NY Choral Society Opens Season With "A Joyful Noise" at Carnegie Hall Dec. 9

Classic Arts Features   NY Choral Society Opens Season With "A Joyful Noise" at Carnegie Hall Dec. 9
Ellie Dehn, Heather Johnson, John Bellemer and Brian Kontes join the New York Choral Society as it launches its 51st season with a Dec. 9 Carnegie Hall concert. "A Joyful Noise" will include Randall Thompson's Alleluia, Vivaldi's Gloria, Handel's "Hallelujah! Amen" and Haydn's Harmoniemesse.


Randall Thompson is among the most celebrated twentieth century American choral composers. Alleluia, one of the most widely known and loved of all Randall Thompson compositions, was commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky for the opening of the Berkshire Music Center (Today's Tanglewood Music Center) in 1940. Thompson sat down to write the requested 'joyful choral fanfare', but his passionate concern over circumstances in Europe _ particularly the fall of France _ moved him in such a way that the final result was a masterpiece of introspection. Thompson said that his inspiration came from Job 1:21: "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Haydn's Harmoniemesse or "Wind-band Mass" was written in 1802 and was the last large-scale work Haydn was to produce. It meets and often exceeds all the expectations one may have of a "final" work. As its name implies, the Harmoniemesse makes extensive use of the instruments found in the wind-band of the orchestra. Constructed on a large scale, soloists play important roles at significant textual moments, but this work of grandeur allots the bulk of its power to the chorus. Haydn biographer Elaine Rochelle Sisman describes the work's "striking" Kyrie: "in the middle of a quiet descending sequence the entire chorus and large orchestra bust in on an unexpected diminished-seventh chord. The outburst subsides at once: but this only enhances the sublime effect. Like Longinus's thunderbolt, it is as astonishing as it is inexplicable." (Haydn and his world, 1997)


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Ellie Dehn
photo by Devon Cass

Ellie Dehn, soprano American soprano Ellie Dehn is internationally respected and admired for her exceptional artistic skills. She made her 2007 Metropolitan Opera debut in the Parks as Marguerite in Faust, and her house debut at the Met as Mrs. Naidoo in Philip Glass' Satyagraha. During the past few seasons, she made her Geneva, Bilbao, and Los Angeles debuts as Agathe in Der Freisch‹tz, Madame Cortese in Viaggio a Reims, and Freia in Das Rheingold, respectively. She also recently returned to Santa Cecila in Rome for the role of Jemmy in Guillaume Tell, Minnesota Opera for Juliette in Rom_o et Juliette, and the title role in William Walton's Troilus and Cressida at the Opera Theater of St. Louis.

Heather Johnson, mezzo soprano Heather Johnson has received critical acclaim both on the opera and the concert stage. Recent engagements include Zerlina in Don Giovanni with Boston Lyric Opera, her first Carmen in Rostock, the world premiere of Grieg's song cycle Haugtussa at the Stillwater Music Festival, and Meg Page in Falstaff with New York City Opera. Heather has performed numerous roles with City Opera, including Soraya in the world premiere of Charles Wuorinen's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Flora in La Traviata and Mercedes in Carmen, and Hedwige in Rossini's Guilliume Tell. She sang Mallika in Lakm_ with Opera Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall, Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Lola in Cavallaria Rusticana with Glimmerglass Opera, and the title role in La Cenerentola with Minnesota Opera. In addition to this engagement with the New York Choral Society, Ms. Johnson has upcoming concert appearances with Opera Omaha, Sarasota Opera, Choral Society of Durham, and the Washington Chorus.

John Bellemer, tenor American tenor John Bellemer has gained a reputation for his strong portrayals in a very wide repertoire. This season, he sings Don Jos_ in Carmen at Boston Lyric Opera, Rodolfo in La bohme with the Arizona Opera Company, and Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore with Toledo Opera. A gifted recitalist and concert artist, Bellemer made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New England Chamber Ensemble performing Mozart's Requiem, and has appeared with the New York Choral Society, the Calgary Philharmonic under Hans Graf, the American Symphony Orchestra under Leon Botstein, the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra, and San Jose Symphony, among others. From 1992 to 1998, Bellemer toured with pianist John Wustman in a critically acclaimed program titled "The Songs of Franz Schubert." In addition to singing Haydn's Harmoniemesse with New York Choral Society, Bellemer will appear as a guest soloist this season in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

Brian Kontes, bass Brian Kontes is an American bass and first place winner of the 2007 George London Foundation Competition. Highlights of his career include his 2007 Seattle Opera debut as Leporello in Don Giovanni, Alexas in Antony and Cleopatra and Remigio in La Navarraise with New York City Opera, Zuniga in i with New Orleans Opera, three roles in PDQ Bach's Abduction of Figaro with the Oregon Mozart Players, Palemon in Thais at Kentucky Opera and Opera Theater of Saint Louis, and Dr. Grenvil in La traviata with Opera Colorado. Recent concert engagements include Rossini's Stabat Mater at Carnegie Hall with the New York Choral Society, Beethoven's Mass in C Major with the Charlotte Symphony, and Beethoven's 9th Symphony with the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra.

Brooklyn Philharmonic One of the nation's groundbreaking music ensembles, the Brooklyn Philharmonic continues to be a vital presence in the cultural life of the New York metropolitan area. An orchestra devoted to bringing music to the entire Brooklyn and New York City communities, the Philharmonic serves the city's cultural and educational communities through partnerships with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Public Library, and New York City's Department of Education, among other organizations. For over five decades, the Brooklyn Philharmonic has played a leading role in the presentation of innovative and thematic programming, receiving 22 ASCAP Awards over the last 25 years for "Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music." Audiences continue to embrace the Brooklyn Philharmonic's commitment to the concept of the orchestra as a contemporary performance ensemble, with the BP emphasizing important present-day music, as in the decades of Beethoven and Brahms. Now in its 56th Season, the Brooklyn Philharmonic has world premiered over 166 works, including 65 commissions.

The New York Choral Society (NYCS), founded in 1958, has become known by audiences and critics for the quality of its performances and the diversity of its repertoire, which encompasses well-known choral masterworks as well as many compositions rarely heard in concert halls. The NYCS has presented eleven world premieres and has commissioned works by Paul Alan Levi, Morton Gould, Stephen Paulus, and Robert De Cormier.

John Daly Goodwin, Music Director of the New York Choral Society, has built on the ensemble's tradition of excellence over the past 22 seasons to make it the chorus of choice for American Ballet Theatre, the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, the September Concert Foundation, and the Shanghai Symphony Broadcasting Orchestra. Under his direction, the chorus has performed in China, the Czech Republic, Israel, Austria, France, Italy, and Greece. His performances of such works as Mahler's 8th Symphony, Beethoven's Missa solemnis, and the Requiems of Verdi, Mozart, and Brahms have achieved much critical acclaim. He has conducted more than 90 concerts around New York City, including 40 in Carnegie Hall and 7 at Lincoln Center, and has prepared choruses for Leonard Bernstein, Dennis Russell Davies, Asher Fisch, Yong Yan Hu, Yehudi Menuhin, Eve Queler, Julius Rudel, Gerard Schwarz, Leonard Slatkin, and Robert Spano and for 17 telecasts.

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