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Concord Chorale revels in Haydn’s “Creation” with spring show

A D minor deluge roiled its way past a vast stretch of peaceful green, humming its own tune in B flat. Sunbeams burst out of the dark, only to acquiesce in the end to moonbeams in the key of G. And it was good.

Really good, as it turned out for composer Joseph Haydn. Often called his masterwork, “The Creation” tells the world’s origin story through an elaborate mix of orchestral playing and chorale singing. While some might consider the work daunting, with its elaborate musical needs, the Concord Chorale is taking it on for its spring concert Sunday. The concert will feature three soloists, a large symphonic orchestra and the 80-voice chorale.

“It’s hugely dramatic,” said Kristofer Johnson, music director of the chorale. “The orchestra paints the pictures of the first sunrise and the creation of light and all of the animals. The word in music we call it is tone painting. So the orchestra is actually showing you all of the things that are happening aurally.”

The performance is one piece of a season celebrating the chorale’s 45th anniversary.

“It’s really one of the most important of the big celebratorial pieces in solo orchestral repertoire,” Johnson said. “And so we wanted to do it for the anniversary year.”

It’s also one of a three-part Haydn project the chorale is preparing for its trip to the Classical Music Festival in Eisenstaedt, Austria, where it has been chosen to be the choir in residence. Johnson will serve as chorus master for the festival. The chorale will be performing one of Haydn’s Masses, which it performed last year locally, in the place where Haydn first performed this music.

“The Creation” is arguably Haydn’s greatest work, and it reflects his excitement for the oratorios of Handel, according to chorale officials. An oratorio is a large-scale musical work done for orchestra and voices. Oratorios commonly have a narrative with a religious theme. Examples include Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” and Handel’s “Messiah.”

Using the Bible and Milton’s Paradise Lost as his guides, Haydn reproduces the creation story, with soloists taking on the role of angels in the first sections, and Adam and Eve in the final scenes. In one passage, the orchestra takes on the characteristics of the first animals.

“There’s this part that we call the menagerie aria where all the animals are being created,” Johnson said. “And the orchestra basically is pretending to be the lion and the tiger and the stag, all of these land animals, but the orchestra is actually playing the music – almost like you would use a paints or something – the orchestra is showing you the movement of the animal through the music.”

Because of the large scale of “The Creation,” it’s somewhat rare to hear the piece performed at all, let alone in its entirety.

“(The piece) has tremendous energy and excitement,” Johnson said. “It’s really a celebration of the natural world. And I hope that people will leave feeling energized about the spring and the love of the outdoors and all that sort of thing.”

A preview performance will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in Exeter, 43 Pine St. Tickets for this event are $20, $15 for students and seniors, and are available from chorale members; by calling 463-5504; or at the Water Street Bookstore, 125 Water St., Exeter, 778-9731.

The primary performance of “The Creation” will take place at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord on Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, and $20 for students and seniors. Tickets are available from chorale members or by calling 463-5504. Tickets also available at the Capitol Center box office, 44 S. Main St., 225-1111, or online at ccanh.com. For information, visit concordchorale.org.

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