LACS and LASO Winter Program features: Mozart and Puccini

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By Special to the Monitor

The sound of music will fill the air as the Los Alamos Choral Society and members of the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra join together for their annual winter program.
The concert will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Crossroads Bible Church, 97 East Road, and will feature W.A. Mozart’s “Coronation Mass K.317” and G. Puccini’s “Messa di Gloria.” Dr. Mary Place Badarak, director of the Choral Society, will direct the performance. Cindy Little is the accompanist for the Choral Society.
Mozart wrote “Coronation Mass K. 317” at the age of 23 for the Salzburg Cathedral. The origin of the name “coronation mass” is disputed but is often alleged that young Mozart composed the “Coronation Mass” for the crowning of an image of the Virgin in the Church of Maria-Plain, situated outside the city walls of Salzburg.  
Twenty-two-year-old Giacomo Puccini composed the “Missa di Gloria” as his graduation exercise from the Istituto Musicale Pacini. It had its first performance in Lucca on July 12, 1880. However, the Credo had already been written and performed in 1878 and was initially conceived by Puccini as a self-contained work. Puccini never published the full manuscript of the “Messa,” and although well received at the time, it was not performed again until 1952 (first in Chicago and then in Naples).
This quasi-operatic mass features full chorus with tenor and bass solos, along with orchestra. The mass was never published in Puccini’s lifetime but continues to inspire audiences, as Puccini used themes from the mass in his operas, such as the “Agnus Dei,” which appears in “Manon Lescaut.”
The Mozart and Puccini Masses adhere to the full text of the Latin Mass. The performance will feature a chorus of 60 singers. The Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra will include 37 musicians with, concertmistress, Kay Newnam. The soloists for the Puccini Mass are Gloria Streit and Viera Moore, sopranos; Rene LeClaire and Jeremy Conlin, tenors; and Loren Jacobson, bass. Several solo quartets also occur in the Mozart Mass. Cindy Little is the accompanist for the Choral Society.
The joint concert is a tradition appreciated by both chorus and orchestra as a venue to perform large choral masterworks. This assembly of about 100 mostly amateur musicians can trace its smaller beginnings back to 1943.
On Nov. 19, 1943, Donald Flanders advertised in the wartime Los Alamos Times for people to join “The Singing Group,” which was at that time participating in madrigal singing at his home. Apparently enough singers responded that his neighbors started to complain about the subsequent noise level of the enthusiastic group, so the singers had to move to the old nursery school and there they decided to prepare for a performance of Håndel’s “Messiah” during the coming Christmas season. Also, they changed the group’s name to “The Los Alamos Choral Society” and in the ensuing springtime, started rehearsals for Mozart’s “Requiem.” That was the first of the subsequent 68 continuous yearly seasons of choral presentations.
The Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra got their start during the war years as well. Los Alamos had no organized instrumental group, but there were several small chamber groups and a jazz band that entertained the community weekly.  
A classical group comprised of military and civilian personnel was formed under the direction of Robert Dike, a French hornist. During the fall and winter of 1947-48, the Los Alamos Civic Orchestra under the direction of John Winks, the newly appointed music director of the school system, was instituted with both military and civilian instrumentalists.  
In August of 1948, the Los Alamos Community Council presented “H.M.S. Pinafore” in the Community Hall (Theatre No. 2). The Los Alamos Choral Society and the Little Theatre Group with the Los Alamos Civic Orchestra produced it. The musical director was John Winks; vocal coach, Kathleen Manley; stage director, John W. Macey Jr.; and accompanist, Dorothy Bond.  
In late 1948, Bob Dike suggested a new name for the Civic Orchestra.  “Los Alamos Sinfonietta” was the name offered and subsequently adopted. The Los Alamos Symphony was the new name voted on in 1991.
During all these years the LASO has collaborated with the Choral Society in a major work or a program designed to fit both groups. Also, each season since 1947, the symphony has provided the orchestral phase of the Light Opera production. Today more than 60 musicians play regularly with the LASO.
Tickets to the winter program are available at Brownell’s Hallmark and at the door for $15. Students are admitted free.