GREENFIELD, Mass. -- The Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus takes center stage Sunday, April 14, at the Second Congregational Church.
The appearance of the 60-person chorus at 16 Court Square will bring to musical life "The Movies in Song" under the direction of conductor Jonathan Harvey, starting at 3 p.m. The next concert in this season’s PVS series of "At the Movies," this family-friendly event offers a varied program that spans from the traditional classical work of Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner to the lighter fare of Hollywood favorites Henry Mancini and Harold Arlen.
"We’ll be covering a very large spectrum of music in this performance," said Harvey, a Greenfield resident, "moving from the Renaissance to contemporary with a great deal in between. Some pieces were written specifically for films, others had existed for centuries before being used in a soundtrack.
"They represent different styles, countries and eras, but what they have in common is a visceral immediacy that is able to translate well when paired with moving pictures. They’re also just fantastic pieces of music."
Fans of film will certainly be taken back in time when they hear the chorus’ rendition of Henry Mancini’s highly droll but hauntingly beautiful "Moon River," the theme song from the motion picture "Breakfast at Tiffany’s." Harvey points out that Johnny Mercer, who wrote the lyrics, reached back to his own childhood to pen the words for the sentimental melody.
"What is a ‘huckleberry friend’?" said Harvey. "It turns out that Mercer would explore the streams around his hometown of Savannah, Ga., with a childhood friend, and they would pick huckleberries together. So, at its core, the song is nostalgic, looking back on simpler times."
The concert will end with one of the most famous of all songs of the silver screen, "Somewhere over the Rainbow," from the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz." Howard Arlen wrote the enchanting music, while his longtime partner E.Y. Harburg wrote the exquisite lyrics.
Another contemporary piece opens the program. Ennio Morricone, in conductor Harvey’s view "a legend in film scoring," has worked with outstanding directors such as Oliver Stone, Mike Nichols, Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, Brian DePalma and John Carpenter over a close to six-decade career. Morricone’s evocative "River" will be sung by the PVS chorus, from the 1986 motion picture "The Mission," which captured the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won an Oscar for Best Cinematography.
Meanwhile, Austrian composer Anton Bruckner’s "Os justi" (1879) will be heard. The motet, also referred to as "a short sacred Latin piece," according to Harvey, was utilized in the soundtrack of "Oscar and Lucinda." The motion picture, released in 1997, revolves around a bet made by an Anglican priest (Ralph Fiennes) with an Australian heiress (Cate Blanchett) that the former can move a church constructed of glass from Britain to Australia.
Also scheduled to be sung is The Bridal Chorus from "Lohengrin" (1850) by the immortal Richard Wagner. "The most famous music from the opera," said Harvey, "is the Bridal Chorus, which opens Act III. More commonly known as ‘Here Comes the Bride,’ The Bridal Chorus has been used in almost every movie centered on a wedding (’The Father of the Bride,’ ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding,’ ‘Runaway Bride,’ and the list goes on) and is associated with the joy and anticipation of seeing a bride march down the aisle."
In addition, in honor of the 100th celebration of English composer Benjamin Britten’s birth, the PVS Chorus will present "Five Flower Songs" (1950), the only piece of the afternoon not linked to a movie. "Five Flower Songs" possess an energetic, vigorous, pictorial quality that blends in with the concert’s music from motion pictures. There are five numbers in Britten’s work: "To Daffodils," "The Succession of the Four Sweet Months," "Marsh Flowers," "The Evening Primrose" and "Ballad of Green Broom." Michael Carney, pianist and organist for the day’s program, will conduct the second number.
Anna Wetherby serves in many capacities for the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. She has played viola in the symphony for 20 years, is personnel manager, financial administrator, handles publicity, and is the organization’s librarian. Wetherby is also a teacher at the Bement School in Deerfield.
"Volunteer community organizations," she said, "form the basis of the chorus, which is made up of many diverse professions such as lawyers, teachers, doctors, information tech people, and a chef."
Meanwhile, the PVS has a new managing director. Susanne Dunlap will be in charge of day- to-day operations of the symphony, handling fundraising, development, and marketing.
Jonathan Harvey is studying for a doctorate of musical arts in conducting at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. In addition, he has a teaching assistantship, conducting a chorus group at UConn comprised of students, while teaching classes to undergraduate students in conducting.
"I want to conduct choirs and university orchestras," said Harvey, who, according to Anna Wetherby, "is highly regarded by the chorus." Harvey especially enjoys his work with singers in the PVS Chorus with its mix of age groups and life experiences.
Harvey started singing and playing an instrument in elementary school. "If I hadn’t started at that time," said Harvey, "I wouldn’t have stayed with it." He graduated from Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Mich., Earlham College (B.A. in music and philosophy) and Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University (M. Music in choral conducting).
"In conducting a choral ensemble," said Harver, "I want to make sure the ensemble’s potential is fulfilled. I have an ideal sound in my head and work hard at rehearsals to try and realize that ideal."
Tickets for the April 14t concert in Greenfield are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and students. Children under 18 may attend for $6. Tickets are available before the concert at 413-773-3664 or at www.pvso.org and at the door.