Classical music lovers are in for a treat.
The Athens Master Chorale will perform at the Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall on April 26. The concert will include a presentation of Gabriel Fauré's Requiem as well as works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“It’s a well-liked, well-known work,” said Joseph Napoli, the conductor, about the Fauré work. “It’s unlike some of the other requiems in that they’ve left a couple of the normal requiem texts, they’ve left those movements out and added other things to them, in place of them.”
Fauré's "Cantique de Jean Racine” will be sung with a harp accompaniment, and “Alleluia” from Mozart's Exultate, Jubilate will feature a soprano soloist performing with an orchestra. The show will end with Mozart's "Solemn Vespers,” a piece with a rather deceptive title.
“The music is bright, cheerful and quick and lively, all of the things that you would not associate with solemn,” Napoli said. “The title really does not indicate how the music is. It’s a really exciting piece for the choir and for the soloists.”
Napoli, who also owns Athens Wholesale Nursery, founded the concert choir in 1989.
“I felt at that time that there needed to be a group that was doing music that was a little more advanced than what was being offered around town, and it needed to be an auditions group rather than just anybody coming,” Napoli said. “I think there’s a place for what we do.”
The group is comprised of about 50 individuals who come from various backgrounds. Members range from a few students and University of Georgia professors to stay-at-home moms and choir directors from different churches.
Amie Dunford, a soprano, said she likes singing and joined the group about three years ago.
“This was a venue where I could sing beautiful classical music under the direction of a very accomplished conductor,” Dunford said. “He’s [Napoli] just very knowledgeable and I’ve learned a lot about music and a lot about different composers and different areas of music. I just enjoy it and the people in the choir are just such lovely people.”
Napoli said he tries to maintain about 50-55 singers, but the size of the group does not bother him.
“I’m not really concerned about the number,” Napoli said. “I don’t intend for us to be the biggest group in town, which we aren’t. The numbers I do watch are the balance between sections. It’s easy in community groups all over the country to be heavy in women.”
Balance especially comes into play when auditioning potential new members. Last spring, Napoli held auditions for all parts except for those in the soprano section.
Rick Pettigrew, a local business owner and professor at Emmanuel College, sings in the bass section and is a board member in the choir. He was persuaded by his wife to join the group in 1991.
“My wife and I consider the Master Chorale a very important part of our lives, a great fabric for our lives,” Pettigrew said. “During those weeks that we don’t have choir, after a concert we’ll have maybe a week or maybe even a month off, those are wonderful opportunities to get together and sing. I really can’t wait for it to start up again.”
Pettigrew said he has been particularly impressed with the amount of work Napoli puts into preparing for the performances. He recalls a concert that he conducted a few years ago without looking at any sheets of music.
“It was all in his head, the conducting of the choir and the orchestra,” Pettigrew said. “He memorized everything. It was just absolutely phenomenal to see him go from piece to piece to piece to piece without referring to music and that just demonstrates the level of his preparation and his joy to do this.”
THE ATHENS MASTER CHORALE PRESENTS THE MUSIC OF FAURÉ & MOZART
WHEN: April 26, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall
PRICE: $5 (students), $10 (public)