The Saranac Lake High School Concert Choir will give a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem, collaborating with professional vocal soloists and chamber orchestra. This masterwork of the Classical Era will be paired with student vocal solo performances representative of significant solo literature from a variety of styles and languages.
The performance will take place on Sunday, May 31st at 5:00 p.m. at St. Bernard’s Church in Saranac Lake. Admission donation of $5 is requested at the door.
The Saranac Lake Concert Choir, under the musical direction of Drew Benware, is one of two large choral ensembles at the Saranac Lake High School. It has earned a reputation for performing choral works from a variety of styles with finesse and professionalism. Previously under the direction of Helen Demong, the Choir has performed in Albany, Toronto, New York City, and on a performance tour of Siena, Italy.
Performances by the ensemble have garnered high marks at the New York State School Music Association’s Major Ensemble Festival, and the majority of Concert Choir members participate in the NYSSMA Solo Festival as well. The Choir, along with the select Vocal Ensembles enjoys a rigorous performance schedule throughout the academic year, including performances at Winter Carnival, the Rotary Luncheon, hospital caroling, Village Tree Lighting, caroling at the Whiteface Lodge, performances at local elementary and middle schools, and performances for the Women’s College Scholarship Spring Meeting, among others.
The Choir’s performance of the Mozart Requiem will be a unique collaboration, pairing student choral musicians with professional vocal soloists and orchestral musicians from a broad geographical area. Vocal soloists for the performance include Kim Weems (soprano), Helen Demong (mezzo), Christopher Gould (tenor), and George Cordes (bass). Instrumentalists include members of the Ithaca College School of Music faculty, the faculty of SUNY Plattsburgh, members of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta, the Adirondack Wind Ensemble, the Tri-Lakes Community Orchestra, and a retired member of the West Point Band, among several local artist-educators.
The musical centerpiece of the evening, the Requiem, follows the funeral text prayed for centuries by the Church (standardized around 1570), although as with the majority of musical settings of the text, it is performed almost exclusively as a concert piece today. The message of the Requiem is at times pleading (“eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord”), fearful (“day of fire”), and awe-filled (“tremendous King of Majesty”), among a host of other powerful emotions brought vividly to life through the orchestration and vocal lines. Movements of the Requiem include: "Requiem," "Kyrie," "Dies Irae," "Tuba Mirum,"
"Rex Tremendae," "Recordare," "Confutatis," "Lacrymosa," "Domine Jesu Christe," "Hostias," "Sanctus," "Benedictus," "Agnus Dei," and "Lux Aeterna," artfully weaving in and out of full SATB choral texture, soloistic vocal texture, and the solo quartet.
Much drama and speculation surrounds the composition of this work, perhaps most vividly portrayed in the film Amadeus. What is known is that Mozart received a commission to write this Requiem in the summer of 1791 from Count Franz von Walsegg Stuppach, a wealthy music lover who may have known Mozart personally through musical or Masonic connections. His intention was to honor his late wife through its commission and for the Requiem to be performed each year on the anniversary of her death. Other musical projects, including the completion of two operas, prevented Mozart from making speedy progress on the Requiem such that by December 5th of that same year, the date of Mozart’s premature death, he had only completed the commission up through the “Lacrymosa.” Several independent accounts describe Mozart on his deathbed dictating to his student, Franz Xavier Süssmayr, his ideas about how the score should be completed. Whether or not this is factual, it is very likely that Mozart himself had at least made sketches of the remaining movements for his student to work from. It is the Süssmayr edition that has become the musical standard of this masterwork and the one that will be performed by the Saranac Lake High School Choir.
The evening will include other musical fare as well. Senior members of the Concert Choir will begin the program by performing selections of solo vocal literature from a variety of styles and musical eras. Solo performances include "Laudamus Te" from Vivaldi's Gloria sung by sopranos Caroline Dodd, Ivy Huber, and Laura Kleist, "Pilgrim's Song"
by Tchaikovsky, performed by alto Selena Baillargeon, Torelli's "Tu Lo Sai" performed by baritone Charles Morgan, "Se To M'ami" by Pergolesi performed by Autumn Buerkett, followed by Olivia Hunt's performance of Gabriel Faure's Les Berceaux. Student solos will be rounded out by a performance of Malotte's "The Twenty-Third Psalm" by Peter Curtis, and Dominique Santiago's rendering of the famed "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen.
Admission is a suggested donation of $5. Further inquiries should be directed to the Saranac Lake High School Music Office (518.897.1473) or to email@example.com.
About the conductor
Andrew M. Benware is currently the Director of Choral Activities at Saranac Lake High School, where he conducts the Festival Chorus, Concert Choir, Men's Ensemble, Women's Ensemble, and teaches small group vocal instruction. He also serves as the Music Director for the annual musical theater production and maintains a small private piano studio.
Additionally, Benware serves as Lecturer in the field of Music Education at the Ithaca College School of Music in Ithaca, where he teaches summer graduate courses in Band Methods and conducts the Summer Graduate Choir and Band. He previously held full-term employment as Assistant Professor of Music Education at the College, instructing wind instrument pedagogy, instrumental conducting, and secondary instrument methods. Additionally, he has supervised student teachers, conducted the Brass Choir and served as a sabbatical leave replacement as conductor of the Concert Band. He also served as accompanist and guest conductor for the Campus Chorale and accompanist and collaborative instructor for the Musical Theater Workshop.
Benware has been a member of the inaugural and subsequent faculties of the Ithaca College Summer Music Academy, an intensive college-preparatory music program at the School of Music where he has held various instructional roles in the fields of conducting, musical theater preparation, music fundamentals, and conducted the selective choral ensemble. He is a native of northern New York State where he has served several years as a public school music educator, both as Director of Instrumental Music at Saranac Lake High School and as Director of Choral Activities at the Peru Middle/High School.
Benware is active as a lecturer and clinician, having recently presented at the NYSSMA Winter Conference in Rochester, and is in frequent demand as a guest conductor for honors ensembles (both instrumental and choral) throughout New York State. He is also active as a performer, taking part in the Upstate New York Chorus (UNYC) under the direction of Dr. Janet Galvan, and as a church musician, holding positions at both St. Bernard's and St. Agnes Catholic Churches in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, respectively. He holds both a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education with a concentration on the Trumpet and a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the Ithaca College School of Music.