Vienna calling

Bach Society of Dayton presents an evening of Mozart

By Gary Spencer

Photo: The Bach Society of Dayton performs with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company; photo: Laurana Wong

German-born composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is without question one of the most enduring composers of the classical era, both in terms of his enormous body of music (over 600 works composed beginning at the precocious age of 5 up until his death at age 35) and in terms of his ongoing presence in popular culture and folklore centuries after he wrote his last dots on lined paper.

His arguably unchallengeable knack for composing works with whimsical, lyrical melodies of breathtaking beauty and charm have kept Mozart’s music as a staple in nearly every performing classical repertory throughout the world, including those in the Miami Valley. This Saturday, the Gem City’s Bach Society of Dayton (BSD) will perform a full evening of Mozart’s choral works in a concert entitled “Mozart’s Vienna” as its third concert of the 2014-15 season.

The Bach Society of Dayton was founded in 2002 by a group of classical choral singers who had been a part of the old Dayton Bach Society to continue their mission of presenting great choral works inspired by classical masters. The group has since branched out into presenting both classical and contemporary choral works – of both the sacred and secular varieties. Today, the chorus is mostly made up of volunteers who also serve as board members or in other capacities within the organization.

Chorus Operations Manager Dave Grupe has been singing with the BSD for almost 20 years.

He said his mission, and the mission of all the volunteers who work for the BSD, is musically noble yet simple and effective for both audiences and aspiring vocalists.

“Our aim is to continue to bring fine classical choral music to the Dayton community and to provide educational outreach to future singers,” Grupe said. “The chorus has 65 volunteer singers. The singers audition to be members. Auditions are open to all experienced singers (and) the audience base continues to grow each year.”

Since its inception, the Bach Society of Dayton chorus has been led by resident Music Director Reverend John Neely, who has also served as organist and minister of Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton for over 30 years.

As BSD’s music director, Neely oversaw the song selection of Saturday’s “Mozart’s Vienna” concert and explained the historical significance of the compositions chosen for this performance.

“Mozart spent the first 24 years of his life in Salzburg and moved to Vienna in 1781, and died there in 1791,” Neely said. “Our program features one work composed while working for Archbishop Colloredo in Salzburg. The remaining works on the concert were composed while in Vienna. There is great variety within this all-Mozart program.”

Rev. Neely also seems excited about the BSD’s upcoming evening of “Vienna era” Mozart material performed live in concert, and thinks audiences will share his enthusiasm for the works of one of classical’s greatest songsmiths, even if they are not already familiar with this particular canon of Mozart’s work.

“This concert will be of particular enjoyment to all music lovers,” Neely said. “The program is full of variety and includes magnificent vocal soloists, and a renowned clarinet soloist.”

In addition to the well-manned Bach Society of Dayton chorus, the concert will feature solo vocalists Andrea Chenoweth (soprano), Minnita Daniel-Cox (soprano), Cameo Humes (tenor) and Mark Spencer (baritone), all of whom boast an impressive resume of outstanding classical vocal performances.

The other featured soloist is Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra principal clarinet player John Kurokawa, who will be the highlighted performer during the BSD’s presentation of Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto in A Major” alongside accompaniment from other members of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. This piece, in addition to three other full-scale Mozart compositions for chorus and/or orchestra, will be performed in the hallowed halls of Kettering Adventist Church, the BSD’s venue of choice for the past several years. According to Grupe, it’s an ideal place for the BSD to stage their concerts and an appropriate room to house the BSD’s growing fan base and hear these magnificent works in all their glory.

“The chorus performs all of its concerts at the church,” Grupe said. “The church has excellent acoustics, a pipe organ and space for chorus and orchestra. There is significant growth in attendance noted each season.”

And for those with a further thirst for background information on Mozart and the compositions being performed this Saturday, Grupe encourages concert goers to show up early to take in the concert preview presented by Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman.

“At 6:30 p.m., prior to the concert, Gittleman will provide an overview of the works to be performed,” Grupe explained. “Familiarity equals enjoyment!”

The Bach Society of Dayton presents “Mozart’s Vienna: An All Mozart Concert” Saturday, March 8 at Kettering Adventist Church, 3939 Stonebridge Road in Kettering. Music begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $10 for students and free for children 12 and under. For more information, please visit bachsocietyofdayton.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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