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Concord Chorale plans soul-awakening show

  • The Concord Chorale will perform its winter shows this weekend.

    The Concord Chorale will perform its winter shows this weekend.

  • The Concord Chorale will perform its winter shows this weekend.

The Concord Chorale wants to shake the winter chill from its audiences and fill their souls with the warm glow of song with its annual seasonal concert.

The Winter Concert of the Concord Chorale this year features one of the largest musical ensembles in its more than 40-year history. The chorale, with the theme “Awake my Soul” as its guide, will perform the “Creation Mass” by Josef Haydn and “Mass of the Children” by contemporary composer John Rutter.

“Both of them are pretty substantial works,” said Kristofer Johnson, chorale director. “The idea of the program really is about the new year and being wakeful and hopeful. And so they are kind of unified in this theme.”

He added that the children’s mass will be dedicated to the memory of the children killed in the Newtown, Conn., massacre last month.

“We certainly know that there are still people carrying emotions about that, as are we,” Johnson said. “And making art about those things is one of the ways that we can deal with it and process it.”

Four professional soloists, hailing from Boston and New York, will join the 80-member chorale along with a 25-person professional orchestra.

For the Rutter Mass, the chorale will be accompanied by a 40-member youth chorus made up of singers from area middle and high schools, as well as the Purple Finches of the Concord Community Music School. Johnson said the Rutter Mass, with its singable melodies has the title “of the Children” rather than “for the Children” for good reason.

“This is not a childish work tuned to kids’ enjoyment, but rather that young singers are central to the composition and its effective performance,” he said.

The Rutter tells the story of the journey of a day, going from waking to sleeping, or a life going from birth to death, Johnson said. And it’s a challenge to get a large group of children, albeit talented children, to bring a gravitas to the work. But Johnson said he’s confident they will hit the mark.

“We’re working with a number of kids from all over the area, and they come from a variety of backgrounds,” Johnson said. “And trying to get them to really feel like they are embodying that text and declaring it while making beautiful sounds, that certainly is a challenge. It is. But they are doing a lovely job.”

He said that ultimately he motivates the young performers by reminding them how beautiful the music is, as well as encouraging them to engage the audience with their eyes and voices.

The Concord Chorale Youth Chorus will be directed by Susan Berlenbach and is comprised of sixth through 10th graders from Kearsarge Regional Middle School, Deerfield Community School, Hillside Middle School in Manchester, Proctor Academy, and the Purple Finches of the Concord Community Music School.

Berlenbach said the concert provides “one of the few opportunities available for the kids to be able to perform with polished amateur and professional adult musicians.”

The adults have their work cut out for them, too. Though the Haydn “Creation Mass” was written when the composer was older, he imbued the work with an energetic, engaging humor and light-heartedness, Johnson said.

“Because we had a long rehearsal process beginning this fall, it has allowed us to go deeper into this music than we are able to in other seasons,” Johnson said. “So the challenge with a long rehearsal process is to keep going deeper and deeper in a way that is not just about knowing the notes and rhythms but that’s about making a communicative statement.”

The concerts, each about 90 minutes long, will be held on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at St John the Evangelist Church, 72 S. Main St. in Concord. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, and are available from any chorale member, or by calling 463-5504. They are also available at Merrimack County Savings Bank on Main Street and Bona Fide Green Goods, at 35 S. Main St. For information, visit concordchorale.org.

A previous version of this article misstated the length of the concerts. They will each be about 90 minutes long.

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