The Middlebury College Community Chorus presents its annual Thanksgiving concerts on the Robison Concert Hall stage at the College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts at 7:00pm on Saturday evening, November 17 and at 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon, November 18. A varied selection of historic and contemporary music fill the free, hour-long program entitled “A Song Arising.” Jeff Rehbach conducts and Tim Guiles accompanies the nearly 100 community and student members of the choir – among the largest choirs in the state!
The choir will present a dramatic new 2018 work, Vida Atrevida,
by Middlebury alumnus Sam Guarnaccia ’67. Premiered just three months ago by the Spanish Language School choir, it sets the words of Chilean songwriter, artist, and activist Violeta Parra, originally entitled “Gracias a la vida” (Thank you for life). In the midst of social and economic injustice—even the disappearance and death of her friends during the Pinochet regime—Parra penned the words, “Thank you, life, for giving me so much: even laughter and tears, joy and pain, that form my song, your song, the same song that is everyone’s song, my very song.”
The chorus conveys the presence and power of music through songs written by a new generation of composers. Their words convey ideas of “original harmony, sounding from all things old and all things young; music formed deep within human hearts; and the light of song that shines strong through darkness, pain, and strife.” We hear these words in Muusika by Estonian composer Pärt Uusberg; in Earth Song by Frank Ticheli; and in Dan Forrest’s sensitive setting of the poem Alway Something Sings by Ralph Waldo Emerson, that features Middlebury Union Middle School student Asa Baker-Rouse singing solo soprano.
The chorus likewise gives voice to tranquility, reconciliation, and equality. The Peace of Wild Things by Jake Runestad, composed just five years ago, sets poetry by environmentalist Wendell Berry. With solo cello and viola parts played by Dieuwke Davydov and Molly Bidwell, the choir will present the Vermont premiere of Connor Koppin’s newly published setting of I Dream A World, in which poet Langston Hughes envisions a time when we may live together in peace and “share the bounties of the earth, whatever race you be.”
Songs of celebration and thanksgiving include I Will Sing, a toe-tapping gospel song by African-American composer Rosephanye Powell; Hymn for America by Stephen Paulus that portrays the beauty and blessings of our land; and an energetic setting by longtime Vermont resident Gwyneth Walker of a nineteenth-century hymn, How Can I Keep from Singing.
The program features classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s earliest and final choral works, a setting of Kyrie Eleison, and the final movement of his splendid Requiem. We bridge these two selections with Illumination, a Latin text that originates from 17th century Ireland, set by Celtic composer Michael McGlynn. Instrumentalists from the Middlebury Community Music Center, Vermont Symphony and Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra accompany the choir for these selections.
The concert will close with The Song Arising. Its vibrant words and music by Frank M. Martin ring out, “I will awaken the dawn, let there by singing, let there be music!” Come hear your neighbors from Brandon, Bridport, Bristol, Cornwall, East Middlebury, Goshen, Jerusalem, Leicester, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, North Ferrisburgh, Orwell, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham, South Burlington, Vergennes, Weybridge, Moriah NY, and students from Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, Latvia, Zimbabwe, and China perform together. Contact director Jeff Rehbach, 989-7355, for more information.
Note: These performances cap off a weekend of choral music, that begins on Friday evening in the Concert Hall at 7:30pm, when the Vermont Collegiate Choral Consortium performs “Missa Luba” for chorus and percussion, with words of the traditional Mass in a setting based on Congolese musical idioms, sung by the student choirs of Middlebury College, Castleton University, and Northern Vermont University.