Choral society fine-tuning their performances

The choir will perform Mozart’s Requiem and his well-known Ave Verum on Friday, April 11 at 7.30 p.m.

Since the start of this year, the 60-strong North Island Choral Society has been rehearsing and fine-tuning their coming performances of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, particularly his Requiem in D Minor (K.626).

The choir will perform Mozart’s Requiem and his well-known Ave Verum on Friday, April 11 at 7.30 p.m. and April 12 at 2 p.m. in St. George’s United Church at 505 Fifth St. in Courtenay.

This is another 30th anniversary concert to be given by the choral society. It follows their very successful Christmas Season concert in December 2013.

It is one of the greatest paradoxes of classical music that the most-often heard and best loved of Mozart’s choral works is the one in which he composed the smallest part.

Mozart, when he was commissioned to write the Requiem by the Austrian count Franz von Walsegg in the summer of 1791, had no idea his own end was near. Mozart fell ill and took to his bed in October of that year, where he died Dec. 5. 1791.

Ironically, it is believed that neither Mozart nor his wife, Constanze, were aware at the time of the name of the person who commissioned the work.

The count, a fairly proficient musician himself, had a habit of passing off compositions as his own. This may have been different this time.

The commission was a requiem for his young wife who had also died in 1791 at the young age of 20. The count never married again. He must have been broken-hearted. He died eight years later, aged 28.

A student of Mozart, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who may have been helped by other composers, completed the work. It was first publicly performed in Vienna.

The Requiem in D Minor (K626) remains one of the greatest settings of the Requiem text. It is still almost as popular as Handel’s famous Messiah. If you are a lover of classical choral music, this is a concert not to be missed.

The choir will be, as it has been for many years, conducted by their musical director, Paul Colthorpe, a music teacher in School District 71 (Comox Valley), and supported by accompanist Elvera Penner.

Combined, Colthorpe’s enthusiastic direction and Penner’s technique for giving the choir tuneful support, produces a very high quality of choral performance. In fact, the sound produced deserves space with good acoustics. And that is why the performance is held in St. George’s United Church.

The choir is made up of local singers, who are not auditioned. So the quality of sound is a truly remarkable product of careful and considered rehearsal.

The NICS is joined by soprano Megan Skidmore, contralto Lisa Deith, tenor David Brown,  and a newcomer to NICS performances, Nicholas Allen, bass, from Victoria. The NICS Orchestra is led by Comox violinist Linda Donn.

A very special feature of the all-Mozart program will be the performance of the first movement of his Piano Concerto in C major (K246) by Towa Stewart, an up-and-coming, award-winning pianist. Towa, 12, attends École Puntledge Park Elementary School.

Tickets are available from Blue Heron Books in Comox, Laughing Oyster Bookshop in Courtenay and choir members.

For more information, visit northislandchoral.wordpress.com.

— North Island Choral Society