Stories of opera divas breathing at the wrong time and mixed metaphors of sliding notes keep The Androscoggin Chorale singers attentive, precise and smiling.

Maine Music Society Artistic Director John Corrie (along with his choices in music) has evoked passionate and professional quality singing from the chorale for the past couple of years. During a recent rehearsal, he subtly inserted his expectations of flawlessness with humor.

So close to showtime, every detail counts. Practicing once a week since January, chorale members recently focused on his every word, movement and glance.

The Maine Music Society, which includes The Androscoggin Chorale and the Maine Chamber Ensemble, will present “Sounds Divine” Sunday, April 6, at the Franco-American Heritage Center. The program will include performances of Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna” and “Ave Maria” and Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Missa in Angustiis (Lord Nelson Mass).”

The concert will begin at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20, $18 and $10. Tickets may be purchased through L/A Arts online at www.laarts.org; by calling 782-7228; and at the door. Advance tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, $9 for students. Admission is free for children younger than 12 accompanied by a parent.

“The Lauridsen are just incredibly beautiful pieces,” said Shelley Rau, chorale member for the past 25 years. “The attention to detail is what makes a really fine performance.”

During rehearsal, Corrie, who also teaches at Bates College and conducts the college chorus, gave repeated and gentle reminders of how much music can be affected by the shape of the mouth, the timing of sucking in air and the volume of each syllable produced.

“John keeps such a good sense of humor with us,” said Rau. “We are there to work hard and to make beautiful music – but it does have to be fun, too.”

Dick Wagner, one of the original chorale members, described the ensemble as “such a happy place to be” while newer member Cathy Singleton characterized what appeared as grueling rehearsals as energizing and inspiring.

Because of the singers’ commitment to their passion, Corrie is able to bring out an incredible range, blend and fullness of sound from the human voice.

Even though Corrie has been directing Bates students for 26 years, he said he has found working with the chorale interesting and rewarding.

“It’s interesting working with adults. I don’t see them on a regular basis, and it’s a very different kind of training. But I find that I can work with them at a very high level, and it’s been a successful experience,” he said.

Besides directing the chorale, Corrie’s duties also include choosing the music. The upcoming concert includes three pieces that while different in style share the themes of human and spiritual experiences and were composed as a Roman Catholic Mass.

Last year, the chorale ambitiously and triumphantly sang Brahm’s “German Requiem.” Like that piece, Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna” was inspired by the contemporary composer’s mourning and acceptance of his mother’s death. It also expresses the contrast between darkness and light, according to program notes written by Will Hertz.

Hertz, who lives in Yarmouth and is Rau’s stepfather, has written music program notes for music organizations in and out of Maine for decades. He also explained that Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass” has been mistakenly nicknamed because of a perpetuated assumption that Haydn was celebrating Lord Nelson’s victory over French forces.

Written in 1798 and formally known as “Missa in Angustiis,” Haydn’s Mass brings music to the purposes of the five subsections of the Catholic Mass. From man’s prayer for mercy expressed in “Agnus Dei” to the triumphant proclamation of Christ’s arrival, the composition takes the listener on an emotional journey of the human spirit and its connection to God.

It is the inspiration born from life’s events, from the composers’ gifts, from the singers’ passion and from the director’s talents that makes music also an inspiration to the listener.


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