The 2014-15 choral season is drawing to a close. It’s been an interesting one which, for me, began and will end with Beethoven’s 9th (aka the “Ode to Joy” symphony). As the launching and landing point, “B9” has provided quite an interesting emotional arc to the season. The initial performance was a benefit for a local animal shelter performed at a church in Chelsea. The chorus was small, but so was the space, so we made a mighty noise and the character of the piece really rang out. Two months later we went from the sublime to the ridiculous and wickedly funny as the Collegiate Chorale brought “Not the Messiah” to New York audiences with an all-star cast (that included Eric Idle!). From there we got serious and explored themes of persecution, anti-semitism and intolerance with our next two offerings: “The Defiant Requiem” (Verdi’s Requiem presented as a memorial to the
victims and survivors who performed it in the Terezin concentration camp) and Kurt Weill’s “The Road of Promise,” a restaging of his “The Eternal Road” that tells the story Jews banding together during a pogrom. These works took us to dark places historically and emotionally, but allowed for beautiful moments of music to pierce through them. It’s important for us to visit those moments of the human story of which we are not proud so that we remind ourselves of our capacities to commit atrocious acts. But it’s equally important to engage with works of art that remind us that our capacities to love, forgive and create exist in equal measure. This is what Beethoven’s 9th does, at least for me, and especially this year falling where it does at the end of a mostly dark season. How different it feels after so many rehearsals concerning death and oppression to sing the following (translated from the German):
Joy, beautiful spark of Gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter drunk with fire,
O heavenly one, Thy sanctuary!
Thy magic powers reunite
What custom has strictly divided;
All men shall become brothers
Where Thy gentle wing abides.
Furthermore, we’ll be performing it under the baton of Maestro Peter Oundjian as part of the opening night of the Caramoor Music Festival’s 70th anniversary celebration, an appropriately grand, verdant setting in Westchester County to present such lush, spirited music. In a few more weeks I’ll be able to share news of the 2015-16 season, but for now…