Island Community Chorus performs this weekend


The Island Community Chorus got an unexpected gift of time when, just weeks into this rehearsal season, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital rescheduled its grand opening for the weekend of April 10 and 11. The chorus’s spring concerts were bumped back to April 17 and 18, and artistic director Peter Boak promptly raised his expectations and set the bar higher for the weekend performances at the Old Whaling Church.

“We had already started our rehearsals a couple weeks early this year,” says Mr. Boak. “Something I’d done because you never know what the winter weather will be. As it turned out, we had no snow days, and we got an extra pair of rehearsals because of the hospital celebration, so we’ve really had a great opportunity to prepare for this concert.”

Mr. Boak says the chorus has used its extra rehearsals well: “I’ve had a lot more time to work musically, rather than just trying to make sure the notes are right. We can work on nuance and be persnickety about the details. Sometimes in the course of a rehearsal season, I have to move on even when something isn’t quite what I want. I didn’t feel that pressure this time around.”

How will this Saturday and Sunday’s audiences be able to hear the difference? One way, Mr. Boak suggests, is to listen for contrasts in how the choir presents the work of various composers.

“One of the first things I said to the chorus, when we started rehearsing in January for these concerts, was that our job is to make sure the Mozart doesn’t sound like Faure, and Faure doesn’t sound like Haydn. I think we’ve really accomplished that, conveying all these stylistic differences.”

The Island Community Chorus is billing its spring program as a concert of choral masterpieces. The program began to take shape in Mr. Boak’s mind last fall, he says, when he was working with the Federated Church choir to present a piece by Johannes Brahms, “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place,” as a Sunday anthem.

“We had such a good time with the Brahms,” he says. “And it sounded so beautiful, that I kept thinking, ‘I would love to hear the community chorus sing this.’ And with this sound of the Brahms in my head, I started exploring what other pieces would be fun to sing with it. That’s how this program came together for me.”

Among the classics the chorus will present this weekend are works in Latin, Russian, Italian, French, and English. The choir worked with diction coaches Niki Patton on the Italian and Pierre Bonneau on the French, and accompanist Garrett Brown provided a useful recording which helped them with the Russian piece, a modern composition entitled “The Sealed Angel.”

It’s been a great challenge, and Mr. Boak is proud of the hard work the chorus has done to prepare for this concert program. “We really are trying,” he says, “to nail this music as faithfully as we are able to do.”

Island Community Chorus Spring Concert featuring compositions by Brahms, Faure, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Carl Orff, Pietro Mascagni, and Rodion Schedrin: 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 17, and 3 pm, Sunday, April 18, Old Whaling Church, Edgartown. Suggested donation: $15.

Nis Kildegaard writes a regular column for The Times. He sings in the Island Community Chorus and serves on the organization’s board.