Island Community Chorus’ spring concert

Something old and something new, with Vivaldi and a world premiere by William Peek.


It isn’t every day that a chorus, and a community one at that, gets to work with the composer of the music they are debuting. That is precisely the fortunate position the Island Community Chorus (ICC) members are in for their spring concerts at the Old Whaling Church on April 5 and 6. ICC has been rehearsing with music director William (“Bill”) Peek on the world premiere of his cantata “Soon It Is Day.”

“It’s a thrill for the chorus to be able to sing something that human ears are hearing for the first time in concert,” board president Nis Kildegaard says. “What a treat it is, here we are, an amateur, no-audition chorus, singing something with the composer for the first time. And it’s a superb piece of music. How do you beat that?”

Peek drew the words for the first and third movements of “Soon It Is Day” from the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and the second movement from a poem by James Agee. He explains, “These poems explore the contrast between night — with its mystery, euphoria, agony, and suffering — and the clear, bright reality of day. Dawn, as the sky slowly brightens, represents the portal between the two.”

“We are deeply enjoying working on this with Bill,” Kildegaard says. “It’s unique to work on a piece with the composer. There was a passage where he changed his mind between two weeks of rehearsals, and rewrote a phrase. People got their pencils out and scribbled on their scores. You don’t do that when it’s Bach.”

The concert will also feature a classic of the choral repertoire, Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria” (RV 589), which ICC performed once before, some 25 years ago. “For a little chorus of about 70 voices,” says Kildegaard, “this is very ambitious. It is a really challenging piece of music, but a delight to sing.”

The “Gloria” was composed around 1715 in Venice. Although Vivaldi was one of the most admired composers of the Italian Baroque, after his death in 1741, most of his music was forgotten until a revival of interest in the 1930s. Peek says, “The ‘Gloria’ is a joyful, exciting work that has, in the century since its revival, become one of the most popular and frequently performed works of choral literature.”

Soprano Molly Conole and mezzo-soprano Shannon Rose McAuliffe will be featured in the “Gloria.” Other soloists will include David Behnke, singing “The Trumpet Shall Sound” from George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” and Dorian Lopes will perform two solo sections of “Soon It Is Day.”

“The chorus has been fortunate to work with pianist Molly Sturges in rehearsals,” Peek says. “Molly will serve as accompanist for ‘Soon It Is Day,’ scored for chorus and piano, and will play keyboard with the chamber orchestra.”

“Traditionally, the April concert is one where we get some music to sink our teeth into,” Kildegaard notes. “It’s winter, and sort of the quiet time on the Island. Our concert in the Tabernacle in July is almost like a Boston Pop event, and our Christmas concert is holiday music. But in April, we usually bite off something more. It’s the concert where we reach a little bit, and a piece of the fun of the chorus is the musical, physical, and intellectual challenge of it.”

The chorus has been meeting weekly since January to prepare for the concert. “We meet for two hours Monday night, and they just fly by,” says Kildegaard, speaking about the wonderful experience of rehearsing with Peek as the musical director. “He works us very hard, but the satisfaction is that we can hear ourselves coming together and getting better. And trying to be as good as you can is part of the joy of making this music.

“Bill likes to say that for him, the goal is to communicate the emotional truth of the music. It’s not just about hitting the right note at the right time. Once we’ve got the notes, we start working on drawing out the emotion and the power of the music. Bill excels at teaching both. His pedagogical skills are formidable. And having a composer leading the chorus is a new experience that everybody is enjoying.”

Performances are at 7:30 pm on Friday, April 5, and at 3 pm on Saturday, April 6. Suggested donation is $20 per person (free for children and students).