By ANNE GELHAUS | email@example.com
February 7, 2018 at 7:42 am
When the Choral Project decided to stage a concert in honor of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial, the choir was drawn to the composer’s activism as well as his music.
“The Choral Project has always been on the cutting edge,” says Hal Laster, the choir’s general manager, adding that Bernstein “was on the cutting edge of a lot of things: his conducting style, his choice of text.”
The program Choral Project artistic director Daniel Hughes came up with for the Feb. 10 concert “Art of Sound: Bernstein at 100” is a mix of the iconic, with selections from “West Side Story,” and the less familiar, like “So Pretty,” an anti-war song Bernstein wrote with Betty Comden and Adolph Green for a “Broadway for Peace” fundraiser in 1968.
The Choral Project’s concert is one of thousands of musical tributes to Bernstein being staged around the world ahead of what would have been the composer’s 100th birthday on Aug. 25.
“It felt like the appropriate time to recognize the monumental achievements of Bernstein and what he brought to the music world,” Laster says.
Laster, who sings with the choir, is especially looking forward to performing “Chichester Psalms,” Bernstein’s setting of Hebrew psalms.
“I’ve never sung it before, though I’ve heard it many times,” he says. “It’s a real treat for me.”
While the work can be performed with a full orchestra, the Choral Project will be using the composer’s reduced score that calls for accompaniment by harp, percussion and organ. This is in part in deference to the massive pipe organ at Mission Santa Clara, where the concert will be held.
Boy soprano Nick McKee from the Ragazzi Boys Chorus will be the soloist on the second movement of “Chichester Psalms,” based on the “Psalm of David.” Laster says Bernstein “insisted that the solo never be sung by a woman because it represents the boy David.”
Laster says the concert is intended to highlight the multiple genres Bernstein worked in.
“It’s not just classical but Broadway,” he adds. “There are some very well-known works and things not done very often.”
Besides “West Side Story,” Bernstein’s Broadway shows include “Candide,” an operetta with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Dorothy Parker and Lillian Hellman, among others. The Choral Project will sing “Glitter and Be Gay” from that 1956 show.
A year prior, Bernstein and Hellman had collaborated on “The Lark,” an adaptation of a French play about the trail of Joan of Arc. The Choral Project’s performance will include some of the French and Latin choruses the composer wrote for the production.
The choir will also sing two movements from “Mass,” which Bernstein wrote to inaugurate the Kennedy Center in 1971. This comes on the heels of last week’s performance of the full work by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Master Chorale, but Laster says it’s good to have multiple renditions of the composer’s works as part of his centennial celebration.
“The fact that he was able to do all these things deserves to be remembered, even if it is with thousands of performances.”
The Choral Project performs “Art of Sound: Bernstein at 100” Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. at Mission Santa Clara de Asis, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara. Tickets are $10-$25 at brownpapertickets.com.