Concord Chorale to cap off 51st season

  • The Concord Chorale will cap off its 51st season, and the tenure of music director Kris Johnson, with a pair of performances in the Capital City this weekend. Courtesy

  • Kris Johnson's nine-year tenure as the music director with the Concord Chorale will come to an end with three concerts this weekend. Courtesy photo—

Monitor staff
Published: 5/16/2019 11:26:48 AM

The finale of the Concord Chorale’s 51st season will bring mixed emotions for music director Kris Johnson

After nine years with the organization, Sunday’s performance at South Congregational Church in Concord will be Johnson’s last in the capacity after announcing a year and a half ago that he would be stepping down to focus on his duties as chairman of the department of music at Phillips Exeter Academy.

Johnson, who is the sixth music director in the five-plus decades of the Chorale’s history, began his tenure with the mixed, auditioned ensemble that features more than 80 voices as interim music director before securing the role on a permanent basis. His first task was to prepare the group for Star Wars in Concert and his final will be leading the way for three shows of The End is the Beginning – two in Concord and another in Exeter. And the memories in between will stay with him for the rest of his life.

“It’s really an extraordinary organization because it has a lot of musical integrity and musical ambition, but it also has tremendous heart,” Johnson said.

When Ryan Turner, the Chorale’s previous music director stepped down late in the season, Johnson was tabbed to help lead the transition on an interim basis for one year.

“They were looking to fill the gap at the time,” Johnson said.

His work during that time showed he was up to the task of being the next in a long line of accomplished music directors.

“I think of it as my second musical education,” Johnson said.

Over the last nine years, Johnson, whose wife, Janine, sings in the Chorale, has put together thoughtful, curated performances that have pushed the Chorale to new heights – accomplishments that have not gone unnoticed.

“He handled this process as good as any music program could want,” said Doug Phelan, chairman of marketing and communications for the Concord Chorale. “As with every transition ... there’s just this gradual realization and appreciation for what he’s done.”

But with an increase in responsibilities when taking over to lead the music department at Phillips Exeter, Johnson knew it would mean his work with the Chorale would have to come to an end.

“It’s just the end of a chapter,” Johnson said.

So for the last few months, the Chorale has been working on the musical study that spans five centuries – put together by Johnson – and delves into the juncture between what is and what is to come. Both a send off for Johnson and the ushering in of a new era with Jenny Cooper taking over the role that Johnson has chaired for almost a decade.

“It was pretty easy to find a collection of works that would be heartfelt,” Johnson said. “It will be tremendously emotional.”

In this program, audiences will find musings on endings and death as well as hope and renewal. It will include works from Henry Purcell, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Gabriel Fauré, Moses Hogan, J. David Moore, Karl Friedrich Zelter, Healey Willan, Benjamin Britten and Ned Rorem.

Molly Lozeau, the Chorale’s collaborative pianist since 2011, will provide the music accompaniment, and will be joined by Andrew Haringer for a piece by Carol Barnett. Internationally-acclaimed soprano Martha Guth also returns to perform a selection of solo works for the occasion.

“You can follow a thread through and it’s been this existential experience,” Phelan said. “And Kris is one of the most thoughtful people with things like this.”

The first concert will be held at Christ Church in Exeter on Friday at 7:30 p.m., followed by two performances at South Congregational Church in Concord on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Tickets may be pre-purchased from Concord Chorale members directly, at concordchorale.org, Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St.) and Merrimack County Savings Bank (89 N. Main St.) in Concord, and Water Street Bookstore (125 Water St.) in Exeter. Pricing is $20 general admission, $15 seniors for all pre-purchased tickets. At the door, tickets are $25 general admission, and $20 for seniors. Students are free and should get their tickets only at the door.

For more information, visit their website at concordchorale.org or Facebook page at facebook.com/ConcordChorale.




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