Los Alamos Choral Society and Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra pair up

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By Special to the Monitor

Experience a partnership of artistic proportions. Not only is music and poetry being paired together, but the Los Alamos Choral Society and members of the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra are collaborating to present these two mediums in concert.  

 The concert, “Choral Masterworks by Ralph Vaughan Williams,” will begin at 3 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church on Canyon Road.

Mary Place Badarak will direct the performance. Tickets cost $15 for general admission and students will be admitted for free. Tickets are available at Brownell’s Hallmark and at the door.

Vaughan Williams composed the “Five Mystical Songs,” between 1906 and 1911. The work sets four poems by George Herbert (1593-1633), from his 1633 collection, “The Temple: Sacred Poems.” The work received its first performance on Sept. 14 1911, at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, England, with Vaughan Williams conducting.

Similar to Herbert’s simple verse, the songs are fairly direct, but have the same intrinsic spirituality as the original text.

They were supposed to be performed together, as a single work, but the styles of each vary quite significantly. The first four songs are quite personal meditations in which the soloist takes a key role.

The final Antiphon is probably the most different of all: A triumphant hymn of praise sung only by the chorus.

It is also sometimes performed on its own, as a church anthem for choir and organ: “Let all the world in every corner sing.”

 The cantata, “Dona nobis pacem” was composed by Vaughan Williams in 1936 and first performed on Oct. 2 1936. The work was commissioned to mark the centenary of the Huddersfield Choral Society. For his texts, Vaughan Williams looked to various sources including the Mass, three poems by Walt Whitman, a political speech and sections of the Bible. A.V. Butcher has analyzed Vaughan Williams’ use of the Whitman poems in this composition.  

The work is scored for chorus and orchestra, with soprano and baritone soloists. The phrase Dona nobis pacem (give us peace) punctuates the entire piece.

The Los Alamos Choral Society has its own unique history. 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 Handel’s “Messiah” during the coming Christmas season.  Also, they changed the group’s name to The Los Alamos Choral Society. 

That was the first of subsequent 66 continuous yearly seasons of choral presentations. As has been the society’s passion during all these years, anyone, regardless of age or musical background, who enjoys singing and wants to participate in the production of classical choral music, is encouraged to join the chorus. 

Rehearsals are from 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays at the United Church. All singers are welcome.

Another musical organization was born during the war years Los Alamos. A classical group comprised of military and civilian personnel was formed under the direction of Robert Dike, a French horn player.

During the fall/winter of 1947-48 the Los Alamos Civic Orchestra, under the direction of John Winks, 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. The Los Alamos Choral Society and the Little Theatre Group with the Los Alamos Civic Orchestra produced the show. 

The civic orchestra was renamed the Los Alamos Symphony 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.