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Monadnock Chorus teams up with Keene State College Choirs for unique performance

  • Monadnock Chorus sopranos rehearsing Stravinsky’s challenging “Symphony of Psalms.” Courtesy Photo

  • Monadnock Chorus Artistic Director Dr. Matthew Leese conducts a rehearsal of Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms. Courtesy Photo

  • Monadnock Chorus rehearsing for upcoming concert with accompanist Cheryl Sharrock. Courtesy Photo


Friday, November 23, 2018 11:18AM

As one of the foremost composers of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky broke new ground in classical music. His dramatic “Symphony of Psalms” was no exception, making waves when it premiered in both Brussels and Boston in 1930.

Audiences in the Monadnock region will have what may well be the first opportunity to hear this unique piece live in December when Monadnock Chorus teams with the Keene State College choirs to present the work with concerts Dec. 7 at the Redfern Arts Center in Keene, and Dec. 9 at the Peterborough Town House.

The concert, presented in collaboration with Dr. Sandra Howard and the Keene State College Music Department, will also showcase each choir individually, featuring additional short works by Gabrieli, Holst, Z. Randall Stroope, Schubert and Debussy, among others.

“We are excited to be collaborating with Keene State College to present this challenging work,” said Monadnock Chorus Artistic Director Dr. Matthew Leese. “Our combined groups will include 130 voices and full orchestra – a robust ensemble that will do credit to Stravinsky’s monumental composition. This massive collaboration has taken three years in planning, fundraising and preparation. We are particularly proud of the truly exceptional roster of musicians who have come together as our professional orchestra for this performance.”

The music department at Keene State College shares this enthusiasm.

“These kinds of collaborations are essential to building bridges between the campus and the wider community in pursuit of the college’s mission: ‘Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve’,” said Keene State’s Dr. Howard. “Giving our students the opportunity to perform large-scale choral-orchestral repertoire is an important part of the undergraduate experience. Singing alongside seasoned and enthusiastic community singers enhances that aspect of our students’ musical education and experience.”

Orchestration for the Symphony of Psalms also breaks the mold, and is one of the reasons the piece is performed so rarely outside of large urban areas. Dr. Leese points out that “Stravinsky purposefully eliminated the typical violins and violas, instead highlighting many unusual and additional colors of woodwinds and brass to create a truly unique orchestral experience. A significant battery of percussion adds to the impressive sound world.”

Audiences will hear the influences of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms in this score, he noted, as well as the undeniable presence of early twentieth century violence that shaped Stravinsky’s worldview.

Tickets for the Friday, Dec. 7, concert are available from the Redfern Arts Center Box Office (603.358.2168) or online at keene.edu/arts/redfern.

Tickets for Sunday’s Dec. 9 concert in Peterborough are available online at monadnock-chorus.org, or at local Peterborough retailers, Steele’s Stationers and Toadstool Bookstore.

The Monadnock Chorus, winner of a 2018 Ewing Arts Award, is celebrating its 60th season in 2018-19. The group is proud to be a volunteer, non-auditioned community chorus providing quality choral singing opportunities for area residents. The Chorus presents two major concerts each season – in December and in May. In August 2019, Monadnock Chorus will tour through Canada’s Maritime Provinces, presenting Dan Forrest’s “Requiem for the Living.” The Keene State College Music Department offers five music degrees and as well as a music minor. Fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, the KSC Music Department focuses on providing students an enriching foundation, with many opportunities behind the scenes and on stage to explore a passion for music.

“We believe that a strong liberal arts education, balanced with comprehensive training in music, can prepare students for a purposeful and fulfilling life,” said Music Department Chair Heather Gilligan. “We are committed to offering every music student a high-quality curriculum with excellence in musicianship, while developing every student’s talents and perspectives.”

Additional information about the December concerts and Monadnock Chorus can be found at monadnock-chorus.org.