January 22, 2019
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Power of chorus in Mozart’s Mass pins BSO concertgoers to their seats

Public domain image | BDN
Public domain image | BDN
This posthumous portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was painted by Barbara Kraft at the request of Joseph Sonnleithner in 1819, long after Mozart died.

A chorus of more than 100 voices Sunday transformed the concert hall in the Collins Center for the Arts into a cathedral when the Bangor Symphony Orchestra performed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass in C Minor.

The UMaine Singers and the Oratorio Society joined the musicians under the direction of Conductor Lucas Richman for a compelling performance.

In this season’s most traditional concert that included Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, the BSO demonstrated that music composed more than two centuries ago still can touch an audience emotionally and intellectually.

Mozart composed the Mass after he married Constanze Weber in 1782 as a peace offering to his father, who disapprove of the union, Richman told concertgoers Sunday. Modern churchgoers might not have recognized the structure of the piece as liturgical music but Catholics who grew up with the Latin Mass most likely found it comforting and familiar.

Soloists Katelyn Parker Bray and Jennifer Bates, both sopranos, joined tenor Joseph Cough and bass baritone John David Adams. The singers, who all have ties to Maine, performed admirably with the orchestra and chorus but only Adams could be heard and understood consistently throughout the hall.

While it goes against tradition for classical soloists to perform with the body microphones that are routinely used in musical theater, the sopranos and the tenor on Sunday needed some amplification to be heard and understood past the first 10 rows.

The star of Sunday’s concert was the large chorus made up of University of Maine students, faculty, staff and community members. The singers stumbled slightly in singing the difficult Sanctus section near the end of Mozart’s Mass but concertgoers left the concert hall feeling the power of their voices praising the glory of God.

Under the direction of Francis John Vogt, members of the UMaine Singers and the Oratorio Society have tackled and mastered two tricky choral pieces — “Belshazzar’s Feast,” by William Walton last year and Mozart’s Mass this year.

The singers were most impressive when they sang with one voice, a powerful sound that pinned concertgoers against the backs of their seats. It was wondrous.

Beethoven’s first symphony is more cheerful than his darker later works. The BSO performed it lovingly in the first half of the concert but the perfection of the Mass and the power of the chorus left it a vague memory in the audience’s mind at the end of the program.

The combination of Beethoven and Mozart made this concert, at first glance, appear to be designed for traditional classical musical aficionados who much prefer the work of composers who never lived in the 20th century. Yet, Richman, the musicians and the singers made the works feel fresh and relevant to concertgoers’ 21st century lives.

The Bangor Symphony Orchestra will perform its final concert, Pine of Rome, of this season at 3 p.m. May 6. For information, call 942-5555 or visit bangorsymphony.org.

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