Winter music

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By Special to the Monitor

Two big names will be featured in the program for the Los Alamos Choral Society and Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra (LASO) concert. The concert, “A Winter Feast of Bach and Brahms” will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.  

The program will include “Nänie,” Johannes Brahms’ lush tone poem for chorus and orchestra, which is described as a beautiful but mournful setting of a “Hymn to Adonis” written in 1799 by the German poet Friedrich Schiller. Brahms composed “Nänie” in 1881, in memory of his friend, the well-known neoclassic painter Anselm Feuerbach.

Audience members will also be treated to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Magnificat.” Bach composed the piece in 1733 for the Thomaskirche in Leipzig where Bach had been the longtime choirmaster and organist. The “Magnificat” is a laudatory psalm; it is brilliant and joyful throughout and is likely to have been performed as a festive piece for the Feast of the Annunciation in Leipzig and Dresden.  

The choral society got started with an advertisement. On Nov. 19, 1943, Donald Flanders advertised in the wartime Los Alamos Times for people to join “The Singing Group,” which was participating in madrigal singing at his home. Apparently enough singers responded that his neighbors started to complain about the noise level of the enthusiastic group. So the singers had to move to the old nursery school and 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 spring-time started rehearsals for Mozart’s “Requiem.” That was the first of the society’s subsequent 66 continuous yearly seasons of choral presentations.

This summer, several members of the Los Alamos Choral Society will join with Santa Fe Music Works in performing Haydn’s “Heiligmesse,” in Vienna as part of the International Haydn Festival celebrating the 200th anniversary of Haydn. Their performance will take place in the Musikverein on July 2.

For  the next program, on May 17, Los Alamos Choral Society will perform the “Heiligmesse” in B-Flat by Franz Josef Haydn and the “Chichester Psalms” by Leonard Bernstein. Rehearsals are from 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays at the United Church. The next rehearsal is Feb. 3. All singers are welcome.

LASO also got its start during the wartime years. During this time, Los Alamos had no organized instrumental group, but there were several small chamber groups and a Jazz Band that entertained the community.

A classical group comprised of military and civilian personnel was formed under the direction of Robert Dike, a French hornist.  During the fall/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 late 1948, Bob Dike suggested a new name for the Civic Orchestra.  Los Alamos Sinfonietta was the name offered and adopted.  

The Los Alamos Symphony was the new name voted in 1991.  During all these years, 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.

LASO will perform a free “Pops” type program on May 9 for the County’s 60th Anniversary celebration.

Tickets for the Sunday concert are available at Brownell’s Hallmark and at the door for a cost of $15. Students are admitted free.