Arts & Culture

Concert features Baroque masters

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, November 5, 2012

The Brown University Chorus transported nearly 200 audience members in Sayles Hall back in time to the Baroque Era through a concert this Friday that incorporated the music of Orlando di Lasso, Johann Christoph Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Telemann

The 55-member undergraduate chorus, singing in Latin and German, was accompanied by a 16-piece orchestra, including wind players who are recent graduates of Boston University and the Juilliard School, and string players made up of University faculty, an undergraduate student and professional string players from Boston and New York, according to Frederick Jodry, director of the chorus for nearly 21 years.     

The chorus completed a set of eight songs before intermission, after which they launched into the centerpiece of the concert, J. S. Bach’s “Missa Brevis in F Major.” Latin for “short mass,” the piece is made up of six different parts: three choruses and three solo elements for a bass singer, a soprano and an alto. Lesser known than other works by Bach, the mass is ambitious for any chorus to undertake because it is rarely performed, Jodry said.           

“I was curious to explore (the mass) because it’s quite unknown,” Jodry said. “And it has a very particular orchestra of oboes, French horns and strings.”         

This arrangement, especially the French horns and oboes, contributed to a rustic, earthy tone achieved by the chorus and characteristic to the Baroque Era, Jodry said.        

“I tried to recreate as closely as I could the instrumental sounds Bach used,” Jodry said.           

The three student soloists for the show were Jacob Scharfman ’13, Kenna Hawes ’13 and Camille Briskin ’14.          

“It was my first time soloing with the Brown Chorus and really doing a classical piece,” said Briskin, the soprano soloist for the “Qui tollis” section of “Missa Brevis.” “It was really exciting.”

Preparation for this concert consisted of biweekly practices over the past two months and more frequent rehearsals as show time neared, Jodry said. But some members of the orchestra nearly had to cancel after dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The cellist was stuck in London due to the storm until Thursday, a mere day before the show, while a tree fell on the double bass player’s car, Jodry said. 

“It was great for the choir because we practiced both Monday and Tuesday,” Jodry said. “But it turned out to be quite problematic for the orchestra.”         

But the show went on as scheduled and elicited resounding applause.           

“Despite the hurricane, we were very prepared,” said Jimmy Besancon ’14, president of the chorus. “I am so proud of everyone here.”