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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis choral groups celebrate Mozart’s birthday

Published: January 31, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Even if you don’t listen to classical music, you’ve probably heard of Mozart, who is widely considered one of the most prolific and influential musical composers of all time. Mozart’s music is generally very refined and transparent. As he is from the Classical era, Mozart prescribed the exact pitch, speed, meter, rhythms and musicality on his music scores. Therefore, his music has less wiggle room for improvisation and personal embellishments. One characteristic that differentiates amateurs from higher quality musicians is the ability to perform Mozart without being boring.

Fittingly, on the 258th anniversary of his birth, Brandeis’ musical department paid tribute to the celebrated composer with the event “Rock Me Amadeus: Celebrating Mozart’s Birthday with a Community Sing” in the Slosberg Music Center auditorium. Led by director James Olesen and pianist Eric Mazonson, both ensembles sung an eight-piece selection of some of Mozart’s famous choral works.

I expected a literal community sing, in which the audience would also participate in the song. Reluctant to sing myself, I sat in the back of the auditorium, hoping that I would not be pulled up by the director. Fortunately, the community sing was a performance by the Brandeis Chamber Choir, the University Chorus and a few musically-enthusiastic faculty. The audience, though sparse, was generally quite excited and consisted mainly of students, faculty and parents who appreciate Mozart.

The all-female Chamber Choir opened the event with two Masonic pieces, “Today let all the air be ringing” and “O, thou our benefactor,” with the latter featuring a solo from soprano Elena Glen ’17. Glen performed beautifully and could easily be mistaken for a professional opera singer. Her clean yet emotional vibrato was impressive.

Following the Masonic pieces was the beautiful canon “Ave Maria.” For those who are unfamiliar with canons, they are generally works where multiple voices sing the same melody but at different times. One of the most famous examples of the canon is Pachelbel’s Canon, which is widely recognized as a wedding march song. Not to be confused with Beyoncé’s “Ave Maria” (no offense to her, but she plagiarized that song from Franz Schubert’s 1825 composition), Mozart’s version is beautiful and melodic. The Chamber Choir sang with mellifluous harmony, and when closing my eyes, I imagined that I was listening to a professional recording.

The Choir continued their performance with the dreamy and meditative notturno (also known as a nocturne) “Luci care, luci belle,” which translates to “Dear lights, beautiful lights” from Italian. Unsurprisingly, the end of their rendition of “Luci care, luci belle” was greeted with a loud round of applause. Although there was no solo, it was just as compelling as the previous three pieces.

The University Chorus then took over the stage to perform the final piece of the night. Noticeably larger in size and co-ed, the chorus, with a handful of volunteer singers, sang four excerpts the Requiem Mass in D Minor, K. 626. The first movement, “Introit: Requiem aeternam,” featured an impressive solo by Miriam Goldman ’14. Following the “Introit” were the second movement, “Kyrie eleison,” and selected parts, “Dies Irae,” and “Lacrimosa,” of the third movement “Sequentia.”

Following the show, audience members joined the choir members for refreshments in the lobby, including two chocolate cakes (one kosher and the other non-kosher) with “Mozart” deliciously iced on top of each. Members of the audience complimented the choir members in person after being wowed by their singing.

It’s such a shame that classical music is not as widely appreciated in pop culture as it should be. However, those who love it—and trust me, there were, are and will be millions of us for an extremely long time—are loyal appreciators. There’s a reason why all-time greats such as Mozart are still remembered and beloved. Indeed, it was a happy birthday in honor of Mozart.