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Greenwich Church Needs Singers for Oratorio

GREENWICH, Conn. - The First Congregational Church will present Mendelssohn’s "Elijah" in its entirety and with orchestra in May. The First Church Festival Chorus has been rehearsing since September to prepare this daunting work and is looking for vocalists.

Director of Music Craig Scott Symons has been putting the chorus through the paces of learning "Elijah ." “We have been working diligently on the work at a steady pace. The demands of the piece require that you have vocal stamina, not unlike the Brahms 'Requiem,' where you don’t have much vocal rest during the work, but at nearly two-and-a-half hours of singing, it does require vocalists to pace themselves.”

In 1836, Felix Mendelssohn began to toy with the notion of composing another oratorio after his success of “St. Paul” in Dusseldorf in May 1836. Over the next decade, Mendelssohn work on "Elijah." In 1845, organizers of the Birmingham, England, Festival approached him “to act as conductor at the next festival; and that he be requested to consider whether he can provide a new oratorio, or other music, for the occasion." Often referred to as an epic oratorio, many choruses from the work are found on choral programs around the world, both on concert stages and in church services.

Rehearsals take place on the last Sunday evening of each month. The rehearsal time and day have been selected to not interfere with the regular demands of church and community choir members. “We’ve had a good turnout over the fall months, but as we now see the performance in the approaching distance, the singers will find more and more demands placed on their voices to rise to the task at hand,” said Symons.

The soloist singing the role of Elijah is American baritone Randal Turner, a resident of Switzerland. Turner and Symons graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. “It’s going to be a real treat to work with Randal. We hadn’t seen each other in 30 years, and when I attended his American debut at the Michigan Opera Theater in 2010, it was clear that he is an extraordinary artist,” said Symons. “Following my appointment to First Congregational Church in Greenwich, we began to plan a new concert series, and 'Elijah' is the highlight of our first season. There was no question as to who would sing the baritone role.”

Singers from surrounding communities are welcome to join the Festival Chorus. The next rehearsal will be held Sunday, Jan. 29, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, at 108 Sound Beach Ave., Old Greenwich.

Symons encourages experienced vocalists to join the chorus. “There is no fee to sing this magnificent work. Scores will be provided, but if you already own your score (Schirmer edition), feel free to bring that along. The rehearsal schedule isn’t that rigorous, with the future rehearsals on Feb. 26, March 25, April 22 and a dress rehearsal April 29. That adds up to around 10 hours of rehearsals.”

To reserve your spot in the chorus, send Symons an email at craigs@fccog.org or call the church at 203-637-1791 ext 22. For more information, consult the church’s website.

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