Choral society to offer concerts
Under the direction of RCS Music Director, Dr. Graham Bier, Reading Choral Society will be presenting two concerts titled “A Celebration of Peace.” The concerts will be on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 4 p.m. at Muhlenberg High School Auditorium, Reading; and Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in Schaeffer Auditorium at Kutztown University, Kutztown.
The concert on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, is on the 100th anniversary to the day of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. It consists of music tied to World War I and on the topic of peace. At each concert veterans will be honored and are able to attend the concerts for free.
The centerpiece music is in the second half. Dona Nobis Pacem by Ralph Vaughan Williams was previously performed by RCS in April 1941, only five years after composition as World War II raged in Europe and nine months before the United States entered the war. It was written by Vaughan Williams in 1937 in memory of World War I and in fear as tensions rose toward what would eventually break into the Second World War. The English composer sent his appreciation “Many thanks to RCS for presenting my cantata, “Dona Nobis Pacem.” Britain and America are now going forward together in peace through freedom.” In addition to the text from the end of the Christian mass movement “Agnus Dei”, Vaughan Williams set poetry by Walt Whitman, whose writing was influenced by his experiences as a volunteer nurse in the American Civil War. The fifth movement also includes text from a speech made by Quaker MP John Bright in 1855 against the Crimean War.
The first half of the concert will include the music by George Butterworth and is fitting since he himself died in World War I. It was written to set poetry “A Shopshire Lad” by A. E. Housman that was completed before World War I but was popular as “war poetry” among composers of the time period since it talked a lot about morality and young lads going off to war. The music of Benjamin Britten from his War Requiem was written to commemorate the opening of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, which was bombed beyond repair in World War II, and was written also in memoriam of World War II losses. The Agnus Dei also included text of a poem by Wilfred Owen, who like Butterworth, actually died in World War I as a soldier, and had been writing moving poetry about the horrors of war from the front lines prior to being killed in action. The Star Spangled Banner, Battle Hymn of Republic, “Keep the HomeFires Burning”, and “We’re Going Over” were all songs sung by the Liberty Chorus of Reading throughout 1918 at popular events around Berks County raising support for troops, including an impromptu performance at 2 p.m. in the crowded streets on Nov. 11.
In preparing for this concert, members of Reading Choral Society have been in touch with the Berks History Center, Berks County Veterans Affairs Office and the Berks Military History Museum, who will have a display at both concerts. A small ensemble of RCS will be singing selections of music previously sung by the Liberty Chorus at the Berks History Center on Nov. 10, following the opening of the 1918 Time Capsule.
Soloists: Erin Alcorn, Soprano; Jarrod Miller, Tenor; Joseph Beutel, Bass-Baritone. Muhlenberg High School Select Choir, directed by Bill Snelling. Kutztown University Orchestra, directed by Peter Isaacson.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at door; Students $10. Veterans tickets are free.
Joseph Beutel, BassBaritone
Jarrod Miller, Tenor
Erin Alcorn, Soprano