“Stories of Passion” will pepper this 31st season by the Carolina Master Chorale, which opens this weekend with two concerts.
The group will perform James Whitbourn’s “Annelies: The First Major Choral Setting of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank,’ ” at 4 p.m. Saturday at Seaside United Methodist Church in Sunset Beach, N.C., and 4 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach.
Timothy Koch, in his 14th season and music director and conductor, said the program this weekend excites him the most, and that its scheduling arose because he and the guest soprano, Arianna Zukerman, made first contact through social media.
“We became friends on Facebook,” he said. “She started talking to me first.”
Koch said her familiar surname had caught his eye, with her father’s fame as a violinist and conductor, and her mother a flutist and music show host on NPR.
Arianna Zukerman, who has done several performances of “Annelies” around the world, sent over this work, Koch said, who learned from her that this piece, although not widely known, was something she’d love to share on stage live with the Chorale.
‘Really, really moving’
Koch said several friends, all of whom with people whose lives the Holocaust have affected, told him he’d love “Annelies,” and “I took their words for it.”
“It’s really, really moving,” Koch said. “It’d be heard to it in concert without a few tears. It’s incredibly beautiful, with wide ranging styles of music, including waltzes and military music.”
Koch said most of the words in the program “come right out of Anne Frank’s diary,” translated mostly in English.
Continuing the fever for other projects this season, Koch said with the Chorale joining the Long Bay Symphony for concerts every month December through March, the singing ensemble will take the joy gleaned from past gospel concerts and work them into “A Gospel Christmas” Dec. 14-15 with the Mason Temple Memorial Choir from Conway.
Koch welcomes the challenge of melding gospel with yuletide spirit for the first time for Chorale, along with a piece from Handel’s “Messiah,” for some more fun “to blow the roof off” at the performances.
May 10-11, the Chorale will sing “Porgy And Bess, The Glory Of Gershwin,” with Adrienne Danrich, soprano, and Lawrence Craig, baritone, each of whom Koch remembers well as fellow students from college days as they each were developing their respective careers.
Koch said an abridged version of “Porgy and Bess” will fit the Chorale, with Danrich and Craig fulfilling the lone female and male roles, respectively, but each doing multiple characters, “following the drama” in glorious fashion, but without “a whole, fleshed out performance.”
Danrich will then stay in town a few more days to present “This Little Light of Mine” on May 13, her solo tribute to Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price, in a benefit for the Chorale.
Koch said this show, which Danrich was commissioned to write, won an Emmy Award after its airing on PBS in the Midwest.
“She’ll be singing a lot of the arias these stars – Anderson and Price – are known for,” Koch said.
Every concert lifts Koch’s heart, and he said “passion” remains “the outstanding characteristic in our organization.”
“We’re all connected to this kind of art,” he said. “There’s not anybody there just for the fun of it.”
Deeper music background
Larry Wilson, a tenor and the Chorale’s executive director, said the group has increased the number of its members in the music profession.
“We have more music majors and choir directors from a lot of the local churches,” he said, “and professional people who are soloists in their own right who travel around the world.”
Counting about 16 to 18 singers who’ve made music their career, Wilson said “that has enhanced the quality of our sound.”
He said although the Chorale has one less concert program of its own this season, down to three, “we’re busier this year than we usually are,” because of accompanying several Long Bay Symphony concerts, as well as performing at the annual S.C. Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
“When I joined the Chorale in 1989, we did two concerts a year,” Wilson said, “for Christmas and in late spring. We’ve changed a lot in the 24 years I’ve been involved.”
Adding concert dates elsewhere has given the Chorale a bigger audience.
“We found that moving around the area is better,” Wilson said. “We’re taking the music to the people. Now we do several concerts in Brunswick County, N.C., and each season, we do a concert in Conway.”
He said the Chorale ensemble ranges in age from the early 20s through the 70s, maybe with an 80-year-old or two.
“We have a higher number of younger singers than we’ve had in a long time,” Wilson said, glad to see a younger-than-40 contingent. “There was a time when we were worried about the next generation of the Carolina Master Chorale.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.