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Birthday Odes

  • College Street Congregational Church, Burlington, VT. Next to the Fletcher Free Library. 265 College Street Burlington, VT, 05401 United States (map)

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The Burlington Choral Society invites you to hear a big chorus celebrate some big birthdays at our fall concert.

The BCS will honor the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein with his best-known choral work, Chichester Psalms. The composer set six psalms to music that moves from majestic to boisterous to peacefully tender.

Our artistic director, Richard Riley, will conduct. Guest artists are vocal soloists Mary Bonhag, soprano; Eric Jurenas, countertenor; and Andrew Padgett, bass. Featured instrumentalists include organist Jennifer Bower, harpist Grace Cloutier, percussionist Nicola Cannizzaro and the Burlington Birthday Orchestra, an orchestra made up of local professionals who, when they perform with the BCS, acquire a name reflecting the theme of each concert.

Musicians around the world are performing Bernstein's works over the two-year period that spans his August 2018 birthday. Chichester Psalms was created in 1965 for a festival in England, but the world premiere was at Philharmonic Hall in New York at W. 65th St. and Broadway. Richard Riley says, "There's some Broadway in Bernstein's setting of the sacred Hebrew text." Bernstein even found a spot in the Psalms for some dramatic music he'd cut from West Side Story.

The conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin has said that Chichester Psalms exemplifies what Bernstein sought to do as a composer. He noted, "Bernstein had this goal all his life to bring people together regardless of their religions, origins, generations and aspirations in life." The work ends with the words Hineh mah tov, Umah naim, Shevet ahim, Gam yahad -- in English, Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.

Birthday Odes includes festive tributes to two English royals: Henry Purcell's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Mary (Come, Ye Sons of Art) from 1694 and George Friedrich Handel's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne from 1713. The opening solo of the Handel ode, Eternal Source of Light Divine, was heard at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Riley says, "These festive tributes will take our audience back to a time when composers and choruses really knew how to throw the monarch and her court a birthday party."

Tickets are available at the FlynnTix Box Office, and (802) 86-FLYNN. Prices are $25 general admission and $20 for students and seniors.

The Vermont Arts Council has selected the Burlington Choral Society’s Birthday Odes as a Vermont Arts 2018 event.

Later Event: December 11
Annual Messiah Sing