Mercersburg chorus to present spring concerts this weekend

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

The Mercersburg Area Community Chorus will present its spring concerts April 14 and 15 at the Mercersburg Academy Chapel.  Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.  The 120-member chorus under the direction of Richard Rotz will be joined by soloists Elisabeth Turchi, soprano; Kate Honan-Carter, mezzo-soprano; and Alex Helsabeck, baritone; and a full orchestra, in a program featuring the serene and ethereal Lux Aeterna by Morten Lauridsen; For You, O Democracy by Lee Hoiby (commissioned by MACC in 1993)  and favorites from the music of the opera.

In the second half of the April concerts three of Mercersburg's favorite soloists - Elisabeth Turchi, soprano; Kate Honan-Carter, mezzo-soprano; and Alex Helsabeck, baritone - will be featured in great moments from the world of opera, including the Toreador Song from Carmen  and several songs from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

Turchi dazzled the Chorus' December audiences with her singing in Messiah, and she recently performed an enthusiastically received recital benefiting Women In Need in Franklin County.  Honan-Carter has been a part of many Mercersburg concerts including performances of Elijah, Messiah, and A Ceremony of Carols.  Helsabeck has often served as the Chorus' resident bass-baritone since his first appearance as “Elijah” in Elijah.  Since then he has been in Messiah, The Creation, Verdi's Requiem, and many others.  

Morton Lauridsen was professor of composition at the University of Southern California for over 30 years and currently lives in the state of Washington.  His works have been recorded on over a hundred CDs, three of which have received Grammy nominations.  Lux Aeterna was commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in 1997.  The text of the five-movement work is drawn from sacred Latin sources, each containing references to light.  The spirit of the music is of serenity and beauty.

Lee Hoiby was born in 1926 and successfully made his living writing operas, choral music and instrumental music.  He studied composition at Curtis with Gian Carlo Menotti, who encouraged him to work in the area of opera.  Hoiby lived in northeastern Pennsylvania near the Delaware River until his death in 2011.  In 1993 the Mercersburg Chorus commissioned Hoiby to write For You O Democracy, which was premiered in the spring of that year.  Written on a text by Walt Whitman, the work is set for chorus, baritone, mezzo-soprano, and orchestra.  “We have found  For You O Democracy to be an inspired and beautiful piece of music,” explains Chorus Director Richard Rotz. “April's performance will be the third time we've presented this commissioned work.”

Founded in 1975, the Mercersburg Community Chorus performs two programs each year.  Admission to the Chorus' concerts is free; however, a free will offering will be taken. Since its beginning the Chorus has performed without admission charge and relies entirely on contributions for its financial support.   Seating at the Mercersburg Academy Chapel is limited and there are no reserved seats; therefore, early arrival is recommended. For more information about the Chorus' performances and recordings, call 717-328-2324.