Amherst Ensembles Perform Joint Rendition of Mozart’s Great Mass

The Amherst Symphony Orchestra and the Amherst College Choral Society performed a joint rendition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor, K.427 in Buckley Concert Hall on Saturday, March 7. The concert featured the Glee Club, Women’s Chorus, the Concert Choir, and the Amherst Symphony Orchestra. Mark Lane Swanson conducted, and six guest vocal soloists from the UMass vocal program were also present.

The evening was noteworthy both for the number of organizations and people involved and for the difficulty of the piece itself.

Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor was written in 1783 and premiered at St. Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg. Left incomplete at the time of Mozart’s death in 1791, with two missing portions, the piece is about one hour long.

On Buckley’s brightly lit stage stood 160 involved people — 30 from Concert Choir, 40 from Women’s Chorus, 30 from Glee Club, 52 orchestra performers, six soloists, and the two directors of the Choral Society and orchestra — Mallorie Chernin and Mark Swanson, respectively. Altogether, this group constitutes about 8 percent of Amherst College’s student body.

The preparation for this concert began during interterm, with each group practicing on its own. The choral societies began practicing together a few weeks before the concert, and spent the last few rehearsals with all four groups practicing together — voices and instrumental music combined. This was the part that most of the performers found most rewarding.

“I had been listening to the music on YouTube,” Takudzwa Tapfuma ’17, vice president of the Glee Club, said in an interview. “But we had never heard our orchestra perform live. On our first combined rehearsal, we walked in and heard the orchestra playing the same music I’d been listening to on YouTube. Wow! They sounded so good! It felt really good to be performing alongside people so talented. It was an honor to part of that.”

Singing at the concert were UMass soloists Corinne Byrne, Liana Ginetis, Maki Matsui and Eun Byoul Song, all sopranos; Brendan Buckley, a tenor and Matthew Chastain, a baritone. All six are professional-track soloists.

“This was the most amazing thing we’ve done all year and I wish we could do it for every concert,” said Lumi Youm ’18, a member of the Women’s Chorus. While such a large-scale collaboration may not happen for every concert, the Choral Society does collaborate once with other musical groups on campus every year, most often in the spring semester. This last concert is a continuation of the trend and a follow-up to last year’s collaboration with the jazz band.

“Imagine working on something for three months, and after one night, it’s over. It’s done. You won’t get a chance to sing the same music with the same people ever again,” Tapfuma said.

Members of all the performing collectives credited the directors, Mark Swanson and Mallorie Chernin, for their patience as the groups worked through the difficult music. Swanson and Chernin received a loud round of applause from both the audience and the Choral Society at the conclusion of the concert.

“She knew what she wanted us to sound like after three months, and I cannot imagine the patience it took to hear us in those first few weeks,” Tapfuma said of Chernin.