Director Marcia McLean, conductor Greg McLean and the Swift Current Oratorio Choir have earned a coveted spot in a celebratory performance of world music composer Karl Jenkins’ twelve-movement work, Stabat Mater, in honour of Jenkins’ 70th birthday, to be held at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on Jan. 20, 2014, which is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Jan. 20, 2014 was chosen not only in honour of Jenkins’ birthday, but also because Jenkins’ newest choral work, The Peacemakers, features text from some of the greatest peacemakers throughout human history, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of them.
The 2014 concert of Stabat Mater is presented by Distinguished Concerts International New York, where the Wales-born Jenkins serves on the Advisory Board. The Swift Current Oratorio Choir will join with other choristers from around the world for the event to form the Distinguished Concerts Singers International.
“The Swift Current Oratorio Choir received this invitation because of the high level of musicianship demonstrated by the singers and the exceptional quality of their audition recording,” noted Jonathan Griffith, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Distinguished Concerts International New York, a production company based in New York City that produces choral and instrumental concerts in world-class venues.
Three representative recordings were selected from the archives that Greg and Marcia McLean have created since taking over the Swift Current Oratorio Choir three years ago.
“We went back to the last three years of recordings and listened to them and we needed to pick out three of our best excerpts. Based on that, we picked out two segments of the Jenkins Requiem, and since we’re especially going down to sign Jenkins, we thought that would be appropriate,” said Greg. “We picked out two cuts … one that showed the Choir off a cappella and the other was a variation on the Lacrimosa. The third excerpt that we sent down was from the Mozart Requiem from two years ago, and we thought that the first movement of that sounded very, very good, with orchestra of course.”
The McLeans’ reaction to be invited to perform was excitement mixed with an understanding of the extra work that will be involved.
“I was excited, but I’ve been through this many times before so everything has consequences,” said Marcia. “You know what the work is going to entail, and how is that going to fit in with our regular program, because we are not willing to drop our Oratorio season so that we can go off to New York, so this has to fit in with something that we can do here. We had to really consider it carefully. It’s like Ra Ra, really nice to be asked, but can we do it?”
Swift Current Oratorio Choir members will spend five days and four nights in New York City in preparation for their concert, including approximately nine to 10 hours in rehearsals over the five-day residency, for which Maestro Jenkins will be in attendance. Griffith will conduct the performance and will serve as the clinician, and Jenkins will be in attendance for the residency.
“That’s kind of neat,” said Marcia. “Having a world-renowned composer, a living composer, working with any composer is kind of neat.”
“He’s not actually conducting, but he’ll be facilitating and there to talk to the group and work with the conductor that is there, so that’s always exciting,” said Greg.
“Often, what the composer has written on the page isn’t maybe quite what he intended, because notation has its limitations, so it will just be really very interesting, very wonderful to have him there, to meet the man, consult with the man, have a glass of wine with the man, and be able to work his music with him there.”
Not all participants’ time will be spent in rehearsals, since there is so much history and culture to see in New York City, but the commemorative performance is the primary purpose for their visit.
Jenkins has been honoured with a Companion of the British Empire and Order of the British Empire. He holds a Doctor of Music degree from the University of Wales, has been made both a Fellow and an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, and has fellowships at Cardiff University, Swansea University, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trinity College Carmarthen and Swansea Metropolitan University.
The cost of participating will be borne by choir members, said the McLeans.
“We are having to make a commitment, an individual commitment to go, so we have enough people to go. Everybody pays their own way,” noted Marcia, but added, “That doesn’t mean that we won’t decide to have [a fundraiser]. Again, we ask the community for donations for the Oratorio season, and we don’t want to erode that by asking for this other. As it stands now, everybody will be raising their own.”
Performers will pay about $650 for the shared cost of rehearsals, performance, the hall rental and musicians, with travel and accommodations will probably be around $1,000 to $1,200, depending on the size of the group that’s going.
More details are available by contacting Tara Christiansen at email@example.com.