WMU News

Holiday concerts feature massed choir and orchestra

Nov. 16, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Nearly 300 musicians from Western Michigan University will present the annual School of Music holiday extravaganza with two free performances, Friday, Nov. 30, in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Sunday, Dec. 2, in Kalamazoo.

"Gloria in excelsis Deo" will feature the 190-voice University Grand Chorus, conducted by Joe Miller, and the 90-member University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bruce Uchimura.

The Friday, Nov. 30, Grand Rapids performance begins at 8 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, 267 Sheldon Ave. Kalamazoo's Sunday, Dec. 2, performance begins at 3 p.m. in Miller Auditorium. Both performances are open to the public free of charge.

The centerpiece of this major chorus and orchestra holiday concert will be Francis Poulenc's magnificent Gloria. Poulenc was commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation to write a symphonic work as a memorial. He declined, claiming that he was not a symphonist. The foundation's second choice, an organ concerto, was also turned down by the composer. Eventually Poulenc was allowed to choose the form and, recognizing the foundation's desire for a symphonic work, settled on the Gloria, a composition for mixed chorus, soprano solo, and orchestra.

For the WMU holiday concerts, the soprano soloist will be Susan Musselman, a senior vocal performance major from Kalamazoo. The six movement Gloria was written in 1959, and received its premiere in 1961 in Boston to critical acclaim. Regarding the work, Poulenc was quoted as saying, "I think, in fact, that I've put the best and most genuine part of myself into it."

In addition to the Poulenc, the chorus and orchestra will perform a work widely associated with the season: the "Hallelujah" chorus from George Frideric Handel's Messiah. The chorus will be featured alone on carols by English composer John Rutter, and the orchestra will perform selections from the Nutcracker Suite and Leroy Anderson's Christmas Festival.

Media contact: Kevin West, 616 387-4678, kevin.west@wmich.edu

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