The Commonwealth Chorale of Virginia will launch a three-part spring concert series joining singers from Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College in a “Carnegie Hall Celebration” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Longwood’s Jarman Hall.
The second and third performances of the series, featuring the Chorale alone in a concert titled “Hallelujah, Amen,” will be held on April 29 in Appomattox and April 30 in Clarksville.
The “Carnegie Hall Celebration” will feature John Rutter’s “Gloria” conducted by Dr. Pam McDermott, who will also conduct “Gloria” at Carnegie Hall on May 13.
The Longwood concert will include short sets by each ensemble before the 90-plus singers combine for the “Gloria.”
Through a combination of fundraising and self-funding, 30 Longwood students will make the trip to Carnegie Hall with McDermott.
“When invited to conduct at Carnegie Hall, I wanted to share this opportunity with my students,” McDermott, director of choral activities at Longwood, said. “Our community, parents and alumni made significant donations to get these students to NYC.”
In addition, five Commonwealth Chorale and nine Longwood alumni will fund their own way to New York.
Carnegie Hall, considered one of the most prestigious venues in the world for both classical and popular music, opened with a concert in 1891 conducted by Tchaikovsky.
“Singers in Virginia don’t often get a chance to sing in this historical place,” McDermott added. “For them, this opportunity is priceless.”
The Appomattox and Clarksville concerts will continue to highlight the Chorale’s commitment to community music with debut performances at two new venues, Liberty Baptist Church, 1709 Church Street, Appomattox, April 29, 7 p.m.; and Clarksville Presbyterian Church, 502 Virginia Ave., Clarksville, April 30, 3 p.m. A reception will follow the concert in Clarksville.
“We’re seeking to expand the said outreach and reach new audiences this year in Appomattox and Clarksville,” Carol J. Henderson, chorale artistic director since 2019, commented.
The program ranges from a rousing chorus, “Hallelujah, Amen!” by George Frideric Handel to the spiritual-inspired “True Light” composed in 1957 by Keith Hampton and based on “This Little Light of Mine”.
Another more contemporary selection on the program is “Even When He Is Silent.”
“This piece was inspired by an inscription found after World War II on a concentration camp wall,” Henderson related.
Composer Kim Andre Arnesen added this note, “This is about keeping faith in God, love and hope. Even if people take away your freedom, friends and people you love — they cannot take God away from you.”
Another recent composition by Roger Ames, “Choral Reflections on Amazing Grace,” shares a message of hope in the face of tragedy.
“This work was dedicated to the children of the victims of September 11, 2001,” Henderson explained. “The chorus begins the profound prayer of hope and faith with John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” penned in 1779 during a roiling storm at sea. The final phrases, sung to peaceful piano music drifting upward and down, settle back into ashen silence. Hundreds of children lost their parents that day — perhaps the heaviest price of the tragedy.”
Still, in song, there is hope: “And grace will lead us home.”
“Alleluia” by Randall Thompson is based on a favorite passage from the Bible: I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sign with the mind also.” I Corinthians 14:15
“Alleluia” has become the most performed choral piece not only by American choirs but in choirs around the world,” Henderson added.
The 38 singers in the Chorale are from surrounding towns across Southside Virginia. Soloists include Ken Vaiden, of Chase City; Sarah Reynolds, of Farmville; Walter F. “Buck” Smyre, of Clarksville; Brenda Ball, of South Hill; Ellis Parker, of Farmville; and Bob Horn, of Crewe. Susie Thomas, of Appomattox is pianist and rehearsal accompanist.
All three concerts are free, and the public is invited to attend.
Founded in 1975, the Farmville-based Commonwealth Chorale of Virginia includes singers from across Southside Virginia. For more information on the Chorale, visit commonwealthchorale.org or the Commonwealth Chorale of Virginia Facebook page.