August 22, 2012     James Knapp

‘Summer Sings’ Rock!

Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms

     I participated last Monday night in my first Summer Sing in Boston at Old South Church.  It was great fun and a really interesting recruiting tool for new singers seeking a community chorus. Anyone can just show up and sing, plus vocal scores are provided. The purpose is to explore and sing through some of the great choral masterworks. It was sponsored by Chorus Pro Music of Boston and was a read-through with piano accompaniment of the entire Brahms Requiem Masterworks Chorale.

     Over 100 singers of all shapes and sizes from all walks of life assembled to attempt to slay this massive, daunting choral dragon. Some singers were Brahms groupies who had sung it several times; others, once or twice, and of course, a few first timers. It had been over thirty years since I had sung it…oh boy, was I rusty.

     The tenors were small and squeamish, basses; a rock trying to cling on, the altos thrilled to actually have the opportunity to sing some really interesting musical choral lines and confident sopranos ready for battle. Betsy Burleigh, our conductor, boldly led us through a historical and musical journey of the score with its rich and spectacular fugues, motives and spiritual depth. This is no easy task and I commend the Maestra’s humor, grace and clear skill to do so.  She was our commander in chief and kept us moving, challenging us and in the end negotiating us through the turbulent waters of Brahms to the final movement of victory.

     The Brahms truly is one of my favorite chorale works and I have had the joy of conducting it on two different occasions with full orchestra; however, it still works quite well with piano or double piano. If you have a large chorus, it is a wonderful piece to take on an international concert tour and is always a crowd-pleaser. It can be featured in choral music festivals and often we have requests from our partners abroad to bring it over (Germany) or down (Argentina).

     If there are any of you out there that are interested in taking it on tour, let us know: we will make it happen, and we might even be able to get you an orchestra!

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