Sensations of joy in Poulenc's Gloria and Mozart's Vespers

BRATTLEBORO — Call it nirvana, bliss, joy, or ecstasy — we all know it when it happens. And although there are many great compositions that have elements of this wondrous state of being, there are very few whose entire scope is suffused with this most sought after state of being. But, according to music director Susan Dedell, two of the most truly joyful are Poulenc's Gloria and Mozart's Vespers.

The Brattleboro Concert Choir, with music director Susan Dedll taking the podium for her last time with this chorus, is delighted to present these marvelous masterpieces on May 19, at 7:30 p.m., and again on May 20, at 4 p.m. The concerts, featuring soloists soprano Junko Wataname, alto Justina Golden, tenor Peter Shea, and bass Charles Mays, Jr., will be held at Persons Auditorium in Marlboro.

Dedell says of the program, "Many actors would agree that it is harder to play a nuanced hero than a villain, at least as far as the superficial presentation is concerned. And the same is true for music. It takes a composer of musical genius and personal depth to fully portray that most sought after — and yet elusive — sensation: joy."

Poulenc's Gloria captures, in vivid short capsules, some of the most important dimensions of joy. One of the most wonderfully obvious is the experience of pure whimsy. Like a gleeful child, Poulenc delights in making a game out of the most unlikely materials and circumstances. "A chorus member asked me during a rehearsal why I thought the composer wrote one section of the piece with the sections of the chorus tossing the phrases back and forth at each other. "Is it fun to do?" I asked? "Well, yea!," he replied. "Ah, there's the answer — it's meant simply to be fun."

Another aspect of joy manifested in the Gloria is the state of unrestrained physical energy. Dedell, "One of the shortest and most vivid sections of the Gloria contains music that seems like a suitable soundtrack for a quartet of gleeful puppies, or a crowd of happy teenage friends: they are more than a bit roudy, but without a mean bone in their bodies. Fun to hear, and fun to sing!"

Mozart's music is often lavishly suffused with these aspects of joy, but the Vespers to be experienced on this concert add another dimension of joy — the joy that is found in the true unity of all persons. For Mozart, all personal joys are culminated in the perfect unity to be found in our common brotherhood. He believed that music should inculcate feelings of humanity, compassion, friendship, and freedom of all kinds.

Mozart's genius allows him to be at once the most innocent and gleeful of all composers, as well as the most beautifully loving. It allows him to portray suffering and tragedy in the same compassionate space that he portrays our human foibles. And in the Vespers, these emotions are given full scope, bound together in the giant, resounding amens! that end each section.

Joining Dedell and the Concert Choir for this program are longtime friends and colleagues in the orchestra, led by concertmaster Kathy Andrew. "A long time ago, when I first began working with an orchestra, Blanche Moyse advised me that I didn't have to know the answers to everything, but I did need to know people who did.! I can't begin to list the number of people who belong in that category, and many of them will be on that stage. Their artistry and collaboration has been an extraordinary gift to the chorus, to me, and to our partners in the audience."

Advance tickets are on $18, $10 students, with tickets at the door at $20. $10 students, available from the Brattleboro Music Center, 802-247-4523, or at BMC is located at 72 Blanche Moyse Way.


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