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Community Chorale makes debut in Haydn’s Creation

Nearly 200 singers rehearse this week for the Community Chorale's upcoming performance of Haydn's Creation. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
Joshua Bronfman, artistic director of the Grand Forks Master Chorale, directs the Community Chorale in rehearsal for their debut performance of Haydn's Creation. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
The soprano section of the newly-formed Community Chorale rehearses this week at the Hughes Fine Arts Center at UND. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

Nearly 200 people filled the seats of the recital hall at the Hughes Fine Arts Center early this week, but they weren’t there to see a performance.

The large group was made up of doctors, students, young professionals and faculty members who all have one thing in common: they love to sing.

They are members of the Grand Forks Master Chorale Chamber Choir, Community Chorale, UND Concert Choir, Varsity Bards and Allegro Women’s Choir. Together, they sat with song books in hand, rehearsing under the direction of Joshua Bronfman, artistic director of the Grand Forks Master Chorale.

Standing on the small stage, Bronfman directed the large choir, stopping every couple of measures to remind the singers to be louder, softer, more articulate and hit the consonants before the beat rather than on the beat.

Combining the talents of the five choirs, along with the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, they will present Franz Joseph Haydn’s Creation at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

The Master Chorale has a final spring performance every year, but Bronfman said, “This is the first time in a long time we’ve done it this big and with this much participation.”

Emily Hill, executive director of the Master Chorale, said the show will include 268 performers, 28 of which are part of the new Community Chorale.

The Community Chorale

Haydn’s Creation will be the Community Chorale’s debut performance. The chorale is a nonauditioned choir that was formed early this year to fill a void created several years ago.

About three years ago, the directors of the Grand Forks Master Chorale made a huge change in the organization. They trimmed the choir and made a point to include only the best singers. Bronfman said they wanted to create the best choir in the region, but in the process, they left out many people who wanted to sing.

Now, they’ve created the Community Chorale, which is open to anyone interested in singing, despite their experience or skill level.

“This community needs an outlet for anybody who would like to sing no matter what their ability level is,” Hill said.

The choir includes people ages 18 to 60 who have sang in their high school, college and/or church choirs.

Sandy Schuster, of Warsaw, Minn., said she joined because she wanted a short term challenge and the rehearsals fit well with her schedule. She’s thrilled to work with so many talented singers.

“Last week, we added the Master Chorale, which was really exciting for me to sit between two of them,” she said. “The excitement is building and the anticipation.”

She added that the directors are very good at challenging them and having the choir rise to the challenge.

“(People) definitely should not be intimidated by joining the Community Chorale, even if you walk in Day One and are confused about most notes on the page, we’re willing to work with you,” Hill said.

Cynthia Schabb, of Grand Forks, added: “The directors can tell you precisely how they expect it to be and how they want it to sound. Because of that, you have a better idea of how you want it to sound; their explanations are very clear.”

Schabb joined the Community Chorale because her husband is on the board. She said it’s a neat opportunity because she will be singing with her husband and daughter.

Although she sings with her daughter in the church choir, she said it’s the first time they’ve done something this big together.

“It really elevates the singing,” she said. “It’s very different than singing with a church choir; (the directors) are very precise and professional.”

The magic and the beauty

For Saturday’s performance, the Community Chorale members will be intermixed with the other choirs throughout the stage, sorted by a vocal part. Hill said this alone allows them to improve their vocal ability.

“There’s something magical that happens in a choir, no matter what skill level you’re at,” Hill said. “You’re not only learning from the conductor, but you’re also learning from the people around you by just listening to them, and it’s kind of just this strange phenomenon that your voice just develops by singing with other people.”

The director, who is very familiar with the piece and used to working with singers of all ages and skill levels, is also very helpful. Bronfman has directed Haydn’s Creation three times and sang it twice.

The piece tells the biblical story of creation as written in the book of Genesis and Milton’s Paradise Lost. It was first performed in 1798 in Vienna, Austria, and it was the first work set in both German and English.

“The work is not too difficult,” he said. The biggest challenge is the sometimes clunky and awkward English translation.

But, Bronfman said it’s a really exciting piece that speaks to a lot of different people.

Schabb agreed. “It’s just got a lot of excitement and energy to it.”

And with more than 250 performers, Hill said the sound is just intense.

“The sheer spectacle of the whole thing will just be great,” Bronfman added.

He said he hopes to continue the large-scale performance each year and make it the annual event to attend.

But, the Master Chorale hopes to add even more people next year. Hill said the initial goal was to have 80 people in the Community Chorale, so they’re hoping to have at least that many members next year.

The choir will have their own show in the fall and will join the additional choirs again in the spring.

“If people want to come out and see what this is all about, and if they’re inspired to come and sing with us next fall, they can come and sign up on our website,” Hill said.

By the numbers

  • 268: Number of singers in the performance.
  • 60-plus: Age of oldest performer.
  • 18: Age of youngest performer.
  • 5: Number of choirs.
  • 1798: Year Haydn’s Creation was first performed in Vienna, Austria.
  • 2: Length of performance in hours.
  • 5: Number of soloists.
  • 28: Number of community choir members.

If you go

  • What: The Grand Forks Master Chorale presents Haydn’s Creation featuring the Master Chorale and Community Chorus with UND’s Concert Choir, Varsity Bards and Allegro Women’s Choir.
  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday.
  • Where: Chester Fritz Auditorium, 3475 University Ave., Grand Forks.
  • Cost: $27 for adults; $22 for students; $17 for children.
  • Info: (701) 777-4090.

Click here for more information about the Community Chorale.

Jasmine Maki
Jasmine Maki is a features reporter for Accent. Her main beats are arts and entertainment and life and style. She also occasionally covers health, family and TV.
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