Going out on a high note

By ANDREW BENKOVIC

Sun-Gazette Correspondent

As the finale to its 2015-16 season, the Williamsport Civics Chorus will perform the regional premiere of Sir Karl Jenkins’ “Requiem,” with an accompanying dance performance, at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Williamsport Area High School auditorium.

This is the first time “Requiem,” a Japanese-fusion piece, has come to northcentral Pennsylvania. Jenkins, a Welsh composer, has earned great acclaim in the United Kingdom as well as around the world. “Requiem” was composed in 2005, but still pays respect to choral positions of the past. However, it also has modern hip-hop rhythms and inclusive, multicultural influences.

Along with the music, Chorus director Michael Connor has commissioned original choreography from Jaclyn Gailit-Lutz, which will be performed by the Turning Pointe School of Ballet. The performance also will showcase the talent of solo vocalists selected by Connor, including Elise Mark, soprano, of Tampa, Florida; Sara Phinney Kelley, mezzo-soprano, of Lewisburg; Joanna Rees, alto, of Williamsport; and Aidan Connor, soprano, of Montoursville. Joining them will be Dr. Nora Suggs from the Lehigh Valley on shakuhachi flute, Urie Kline on Taiko drum and Mikela Hoffman on harp.

“(Our director) is a number-one fan of Karl Jenkins’ music,” Williamsport Civic Choir board member Barbara Hemmendinger said. “One can experience Jenkins’ music as uplifting and soul-stirring and quickly find so much to enjoy in the ‘Requiem.’ “

Hemmendinger said that when Connor was presented with the opportunity to perform the piece, he knew that it needed to be done in Williamsport.

“The performance incorporates elements of world music, hints of Arvo Part, Philip Glass, and pop,” she said. “This piece for vocal soloists, large choir, shakuhachi flute, harp, Japanese drums and orchestra is a moving, dazzling masterpiece.”

According to Hemmendinger, this show also easily matches with the Chorus’ mission.

“We want fine music accessible to all through education, participation and inspiration,” she said. “It goes without saying that this concert involves tremendous collaboration with community members – from singers, orchestral musicians, dancers, regional soloists and the myriad of people behind the scenes who help us fund, plan and stage our performance. We are bringing a new work to the area, one that fuses spiritual traditions of East and West – how much more educational and inclusive can that be? Lastly, the musical selections themselves are beautiful, inspiring and hopefully as rewarding to the listeners as they are to the performers in our common quest to make sense of life’s brevity.”

The show involves dance, something that is not typical of a Williamsport Civic Chorus performance. “Dance inspires and allows us to express ourselves when words and music are insufficient, including the joy that we feel over new found love and the determination we have in the face of great worry,” Hemmendinger said. “We all want to be understood, and if we could speak the words that describe our feelings, how deep and powerful they would surely be. Why involve dance? Perhaps the better question is, ‘Why would we not involve dance?’ “

Connor has just finished up his first year as director and is very happy with the work that has been done so far.

“It was a diverse and challenging season,” he said. “The Civic Chorus is a dedicated, hardworking group of singers. The Jenkins’ ‘Requiem’ has allowed us to cap our 72nd year with a different sort of journey. It has not only brought us together as musicians striving for musical excellence, but it has also allowed us to grow as a community of singers.”

Tickets are available at Otto Bookstore, 107 W. Fourth St.; Robert M. Sides Family Music Center, 201 Mulberry St.; and at the door. Children under 12 and under are free. For more information, visit www.williamsportcivicchorus.org.