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Kendrick keen to perform Verdi Requiem on Saturday

Conductor Don Kendrick looks forward to having the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra perform the Verdi Requiem in the Mondavi Center's Jackson Hall, where acoustics allow soft, gentle voices to be heard clearly as well as the thunder of the famous "Dies Irae" section. The Santa hats were worn during a holiday concert; they won't be part of Saturday's performance. Courtesy photos

By
March 16, 2011 |

Just the ticket

What: Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra performing the Verdi Requiem

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets: $30-$40 general, $15-$20 students, http://www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787

The Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra will bring the massive Verdi Requiem to the Mondavi Center in a performance at 8 p.m. Saturday.

“We have done the Verdi Requiem before, but never in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center,” said conductor Don Kendrick. “Performing at Mondavi will give us a chance to explore more contrast in the dynamics, as compared to when we did the piece at the Sacramento Community Center Theater in the mid-1990s.

“At one point, the soprano soloist has to sing a high B flat that is marked triple piano” — something that you can’t really do in a less resonant space like the Sacramento Community Center Theater, because the soprano’s voice wouldn’t carry to the back of the hall. But in Jackson Hall, Kendrick will be able to have soprano soloist Karen Slack sing much more softly and gently, and still be heard.

Similarly, Kendrick expects to display an added measure of thunder in the famous “Dies Irae” section.

“My hope is to unleash the full furor of the ensemble in the big moments, which should be thrilling in Mondavi,” he said. “Verdi uses ‘in-your-face’ statements of drama and fear and trepidation; he was trying to scare the heck out of everybody. And he fell back on his operatic techniques to make that happen.

“The chance to perform the Verdi Requiem in a hall like Mondavi opens up new perspectives for us,” Kendrick said. “I’m delighted to see how much more juice we can squeeze out of this masterpiece in a hall that is so generous to the extremes in dynamics.”

Kendrick has been involved with multiple performances of the Verdi Requiem over his long career.

“My first time singing the Verdi was as a graduate student in Boston at the New England Conservatory,” in 1973. In those days, the Conservatory’s choral group served as the resident chorus for the Boston Symphony. “Martina Arroyo from the Metropolitan Opera was the soprano soloist,” Kendrick recalled.

When Kendrick came to Sacramento and became the leader of the Sacramento Symphony Chorus, he prepared the Verdi Requiem for performances at the Sacramento Community Center Theater that were led by conductor Geoffrey Simon.

Kendrick conducted the Verdi Requiem (from memory) at Carnegie Hall in 1995.

“We took quite a few members of the Sacramento Symphony Chorus, along with singers from some of my other choirs at Sacramento State, and singers from Schola Cantorum in Sacramento,” he recalled.

Coming back to the Verdi at this point in his career is something Kendrick is keenly anticipating.

“When you perform a piece like this for the first time, it’s thrilling. But when you do it for a third or fourth time, you find different things. … There’s a maturity I didn’t have when I was a younger guy. I now have a very different emotional and spiritual take on it. Hopefully, this will be a performance that will be remembered as a special event.

“Right now our singers in the Choral Society are in peak condition,” Kendrick said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a Verdi Requiem that’s so clean and in place. They have the big, big sound. I have something like 46 tenors and 53 basses (out of a total of around 192 voices).”

The soloists include soprano Karen Slack, who sang at the Mondavi Center in a “Rising Stars of Opera” program last fall, in conjunction with benefactor Barbara Jackson’s birthday. Mezzo-soprano Julie Simson recently performed with the Takács Quartet, a group that will perform at the Mondavi Center on April 2. Tenor Bjorn Arvidsson sang the Verdi Requiem in Germany last year. Veteran bass Clayton Brainerd, a Wagner specialist, has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera and is a singer Kendrick has been hoping to engage for several years.

The Verdi Requiem will be performed with projected English supertitles. The concert is being dedicated to the victims of last week’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Tickets are $30 to $40 general, $15 to $20 for students, available at http://www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787. For general information about the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra, go to http://www.sacramentochoral.com or call (916) 536-9065.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8055. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

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