Glee Club to perform Mendelssohn and Brahms this Sunday

The club's termly performance will feature alumni and a collaboration with the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra.

by Lauren Segal | 11/3/17 12:00am

The musical stylings of the Dartmouth Glee Club will once again grace Rollins Chapel this Sunday as they reimagine the works of Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms. The performance will feature three recent graduates — Alyssa Gonzalez ’17, Nathaniel Graves ’13 and James Ragan ’16 — as guest soloist, and will be the first performance with this year’s members of the glee club. 

The performance will include excerpts from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” and Brahms’ “Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz.” Separating this performance from past iconic glee club programs is the accompaniment by members of the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra alongside professional musicians.  

Glee club co-president Douglas Tallmadge ’18 said that the center piece of Sunday’s program is the consolidation of two different composers into a single cohesive production.

“Part of what makes this particular performance interesting is that we’re doing both Mendelssohn and Brahms, who both have very different styles, side by side,” Tallmadge said. “It’s a good mix of musical history as well as musical offerings from both composers.”

Louis Burkot, the director of the glee club, commented that what posed a challenge in the conception of Sunday’s program was synthesizing major works by Mendelssohn and Brahms.

“Over the years that I’ve worked with the glee club, I’ve discovered that they really like singing works that are the epitome or the apogee of great classical music,” Burkot said. “And a lot of those works are tied into much larger works. This year, I’m trying to tie together excerpts from these larger classical works, so that they almost form their own smaller drama.”

Burkot has taken a majority of the excerpts from “Elijah” and highlighted certain aspects of the original drama. In order to accomplish such a powerful program combining two renowned composers, Burkot has had to reduce a work that is over two hours long down to 40 minutes. This program required not only a time reduction but also the readjustment of keys so that they would flow together and the mood would stay consistent.  

Caitlin McGrail ’20, a mezzo-soprano and soloist for the performance, said that, despite the challenges this synthesis poses, Burkot’s work in seamlessly combining the two pieces will pay off in an memorable performance.

“They are definitely very different pieces,” McGrail said. “Brahms is more romantic in style, while Mendelssohn is a bit more baroque with choruses broken up by recitatives and arias, so it’s a different structure than the Brahms ‘Requiem.’ Presenting those two contrasting styles in one concert is interesting.”

Noah Lee ’18, co-president of the glee club, is excited for the glee club’s collaboration with the DSO for this performance.

“I’m looking forward to performing at Rollins and being able to collaborate with an orchestra that draws from both students and professionals,” Lee said. “In our past concerts, we have only pulled from professional orchestral players, but this year, some members of the DSO will be joining us, and I think it will be fun to see that kind of student interaction.”

To prepare for its termly performance, the glee club holds rehearsals three times a week: a male sectional, a female sectional and a combined rehearsal. 

A challenge that comes with the rehearsal schedule is the unification of the sectionals when they rehearse as a group, Burkot said.

“It’s interesting because just by the fact that you’re suddenly dealing with double the people in the full rehearsal, it makes the dynamic trickier to work with,” Burkot said. “The fact that we’re not rehearsing together every time is tricky — we want to get what we’ve done in sectionals with a smaller number of people to really show through in the full rehearsal.”

However, Sunday’s performance will extensively reflect the intricacies of combining many strong voices into a sophisticated and polished final product.

“We have to have a good balance between all the sections, and we have to develop a group sound that is cohesive,” Tallmadge said. “Some of these pieces have eight-part harmonies, so we split the men and women into four parts each. It’s really important in that case to have a good cohesive sound across all the parts that blends together well, and that takes a lot of time.”

Tallmadge hopes that the final performance will accurately reflect the weeks of practice put into the works. 

“The singing is at its best when we’re in the performance space,” Tallmadge said. “It’s the culmination of the rehearsal experience, so the performance is a great time to see the music at its fullest.”

Burkot noted that any student or faculty member interested in a performance that exhibits the musical proficiency of students on campus should not miss the show.

“Classical musical with this level of stature, music of the highest calibre, it has a special quality to it,” he said. “[The singers’] energy is unbridled for the music. Any student who is interested in seeing that energy should attend the performance.”

The glee club will perform in Rollins Chapel at 2 p.m.