Sing along with Vivaldi? Mozart?
Why not, declares Daniel Wallenberg, who has been conducting the Music Institute of Chicago Chorale for 27 years. For more than a decade of summers, Wallenberg has been inviting the public to join classical sing-alongs with his community chorus.
The idea is why should those who love choral singing have to wait for Christmas to roll around and why should Handel’s “Messiah” be the only game in town?
So at 7:30 p.m. July 23, the public can sing along to Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.
“At first we did lighter works for the sing-along,” said Wallenberg, mentioning several cycles of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance,” “Mikado,” and “H.M.S. Pinafore.” But the programs have also included such blockbusters as masses by Haydn, Schubert, and Beethoven, requiems by Faure, Mozart and Brahms, plus Haydn’s “The Creation,” Mozart’s “Vesperae Solennes de Confessore,” Vivaldi’s “Magnificat,” Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” and yes, Handel — his Judas “Maccabeus.”
Last summer the conductor wanted something significant to mark the sing-along’s 10th anniversary. “I thought it would be really wonderful to recruit a whole orchestra for Haydn’s oratorio ‘The Creation,’” Wallenberg said. “Peter and Kathleen Van De Graaff were among the soloists. Once it was announced, we had no trouble finding players.”
The conductor of choice was Frank Winkler, who leads the Symphonic Pops of Chicago, now in its 26th year, and has been a member of the piano faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago for 16 years. “I conducted the Harper College Symphony Orchestra for 20 years and had been an occasional guest conductor of the Chorale in the past,” said Winkler. “It was really a thrill sharing this choral music with everyone last summer and I’m looking forward to doing it again.”
He’s not the only one. “When we talked to the singers, they all wanted to have full orchestral accompaniment again,” said Wallenberg, “so that’s we’re doing.” This summer 27 musicians from the Evanston Symphony, the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra, the Lake Shore Symphony and other area ensembles will be on the stage at Nichols Concert Hall.
The chorus, augmented by a number of music-loving men and women, will sing from the seats, as is done in Orchestra Hall when the sing-along “Messiah” is presented. Soloists will be Erin Moll, Leo Radosavljevic, Anne Slovin and Lorraine Wallace.
According to both Winkler and Wallenberg, Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” are standard choral fare, familiar to those who have sung in college choirs and community choruses through the years. “Each piece takes about 30 minutes,” Winkler said, “so the program will run about an hour.”
Scores will be provided in advance and there will be an optional rehearsal at 7:30 p.m Tuesday July 22 at Nichols Concert Hall.
Mark George, president and CEO of the Music Institute of Chicago, may be joining the singers for this program. “Danny is a wonderful conductor and this kind of community engagement is something we enjoy so much,” he said.
“We are going to deepen our focus on bringing music to the people,” he continued. “The Music Institute has 2,000 students and I have challenged them to perform 100 concerts in 16 days next spring all around our communities”
Ideal for capture on social media, the concerts will take place in unexpected venues and embody the Music Center’s message that engagement with music is a life-long joy and pursuit. The initiative will open with a performance by the Ying Quartet, resident quartet at the Eastman School at the University of Rochester, and will conclude with a performance by the Cavani String Quartet, resident quartet at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
“I’m from Cleveland and I know the Cavani from there,” George added. “They have given master classes at the Music Institute and they’ll play here next spring as part of their 30th anniversary tour. The Yings are siblings. They grew up in Winnetka and are alums of the Music Institute. It’s going to be quite a celebration.”
Singers taking part in the upcoming sing-along may just possibly want to be a permanent part of the MIC Chorale. Auditions for the group’s four-concert season in 2014-15 are scheduled for Aug. 19 and 26. “And I’d like to perform the Brahms ‘Requiem’ next summer,” Wallenberg said.
He has another reason for delighting in a choral concert accompanied by an orchestra. “When there is piano accompaniment, I am the conductor,” he said, “but with an orchestra, someone else will conduct and I have a chance to play in the cello section.”