Maine Music Society will celebrate spring with sacred music, madrigals and show tunes

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Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and other songs of joy will highlight “A Celebration of Spring” by the Maine Music Society’s Androscoggin Chorale at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 4, at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston.

With a program ranging from sacred music to madrigals and show tunes, the concert is “a joyful welcome to the season,” said Helen Davidson, vice chair of the Maine Music Society board.

The Maine Music Society is regrouping and preparing for a new season following the departure of founder and longtime artistic director Peter Frewen earlier this year.

Members of the Androscoggin Chorale come from all over coastal and central Maine. “These people all love to sing. It’s a powerful force in their lives,” Davidson said.

John Corrie, who was recently named interim director of the Maine Music Society, will conduct.

The “Gloria,” together with the “Four Seasons,” is, undoubtedly, Vivaldi’s best-known work. He wrote it for a Venetian orphanage for girls, where he taught music from 1703. The girls were given a thorough training in choral singing, and the more gifted ones were given instrumental instruction and extra voice coaching.

According to contemporary reports, their concerts were of a very high standard, and the entrance fees contributed significantly to the maintenance of the orphanage.

The sunny nature of the “Gloria,” with its distinctive melodies and rhythms, is characteristic of all of Vivaldi’s music, giving it an immediate and universal appeal. It is described as a joyful hymn of praise and supplication. It’s divided into 12 contrasted movements, each characterized by its own mood and musical texture, yet still managing to preserve a sense of formal coherence.

The choral also will perform “The Heavens Are Telling,” by Franz Joseph Haydn.

Haydn was asked to compose an oratorio in the style of Handel. He composed two, and his music transforms the majesty of the Baroque into that of the early 19th century with such choruses as “The Heavens are Telling” from “The Creation,” which premiered in 1798.

Accompanist for the Vivaldi and Haydn pieces is Bridget Convey.

Three unaccompanied 17th century madrigals will be performed. They are “In These Delightful, Pleasant Groves,” by Henry Purcell; “Now Is the Gentle Season” and Now Is the Month of Maying,” both by Thomas Morley.

The program will continue with “My Spirit Sang All Day” and “Clear and Gentle Stream,” both by Gerald Finzi, and “A Red, Red Rose,” by James Mulholland. These are 20th century compositions.

Next on the concert program are four songs from Broadway and the screen, with accompaniment again by Convey. They are “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess,” by George Gershwin; “My Romance” from “Jumbo,” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; and “In the Still of the Night” from the film “Rosalie,” by Cole Porter.

The program will conclude with “America the Beautiful,” by Samuel A. Ward.

“It’s a real potpourri of styles, and except for the ‘Gloria,’ they’re all in English, Corrie said

The program consists of selections chosen by the members of the chorale.

“I’ve only been rehearsing with the chorale since April 20,” Corrie said, noting that all of the madrigals are a special challenge that call for “precision of our vocabulary, because the text is going by blisteringly fast.”

Corrie added that the first of the Finzi pieces (“My Spirit Sang All Day”) also is in that category, requiring clear pronunciation.

“Clear and Gentle Stream” is the most difficult of the pieces, Corrie said. “It’s the most intricate and it has the most subtlety. I think it’s the biggest challenge for the choir.”

Corrie teaches musicianship labs and applied voice at Bates College, directs the College Choir and is the Bates Chapel organist. He is a noted harpsichord and organ performer with degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory, Northwestern University and Yale University.

Corrie has studied in Vienna on a Fulbright grant and has been at Bates for 24 years. Also for the past 24 years, he has been organist and choir director at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Falmouth.

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