A chorus of 160 singers. An orchestra with 60 instruments. And five high-powered vocal soloists. Those are the assembled forces that will pack the stage when conductor Donald Kendrick leads the Sacramento Choral Society on Saturday night.
“It’s a large group. It looks like a small town,” says Kendrick.
And the sound they create is something you can’t replicate in your home, in your car, or even in most churches. The sheer oomph of all those voices singing together, with the sound wafting through the broad expanse of a spacious hall, is like standing on a mountaintop and enjoying a view that extends for miles.
One of the works Kendrick will conduct is the Stabat Mater by Charles Villiers Stanford. It dates from 1906, and is almost never performed outside England.
"I grew up as an Anglican in Canada singing Stanford in church," he says. "I knew all of his church music. I had no idea he had written this piece."
Meantime, at the Mondavi Center in Davis, conductor Christian Baldini is preparing for a Sunday performance by the UC Davis Symphony and Chorus of the Mozart Requiem.
Baldini is working with over 100 singers and a 50 piece orchestra. And a group this large takes on a personality of its own.
"Between rehearsals and the performance you’re working with a living organism," says the conductor.
Baldini memorized the Mozart score for months, but there are always opportunities that only become evident in rehearsal.
“Sometimes you get amazing surprises of things that are much nicer than what you thought at home. And you need to be intelligent and flexible enough to take what you have and welcome new things and adjust accordingly,” explains Baldini.
Last but not least, the Sacramento Master Singers will give concerts on March 15 and 16 featuring two short masses – by Swiss composer Frank Martin and Norwegian composer Ola Gjielo, and several American Spirituals, including “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.”
Scholars believe it was sung by American slaves before the Civil War, which would make it almost as old as the Mozart Requiem.
Large scale choral works require months of rehearsals, and are mounted just a few times each year. But for the next two weekends, we’re in the midst of a choral convergence – with concerts so close together you could call it a festival. It’s a rare chance to hear that one of a kind sound only a stage full of singers can deliver.
The Sacramento Choral Society performs Saturday night at 8 p.m. in the Sacramento Community Center Theatre.
The UC Davis Chorus and Symphony perform Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Mondavi Center.
And the Sacramento Master Singers will perform on March 15 and 16 at First United Methodist, 21st and J in Sacramento.