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Watertown Musica Viva prepares “American Choral Favorites”

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Kyle P. Ramey had a vision when he created an auditioned a cappella chamber choir three years ago. With his upcoming concert, “American Choral Favorites,” he fulfills that vision.

While the past two annual concerts by Watertown Musica Viva were mostly a cappella, some selections had instrumental accompaniment.

“This year, it’s an entire a cappella concert,” said Mr. Ramey, who in addition to directing Musica Viva is the organist and choirmaster at Trinity. “It’s one of those concerts where the singer can’t hide. They are exposed the whole time.”

The concert, at 7 p.m. Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Church, is part of the 2012-13 Trinity Concert Series. The 18-member Musica Viva will present music by four American composers born between 1899 and 1905.

“It’s when what we call the sort of classic American choral sound came into existence,” Mr. Ramey said. “It’s American as apple pie.”

The timing of the concert reflects the theme as well. “I put it right before Thanksgiving because it’s such an American holiday,” Mr. Ramey said.

“The Peaceable Kingdom” by Randall Thompson (1899-1984) is an eight-movement work of approximately 20 minutes inspired, in part, by the paintings by Edward Hicks (1780-1849). The Pennsylvania native created more than 60 versions of his “Peaceable Kingdom” paintings, which reflect the Quaker theme of peace and brotherly love. Each of the eight sections is set to texts from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

“A lot of people will know who Randall Thompson was,” Mr. Ramey said. “They sang his music in high school choirs and college choirs.”

Aaron Copland (1900-90) is the most well-known composer to be featured in the concert. Musica Viva will sing his Four Motets, which Copland wrote in 1921 while studying in France with Nadia Boulanger. The work is based on the Book of Psalms.

Mr. Ramey said the Four Motets, despite being among Copland’s first works, were not published until 1979.

“You feel hints of other music that Copland would write later in his life — that Americana music,” Mr. Ramey said.

But he noted the Four Motets aren’t as polished as those later works.

“You can tell they were written by a student,” Mr. Ramey said. “He’s constantly changing keys. The singers have to be confident in their parts.”

Works by Jean Berger (1909-2002), a native of Germany who became an American citizen, that will be featured include “The Eyes of All Wait Upon Thee” and “A Rose Touched by the Sun’s Warm Rays.”

“They are in German, but we’re singing the English translation,” Mr. Ramey said. “Berger translated them himself.”

Four pieces by Harold Friedell (1905-1958) will be performed: “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life,” “King of Glory, King of Peace,” “Jesus, So Lowly” and “Song of Mary.”

“Friedell was organist and choirmaster at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City,” Mr. Ramey said. “He took great poems by different writers and set them to beautiful original melodies.”

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The members of Musica Viva are Nancy Boynton, Alice Jean Boucher, Linda Raville, Sara Glover, Richard Stephens, Jonathan Cole, David Raville, Martha Jablonski, Michaela Schied, Emily Kelly, Richard Probert, Ken Piarulli, John Willaman, Sue Ebersol DeMar, Maureen Laemmermann, Kevin Thackston, Mary Kaskan and Chris Boulter.

The details
WHAT: Watertown Musica Viva presents “American Choral Favorites” as part of the 2012-13 Trinity Concert Series.
WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Church, 227 Sherman St.
COST: Preferred seating is $16 for adults and $14 for senior citizens and members of the military. General admission is $14 for adults and $12 for senior citizens and members of the military. In all categories, there’s a discount of $2 per ticket if purchased in advance.
To purchase advance tickets, go to the series’ website at www.trinityconcerts.org. Tickets also can be ordered by calling the church at 788-6290, ext. 3
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