‘Beautiful music’ will echo through Central Baptist
It’s time for the annual Jamestown Community Chorus spring concert, and this year the choir promises to provide its audience with “Belle Musique,” French for beautiful music. The 50-voice chorus, which was founded in 1949, will perform two shows this weekend.
According to Chorus President John McCauley, people who attend will see some of their neighbors and friends performing musical masterpieces that are related to the season.
“It will be a lovely evening,” he said.
Hilarie Aubois is a substitute teacher in the Jamestown School District. She joined the chorus in 1969 and has been singing with them ever since. She describes going to choir practice in the early days as her “one night out.”
Aubois has sung under three different choir directors, and three accompanists during her time in the chorus. Her longest stint has been with both current director B.J. Whitehouse and accompanist Janet Grant.
“Without our accompanist we would be nowhere,” Aubois said. “She is a phenomenal musician. She can play all the parts simultaneously, which I find incredible.”
One aspect of the chorus that Aubois enjoys most is the wide variety of music that the group performs. She said that while she never knows what the music will turn out to be, the concerts always seem to be a hit. She prefers the large pieces. As an example, she cites a performance of Faure’s Mass.
“I like doing a big piece as opposed to lots of little ones,” she said, “but we mix it up depending on who the people are in the chorus.”
Aubois, who now sings in the alto section after starting out as a soprano, has also enjoyed performances of songs from “The Sacred Harp.” Those performances are sometimes referred to as “shapenote singing,” she said. According to Aubois, they are some of the most difficult pieces to learn because people aren’t used to that kind of performance. American spirituals are also a favorite of Aubois’ – there will be three of them in this weekend’s program.
Two performances of “Belle Musique” are planned. The concerts will take place at Central Baptist Church on Saturday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, May 5, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for students and seniors. They are available at the Secret Garden, Jamestown Hardware and Baker’s Pharmacy. If any tickets remain, they will be available at the door, but advance purchase is recommended.
Whitehouse said this weekend’s program will include songs that are old chestnuts, as well music of a more recent vintage. “There is not a clinker in the bunch,” he said.
Whitehouse added that the concert will be full of examples of excellent choral music from the Renaissance all the way up to 2008. “It is literally beautiful music.”
“Agnus Dei” is a Renaissance piece from the Mass. It is a double choir piece, which means that there are two choirs singing antiphonally, or like an echo. It will be the oldest piece of music in this weekend’s concerts. At the other end of the timeline is “Sure on the Shining Night,” which Whitehouse said is a favorite of the chorus members.
“It is written by a living composer named Morten Lauridsen and is based on a poem by James Agee,” Whitehouse said. “It was written in 2007.”
A piece called “Freedom Come” is in the South African style and will appear near the end of the performance. Two soloists will be featured: Judy Stickney and Terry Horsley. Pieces by composers as diverse as Brahms and Bobby McFerrin will also be part of the program.
“You’re going to hear unbelievably high-quality choral music sung by your neighbors,” Whitehouse said. “It’s not listening to something avant-garde. It’s not listening to Gregorian chant for two hours. This is beautiful and accessible music. I wouldn’t be surprised if people know a lot of it already.”
In addition to the singing, the chorus will present its music awards to two local residents. The awards are intended to encourage musicians to pursue their musical dreams – and they come with a $500 prize.
This year’s adult recipient is percussionist Aaron Cote. There is also a category for young people. Natalie Toland, an islander who has performed in local theater productions and also appeared in the chorus’ talent show, will be honored with the award. The money for the gifts come from ticket sales as well as a grant the chorus has received.
“It is a very general award,” Whitehouse said. “We basically ask what people want to do with their musical life. It’s based somewhat on need, and somewhat on your aspirations. There were quite a few entries for the awards and these two rose to the top. This is the first time we’ve given two.”
Whitehouse said the main charge of the chorus is to expand choral signing in the community. “But we’ve expanded that in a lot of different directions,” he added.