New Britain City Journal

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Brahms “German Requiem” By The New Britain Chorale This Friday


How odd it is that simple air compressions, done in exact time periods, can radically change our human disposition. More than any other animal, we seem predisposed to react to music in an emotional way. It can make us somber, sad, thoughtful or even gleeful in mere seconds of hearing a few opening bars. And, for some lucky people, it is a passion that continues through their whole lives. The New Britain Chorale is made up of such people and their spring concert is this Friday evening, May 5th at 7:30 p.m.with Brahm’s “German Requiem.”

The concert will be held at First Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 77 Franklin Sq. Brahms’ Requiem is a large work for a chorus, with soprano and baritone soloists, composed between 1865 and 1868. It comprises seven movements, making this Brahms’s longest composition. There will be a free-will offering with a suggested $15 donation, and a light reception will follow. The church is handicap accessible through Fellowship Hall, with a wheelchair lift and an elevator to the sanctuary. All are invited to come and enjoy a magical evening.

Founded in 1971, the New Britain Chorale brings together people who simply love to sing. They have found the magic of harmonizing where the result is far more than the simple sum of the parts. This is the miracle of the Chorale. There are no auditions to become a member, no talent tests other than the desire to join others in making music. They accept anyone from screech to bass.

“And that’s had its own challenges over the years. But we wanted to open it up to anybody who wanted to sing,” said President Nancy Gentry. And it works. The result is “normal” people with all types of voices somehow blend into making great music.

President Gentry is an example.

“I started singing in the Chorale in the 1970’s because it was a challenge to sing the music. I didn’t feel like I was getting challenged in my church choir,” said Gentry. “I wanted something a little more for myself. I’ve stayed with the Chorale because I loved it. I love the people, the music and the directors.”

Maestro Adrian Sylveen has been Music Director of the New Britain Chorale since 1998.

Sylveen enjoys a performing career both in the US and in Europe and serves as Artistic Director of the Connecticut Virtuosi, New Britain Symphony – The Connecticut Virtuosi Orchestra – Magnum Opus, Connecticut Lyric Opera, and the Classical Orchestra of Pila in Poland.

When asked what motivates his decades of dedication to the group, he replied, “Well, first of all it’s the people and the community that comes with it. Second, it’s an ongoing project that constantly presents a challenge. Not a bad one, but a challenge and I think I enjoy a challenge,” he said smiling. “It’s not always the same result. This year we are a little bit on the smaller side, but so be it.” He anticipates 25 members in the Chorale on Friday evening for the concert.

When Brahms’ Requiem was first done in public in 1865, it went horribly wrong due to a enthusiastic timpanist drowning everyone out with his drums. This Friday’s performance will go much better with 150 years of correction and, despite the music being written in German, “We will be singing it in English.”

Sylveen continued, “I always say that classical music is semi-mystical. It has a hidden beauty to it. I think that is beneficial. I’d like to invite people to the concert [Friday evening]. I’d like to see the community more involved in all the aspects of musical life in the community because I think that, what happens overall, is that we get very caught up in daily life, politics, this and that, and art somehow takes a back seat to our daily routine. It is not necessarily focused on beauty. That’s why people should come.”

The Chorale branched out from classical music several years ago and added a less formal concert each fall with popular music, Broadway tunes, spirituals, and folk songs. Rehearsals are Sundays, 2 to 4:30 p.m. in the choir room of First Lutheran Church. Singers are welcome at any time of the year and can sing in one or all of the concerts as desired. According to President Gentry, “Everybody pays a registration fee of $25 per concert. The exception is for students who only pay for their music.”

That membership fee does not fully pay the organization’s expenses. The fee is intentionally kept low so that people can easily afford to sing with them. Additional funding comes from grants by the American Savings Foundation, Robert C. Vance Foundation, and the New Britain Area Interfaith Conference.