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Diocesan Choir presents spring concert Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Dick Jones, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

Four soloists who will perform at the Madison Diocesan Choir’s spring concert include four members of the St. Patrick Church choir in Madison, from left: Benjamin Schultz, Shannon O’Brien Kaszuba, Dan Gallagher, and Michele Gillett. (Contributed photo)

MADISON -- Two weeks before Good Friday, the Madison Diocesan Choir, under the direction of Dr. Patrick Gorman, will present a free, spring concert, an extraordinary Lenten retreat with guest soloists, full orchestra, and the music of Schubert and Mozart.

The Madison Diocesan Choir concert, “Choral Masterworks of the Church,” is Friday, April 8, a month earlier than normal. The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the acoustically pleasing chapel of the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Rd., in Madison.

Orchestra joins choir

For this year’s concert, Gorman has chosen the Mass No. 2 in G-major, by Franz Schubert, and Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As usual, Glenn Schuster, assistant director and organist, will accompany the choir of over 70 active members from parishes throughout the diocese.

The guest soloists are Shannon O’Brien Kaszuba, soprano; Michele Gillet, mezzo-soprano; Dan Gallagher, tenor; and Benjamin Schultz, bass. Joining them is an orchestra of nearly 20 musicians, 14 accompanying on strings for the Schubert performance, and several more adding timpani and wind instruments for the Mozart performance.

Word of the concert has already spread well beyond the diocese, and the chapel may be filled as it was in December 2000 when the Diocesan Choir and Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, under the direction of John DeMain, performed the Bach Magnificat.

Diocesan Choir spring concert

The Madison Diocesan Choir’s spring concert, “Choral Masterworks of the Church”:

• Friday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m., at the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center in Madison.

• Features a nearly 20-piece orchestra accompanying the choir in works by Schubert and Mozart.

No charge but free-will offering to support choir appreciated.  Reception follows in cafeteria.

Challenging pieces

Like the Magnificat, the Schubert Mass and Mozart Vespers are challenging pieces.

“For the Schubert,” Gorman said, “the challenge has been in the blend and the tone, and those are things that I think we have well in hand. So I think it highlights the choir’s natural ability.”

As for Mozart, a scene from the movie, Amadeus, comes to mind, when Austrian Emperor Joseph II praises Mozart’s work, but adds, “Too many notes.”

“There are just so many notes, and so many words,” Gorman said. “That’s been a challenge for us, and it’s also a challenge for the choir when we have so many engagements during the year.”

Yet the choir has become adept at multitasking, and with two weeks to go, the ensemble is approaching what Gorman initially envisioned.

“As a conductor of the Diocesan Choir and other choirs, I often get to do music scored for voices, or maybe voices and organ, sometimes voices and a small instrumental ensemble. But when it’s voices and a whole orchestra, plus soloists, it adds such a tremendous dimension to both the work of learning all those parts, but also to the joy. There is so much beauty in all the individual parts, and then they finally come together to make a wonderful whole.”

Added Gorman, “The instrumental parts by and large in both of these pieces, they just don’t play along with the voices, they’re almost in dialogue with them. They have their thematic material that the voices may never have, and vice versa.”

Local soloists

The audience will delight in hearing the soloists, Gorman said. All four are members of the St. Patrick Church choir, which he also directs. Soprano Shannon O’Brien Kaszuba is also member of the Philharmonic Chorus, which Gorman directs as well.

“They’re all young professional musicians in town, but for them, I guess you would call music their avocation,” he said. “They’ve studied it. They are professionals. But at the same time, they have other jobs in their daily life.

“So it’s a real treat to be able to work with people who, for them, this music means something spiritually, and they are also able to perform at such a high level.”

Importance to Church

With the concert occurring during Lent, Gorman sought compositions of historic importance to the Catholic Church.

“These two pieces are important works in the musical world, but in a particular way, for the Church they are important because they were composed for church services,” he said.

In truth, neither composer was known for being deeply religious or even regularly attending services.

“Yet, to me, their music expresses an intensity of faith somewhere deep within their being,” he said. “The Credo of the Schubert Mass is very simple and yet deeply beautiful, stating the faith with surety. It also captures the beauty of the faith in a way that is sometimes overlooked.

“Mozart’s Laudate Dominum is truly one of the most glorious melodies ever composed. Rather than a bombastic setting of the words of praise to God so often written by composers, his is a quiet, almost intimate, prayer of love.”

Gorman said both pieces remind him of the beauty of our faith and the beauty of God.

“The beauty isn’t in the ornamentation, but rather in the essence of the music itself,” he said. “In the same way, during Lent we focus more on the primary elements of loving God and loving neighbor.”

Schubert Mass

The concert opens with the performance of the Schubert Mass.

“It’s so very graceful, and calm, and soothing,” he said. “The Mozart on the other hand is just frenetic at times, bounding with joy most of the time.”

Bass soloist Ben Schultz enjoys singing both, but the Schubert is his favorite, especially the Sanctus et Benedictus.

“The whole piece is stunning because it’s written so simply,” Schultz said. “The Benedictus is really fun to sing. It’s a difficult piece, because it sits in the higher tessitura, but it’s really a nice piece.”

Soloist Ben Schultz

Schultz is a doctoral student in vocal performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Last fall, he was a soloist in the UW Chamber Orchestra and Choral Union performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt.

He earned his bachelor of fine arts degree at UW-Milwaukee, and his master’s degree at Belmont University in Nashville. While in Milwaukee, he sang with the Florentine Opera Company; and in Nashville, the Nashville Opera.

Music has been his pursuit since childhood in Green Bay where he sang in church, high school musicals, and summer courses at St. Norbert College in DePere. He is expecting family from Green Bay and Appleton for the performance.

Soloist Shannon O’Brien Kaszuba

Soprano Shannon O’Brien Kaszuba enjoyed singing Schubert, particularly his Lieder music, while in school. She earned her undergraduate degree in vocal performance from Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., and her master’s from the University of Colorado, Bolder, Colo. But of the two, she prefers Mozart, challenging as it is, and in particular, Laudate Dominum.

“Both are pretty challenging for a soprano, especially the Mozart,” she said. “There’s just lots of singing to be done, and I’ve always loved Mozart. I’m happy to be able to do both.”

It’s one thing to be the soloist in performing Laudate Dominum with a church choir, she said.

“But when you add those instruments, that’s what really pulls it all together,” she said. “To hear all of those beautiful string parts, oh!”

O’Brien Kaszuba was the featured soloist when the Philharmonic Chorus performed Aaron Copland’s In the Beginning for its 2007 spring concert. In 2001, when her husband, Michael, was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, she sang in the Heidelberg theater production of Les Miserables.

The family now lives in Monroe, where she sings in summer concerts in the park and he plays trombone in the city band.

O’Brien Kaszuba said she was honored that Gorman asked her to be one of the guest soloists.

“It’s a treat to be able to work with somebody of his caliber,” she said. “He has a passion for music.”

Said Schultz, “He’s definitely a great director. He gets a lot of great sound out of us. He’s very nice to work with.”

Praise for all four soloists

Gorman had praise for all four soloists.

“They’re models of what musicians should be,” Gorman said. “They’re always prepared. They always sound beautiful. They’re pleasant to work with. They go with the flow. They’re just everything you would want to have along to make a performance like this especially nice.”

To hear Gorman, it’s a concert people won’t want to miss, from the opening Kyrie of the Schubert Mass to the closing Magnificat of the Mozart Vespers.

“The highlight, I think, is almost the very last movement, the Laudate Dominum,” he said. “It’s considered by many, many people to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. And while that’s a really bold claim, it’s hard to say it isn’t. It’s such a glorious melody. It has such simple, but graceful harmonies.”

At the conclusion of the concert, a reception will be held in the cafeteria of the O’Connor Center, which is wheelchair accessible. While the concert is free, the choir appreciates a free-will offering to support its music ministry.

 
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