Publish Date: 4/4/2011
April 4, 2011
MANSFIELD, PA—The Mansfield University Festival Chorus and Wind Orchestra, under the direction of Peggy Dettwiler, will perform Arthur Honegger’s King David at Steadman Theatre on Saturday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 10 at 3 p.m.
The major choral work this spring, King David is described as a “symphonic psalm” and will be a multi-media theatrical event with narrator, soloists, costumes, and projected images.
King David tells the biblical story of the shepherd who became king. Honegger, relatively unknown in 1921, agreed to write the music to accompany René Morax’s play Le Roi David. Honegger jumped at the chance, even though he was given only two months to complete the music, since it allowed him to branch into biblical composing. The premiere brought Honegger acclaim, and he later combined Morax’s narrative with his music to create its current form.
“This is one of the most ambitious programs I’ve put together,” Dettwiler, who is known for her imaginatively staged and choreographed holiday choral concerts, said. “It’s the first time I’ve conducted this particular piece, and everyone involved has been working very hard.”
When Dettwiler received the full score and parts in the mail, the narration was in French, the language in which it is most often performed. “I had to comprise the English narrative from various sources and copy the narration down by hand,” she said. “It was labor intensive, to say the least.”
Twenty-seven short movements are woven together with narration, using different styles of music—from Gregorian chant to Baroque to jazz—to create a neoclassical masterpiece. “The neo-classical style emerged as a reaction to the excesses of late Romanticism and Expressionism,” explains Jürgen Thym, a retired professor from Eastman School of Music, who wrote the program notes. “The music is distinctly modern, but borrows from the past.”
The Festival Chorus is comprised of 100 students, faculty, staff and community members who will be wearing peasant-style brown tunics instead of their usual formal black attire. They will be accompanied by a sixteen-piece orchestra, including students, faculty, and staff playing flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, timpani, percussion, piano, celeste, harmonium, and string bass. The instrumentation was written for a small ensemble because it was all the original theater could hold.
In addition, three soloists and a narrator will be prominent on stage. Todd Ranney, assistant professor of Voice, adds dramatic flair as the narrator, and Youngsuck Kim, professor of Voice and Director of the Opera Workshop, is the tenor soloist. They are joined by Catherine Robison, soprano soloist, and Ann Marie Wilcox-Daehn, mezzo-soprano soloist, both professional vocal performers from Ohio.
Though scenes are not exactly acted-out, the soloists often portray characters in the reader’s theater style. Wilcox-Daehn doubles as the young David (sometimes played by a boy soprano) and the Witch of Endor. Kim portrays the adult David, and Robison represents various characters. Images of artwork inspired by David will be projected onto screens during the 75 minute program, which will include a short intermission.
Though this performance is a unique opportunity for local music-lovers, it is not the first time King David has been presented in Mansfield. The Concert Choir performed it in 1980, 10 years before Dettwiler joined the faculty. That same semester, Bucknell University performed the work with Vincent Price as the narrator.
This dramatic oratorio depicts David in all his complexity. “David is not just presented as a God-fearing and faultless king, a superb cunning and fearless military leader, or as an expressive poet-musician,” Thym said. “He is also shown—warts and all—in his shortcomings, most importantly in the Bathsheba episode.” Perhaps it is these shortcomings, his human flaws, which have made the figure of David so beloved and the object of so much art.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens and $5 for students and children. They can be purchased on-line at music.mansfield.edu or by calling (570)662-4710. Tickets will also be available at the door.
MU students will be admitted free with ID.
For more information about the performance, contact Dettwiler at (570) 662-4721 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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