouse, now in his 23rd year with the chorus, the Sting song was chosen when the chorus was trying to include some late 20th century music in the sing-alongs that take place at every chorus concert. “It was recommended and I had heard a nice arrangement of it on the radio,” Whitehouse said. “It’s a very pretty love song, and it fits right in.”
When it came time to choose music for this year’s concert, Whitehouse turned to Brahms, who is his favorite composer. “He is the singer’s friend,” the director said. “His harmony is exquisite.” There will be a total of nine Brahms songs in the program.
Whitehouse will conduct the concert while Janet Grant, who has been with the chorus since 1989, will be the accompanist. According to Whitehouse, the concert will include music of the romantic era: 1820 to 1920.
“We also have some neoromantic music from the 20th century – and even the 21st century – that rounds out the program,” Whitehouse said. “There are classical pieces by Hindemith, Barber and other neoromantics.” Neoromanticism is the return to the emotional expression associated with the ro- mantic era.
The 21st century piece of the program is one by Morten Lauridsen called “Sure On This Shining Night,” which is based on a poem by James Agee. It was written in 2007 and will conclude the first half of the concert. The second half will begin with Samuel Barber’s take on the same poem, which is very different from Lauridsen’s.
Whitehouse said that the Broadway section of the performance focuses on romantic love songs from the Great White Way, the section of Broadway that encompasses the Theatre District and Times Square. That portion of the show will include tunes like “Blue Moon” by Rodgers and Hart, “It Had To Be You” by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn, and Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening.”
The concert will feature two solos and four duets. Three of the duets are classical, one by Brahms, one by Mendelssohn, and one by Schubert. They will be followed by a duet of “People Will Say We’re In Love” from the musical “Oklahoma.” Soloists will include Julie Beth Andrews on “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and Whitehouse himself singing a solo performance of “All the Things You Are.”
One of the duets that will appear in the program is based on a poem called “Die Nonne und der Ritter,” which translates to “The Nun and the Knight,” by Joseph von Eichendorff. The Brahms piece will be sung by chorus members Christine Ariel and Steve Mecca.
“We’re singing in German,” Ariel said. “The poetry is about a nun and a knight, which was often used in that time period to strike up poetic work. It is very intense. The nun is longing for her lost love, presumably in a convent, while her love, the knight, is out there fighting in the crusades, longing for her, who he knew in a prior existence. They are both horribly sad, but it’s set to very beautiful music by Brahms.”
“The music is open to lots of interpretation,” Mecca said. “I find German to be a difficult language. There are so many gutturals and consonants. It’s much easier to sing in a language like Italian where the vowel is the whole enchilada.”
But Mecca added that the chorus has done so many pieces in German that most of them can find our way through it. “That doesn’t make it any easier to sing,” he said. “We’ve talked about what might have inspired this piece, and we’ve decided that the nun and the knight might have met in some earlier time, and now there’s a little bit of tension going on in this piece.”
The Jamestown Community Chorus will hold their annual meeting in May, followed by the annual talent show in August. Rehearsals for the winter concert begin in September. Wilson also mentioned that the chorus website has had a major overhaul and sports a brand new look.
“Isn’t It Romantic? Brahms To Broadway” will be presented at Central Baptist Church on Saturday evening at 7:30, and Sunday afternoon at 3. A reception with refreshments follows each concert.
Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students. They will be available at the door, or in advance at Jamestown Hardware, Baker’s Pharmacy, and The Secret Garden.