New director looks forward to debut performance

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BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Concert Choir's new director feels right at home as he and the choir prepare for January concerts.

"Beginning my work with the Choir has felt a bit like joining a family - I'm still working to get to know everyone, but I feel very fortunate," says Jonathan Harvey, who was named music director of the Brattleboro Concert Choir last fall. "I'm very happy to have ten Brattleboro Music Center faculty singing and playing with us for this performance."

The Concert Choir presents "Mozart, Beginnings and Endings," in two performances at the Latchis Theatre, Friday, Jan. 11, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 12, at 3 p.m. For ticket information, visit the BMC website at bmcvt.org or call 802-257-4523.

Harvey, an assistant professor of music and director of choirs at Fitchburg (Mass.) State University, notes, "I've felt such a powerful sense of 'home' with our singers. They've been so welcoming and excited. It's a new chapter for the Concert Choir, and I hope it's a long one."

In describing the concert program, Harvey explains, "Any composer's last work always holds a certain fascination, and Mozart's Requiem is no exception — so many depictions of Mozart's life posit that with the Requiem, he felt as if he was writing for his own funeral. And the legend that Mozart heard Allegri's Miserere in the Sistine Chapel as a touring child prodigy and was so taken with it that he immediately transcribed it from memory is a testament not only to Mozart's awe-inspiring talent, but also to the power of Allegri's work. The Mozart Requiem and Allegri's Miserere may be separated by over 150 years and half a continent, but Mozart's musical personality is what brings them together."

Soloists will include soprano Junko Wantanabe, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Hansen, tenor Peter W. Shea, and bass John Salvi.

Watanabe has performed widely in operas, oratorios, and recitals in the U.S. and in her native Japan. She has been featured as a soloist with the Boston Lyric Opera, Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, Chorus Pro Musica, and Masterworks Choral. For the 2018-2019 season, her engagements include a collaboration with pianist Chia-Wen Cheng on songs by Rachmaninoff, the soprano solos in Michael Haydn's Requiem, Joseph Haydn's The Creation, and Bach's Magnificat, and a collaboration with baroque violinist Dana Maiben and harpsichordist Kay Ueyama on Bach's cantatas. Currently, Watanabe is on the faculty of Amherst College, Brattleboro Music Center, and Rivers School Conservatory.

Hansen is a magna cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College, has performed as soloist with orchestras and choruses throughout Northern New England, and has been a semifinalist in the Oratorio Society of New York Annual Solo Competition. She is choir director at Sacred Heart Parish in Lebanon and a cantor at St. Denis in Hanover. She teaches voice privately and on the faculty of the BMC and the Upper Valley Music Center. Her students have gone on to sing in music or theater programs at Oberlin, St Olaf, Belmont, Elon, Ithaca, Dartmouth, and others.

Shea has sung professionally for 46 years throughout New England and the Hudson Valley. He is a frequent tenor and baritone soloist with several area choral societies, and is a member of the vocal ensembles Cantabile and Illuminati. He sings art songs and vocal chamber music of all eras, with special emphasis on German lieder. Since 1997, Shea has gained recognition for his project of collecting, indexing, critiquing and performing musical settings of the great German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, as well as commissioning them from 18 composers. He worked as a cataloger at the UMass Amherst Libraries for 32 years, and recently retired to Northfield, Mass.

An accomplished singer on both the operatic and concert stage, Salvi's clear and agile baritone voice has been hailed as "stentorian" by many and over the past 20 years, Salvi has appeared as a guest artist with opera companies and choral societies throughout New England. His 2018-19 season performances include Bach's Matth us-Passion and Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, BWV 211 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Bach Festival as well as Haydn's The Creation with the Hampshire Choral Society. He earned his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The Brattleboro Concert Choir is the Brattleboro Music Center's oldest performing ensemble, and was created by Blanche Moyse, founder of the BMC.

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