Chorale strives for balance with music, audience

November 14, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

Leading a musical ensemble like the Masterworks Chorale in Shepherdstown, W.Va., requires a lot of balance.

Kevin Badanes, in his first semester as Shepherd College's director of vocal/choral activities, holds the baton and will conduct its fall concert Sunday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. in the Frank Center Theater.

There is balance in the program. Masterworks Chorale will perform Johannes Brahms' Neue Liebeslieder, which Badanes describes as love songs, waltzes.

After intermission, along with a 15-piece chamber orchestra, the chorale will perform Gabriel Faur's Requiem. The piece is "not too fire and brimstone," Badanes says.


"As requiems go, this one is kind of pretty and very melodic," he adds.

The name "masterworks" implies a repertoire of large works by famous composers. That repertoire frequently includes requiems, earning the ensembles the tongue-in-cheek nickname of "choir of death," Badanes says.

But while serious works are performed, personal tastes - of the audience as well as the singers - have to be accommodated, Badanes says.

"We have to have fun, too," Badanes says.

The chorale, in its 31st season, was formed in 1972 as the Centennial Choir in observance of Shepherd College's 100th anniversary. Membership fluctuates between 50 and 80 singers, Badanes says, and also involves some balance. The ensemble is composed of members of the community and Shepherd students, and Badanes says they really need each other.

The flexibility and range of the young voices combine with the power and maturity of the older voices in the chorale, he explains.

Badanes hopes to substantially increase the size of the Masterworks Chorale at Shepherd. He founded a number of choirs and was choral director at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., for three years. The masterworks ensemble there had 170 voices.

Although his mother was a concert pianist, Badanes, says he got late start in his musical career. He didn't play an instrument - piano - until he was in high school. He also had a radio show when he was a high school student and planned a career in broadcasting. "I was going to be the radio guy," he says.

Instead, he became the "choir guy," earning his masters and doctorate in choral conducting at State University of New York at Stony Brook.

During his Virginia Tech tenure, he led a group of chamber singers all the way to an international choral festival in Argentina. His ensemble was the sole American choir among choirs from 140 countries.

Typically, the goal of a masterworks ensemble is to do "one huge thing" every year, Badanes says. Balance again comes into play, wanting to expose the community to great art while understanding that art is for everyone to enjoy, he explains.

Jessica Medina, 21, a senior voice major at Shepherd, will sing a mezzo soprano solo during the Brahms piece Sunday. The German text is challenging.

"The only thing tougher than tongue twisters is German tongue twisters," Badanes says.

Medina sings the role of a temptress. "Wahre, Wahre - Watch out," she warns.

"It's fast and has some cool undertones," she says.

She enjoys singing with the chorale. "It's so great to be involved with the community," she says.

Scott Beard, coordinator of keyboard studies at Shepherd College, will join Lucy Mauro at the piano - yes, four hands, one piano - on the Brahms. The two have known each other since their undergraduate days. They have performed together and written books together.

Beard, who minored in voice and has done a lot of singing, will make his Shepherdstown vocal debut in the Requiem. He had to try out for the baritone solo. "I've always wanted to sing that," he says.

Masterworks Chorale, which performs fall and spring concerts, also will perform Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Shepherd College Gala.

The ensemble is open to people from the community who are interested in joining.

Rehearsals are Mondays at 7:30 p.m. in room M08 in Frank Arts Center, and will resume in January.

For information, call Badanes at 1-304-876-5371.

If you go:

Masterworks Chorale

Neue Liebeslieder by Johannes Brahms

Requiem by Gabriel Faur

8 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 17

Frank Center Theater

Shepherd College

Shepherdstown, W.Va.

A reception will follow the performance. Tickets cost $10, general admission; $5, faculty and staff; free for students with valid ID and Friends of Music with Music Access Card.

For information, call 1-304-876-5371.

Directions: From Hagerstown take Md. 65 south to Sharpsburg. Turn right on Md. 34 west. Take 34 through Sharpsburg, across the Potomac River into Shepherdstown. Turn right onto the campus just past the Bavarian Inn. Frank Center is the large building on right at the top of the hill.

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