The Maine Music Society will offer a feast of mostly American choral music performed by the Androscoggin Chorale and members of the Maine Chamber Ensemble Saturday, March 5, and Sunday, March 6, in South Paris and in Lewiston, respectively.

The concerts, directed by Peter Frewen, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational Church in South Paris and at 3 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston.

Two works in particular, scored for chorus and percussion, offer great contrasts.

Composer Vincent Persichetti wanted to re-create in music the suggestive quality of Japanese silk paintings and poetry. He gathered 12 haiku poems on the snowy season into a “Winter Cantata,” and enhanced the sound of women’s voices with flute and marimba. The flute evokes traditional Japanese sounds, and the marimba suggests a sort of bamboo percussiveness. Like the haiku themselves, Persichetti’s musical settings are immediate rather than developed, impressionistic rather than detailed.

Dominick Argento’s setting of Catullus, by contrast, is robustly, earthily passionate. Primarily an opera-composer, Argento is keenly interested in extended, beautiful melody. But he commands all the techniques available to 20th-century writers, including movie-score effects, extreme edginess, blues and dance.

Of all the Roman poets, Catullus is regarded by some critics as the most resonant with modern sensibilities. His passionate sincerity, his frank engagement of sexual love and his personal voice resonate with the reader of today. The seven chosen poems address his feelings for, and ultimate rejection by, a well-born lady named Clodia. The full cycle of those feelings is epitomized in the title poem: “I hate and I love.” Argento supplements the choral sound with percussion instruments, from delicate wind chimes to a pounding bass drum.

Haydn and Handel

Two great hymns of praise from the oratorio literature complement the works by Argento and Persichetti. “The Heavens are Telling” from Haydn’s “The Creation” and “Hallelujah” from Handel’s “Messiah” are perhaps two of the best-known and inspiring choral hymns.

British composer John Rutter is most highly regarded as a choral conductor and as a choral arranger, but also is popular as a choral composer. His sound is clear, consonant and tonal; his forms are traditional; and he tends toward nostalgic sweetness. These traits find perfect application in “Five Childhood Lyrics.” Each is a little gem. One senses that the texts were personal favorites of the composer.

The chorale also will offer three American song classics by Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, and Jule Styne.

Tickets are available at Hannafords and Shaws Supermarkets in Lewiston and Auburn; Mr. Paperback and Nellie’s Music in Lewiston; and in Oxford at Hannafords and Books-N-Things; or from the Maine Music Society’s office at 782-1403 or [email protected]

Advance tickets are $15 for adults and $14 for seniors. At the door, tickets will be $17.50. Student tickets are half-price, and children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

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