Chorus pro Musica Concert at Boston's Old South Church Sunday, November 8

Music Director Betsy Burleigh's inaugural concert celebrates the organ at Old South with Durufle Requiem, Zoltán Kodály's Laudes organi, Johannes Brahms's motet, “Lass dich nur nichts nicht dauren.”
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Oct. 29, 2009 - PRLog -- BOSTON, MA--Betsy Burleigh, Chorus pro Musica's fifth Music Director in its 61-year history, begins this year’s concert season with a celebration of powerful music for chorus and organ on Sunday, November 8 at 3 pm at Old South Church, Copley Square, Boston [645 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116].  The concert will feature Maurice Duruflé's Requiem, Zoltán Kodály's Laudes organi and Johannes Brahms's motet, “Lass dich nur nichts nicht dauren” (Let Nothing Ever Grieve Thee).

“At this concert, we’ll put the spotlight on one of the great instruments and one of the great spaces in Boston--Old South Church (a National Historic Landmark), and its magnificent Skinner organ, Opus 308,” notes Dr. Burleigh.

Maurice Duruflé, himself a famous organist, wrote a Requiem that is universally beloved for its feeling of sublime serenity and peace--yet requires the highest level of virtuosity from the organist.  Zoltán Kodály recorded folk songs of his native Hungary and infused their spirit into his work.  Laudes organi, commissioned by the Atlanta Chapter of the the American Guild of Organists, was Kodály's last major work, completed just one year before his death.  It celebrates the organ, king of instruments, and integrates the chorus in a brilliant variety of chromatic passages and moods.  Brahms's short motet is a beautiful exercise in counterpoint, crowned by a stirring "Amen" anchored by the organ's pedal E-flat.

The organist for this event is Dr. Ross Wood, Associate Organist & Choirmaster at the Church of the Advent in Boston and a recitalist whose concerts have been broadcast on NPR and the BBC.  Wood has also performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under James Levine and with the Boston Pops under Keith Lockhart.  

Old South's Skinner Opus 308 organ is a remarkable instrument with some 6,950 pipes, 89 registers and 115 ranks, which in 1985 was moved to Old South from the Ordway Civic Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, before that building was demolished.  This is the second largest organ in the city of Boston [the largest is at the Mother Church].  The Skinner was silenced last year when MBTA construction work opened a large crack in the wall of the church, but repairs and inspections by dozens of structural engineers now permit the organ to play again.  Temporary repairs were made to the plaster; the organ was totally undamaged.  The only reason the organ was temporarily silenced from December through March was fear that loose plaster might fall down into the pipes directly below the crack.

Old South Church is an outstanding and colorful example of Northern Italian Gothic architecture, advocated in the 1850s by the English architectural critic John Ruskin.  Old South was completed five years after the Copley Square area was finally filled, in 1870.  The 1875 structure progressed across from the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church; these Boston architectural landmarks are situated on land fill where the Charles River Basin once was.  Nine train cars loads of gravel had arrived every 45 minutes, day and night for nearly thirty years filling 570 acres all the way to the Fens.  This created the land that Old South and all of Copley Square now sit on.   Old South and its neighbors were securely anchored on wood pilings, but they are particularly vulnerable to environmental changes and to construction activities which disturb the ground, such as the MBTA project.

Lois Corman, hired by Old South Church as “Project Coordinator,” after an MBTA construction accident sometime on December 2, 2008 caused a 60 foot crack to appear from the foundation in the basement to the roof line, has an interesting job.  As “project coordinator,” she has watched dozens of engineers at work, including structural and geotechnical engineers, learned about the soil underneath the church, discovered exactly how the church’s foundation was built in 1875 and learned how the Skinner Opus 308 organ can play notes so low that you can’t hear them, but they make people tremble inside!  

“Probably the thing that was most impressive during my job here was when they had an engineer who climbed up to look at the crack 60 feet high using ropes on the interior . . . watching her climb up there, rappelling off the church wall was something I thought I’d never see!” says Corman.

Betsy Burleigh, in her debut season as Music Director, has been Music Director since 2005 of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, a renowned 115-voice chorus founded in 1908 that is the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's chorus of choice. She recently moved to Boston from Cleveland where she was Assistant Director of Choruses for The Cleveland Orchestra and a full professor at Cleveland State University. For five years she served as Chorus Master for Cleveland Opera.

Ms. Burleigh is an active conductor, and has led the Pittsburgh Symphony, Opera Cleveland, the Akron Symphony, and the Canton Symphony Orchestras. She conducted the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus on an Emmy award-winning benefit concert for the 9/11 Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, and received the Northern Ohio Live Achievement Award for music direction of Viktor Ullman’s opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis with Cleveland Public Theater.  In February 2009 she conducted the Mendelssohn Chamber Chorus on the Library of Congress concert series in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Burleigh is no stranger to Boston: She was Music Director of The Master Singers from 1985-1991 and Music Director for the Longy Chamber Singers and the Cambridge Madrigal Singers, among other positions. She holds a doctorate in choral conducting from Indiana University and a masters degree from the New England Conservatory of Music.

Concert tickets for the November 8 performance at Old South Church are $20, $30 and $45, with discounts available on selected seats for groups, students, seniors and WGBH members.  Reserved seats may be selected and tickets purchased at, or by phone (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) at 800-658-4CPM (800-658-4276).  For wheelchair-accessible seats, call 617-267-7442.

Tickets are available for this concert and any combination of three of the season concerts, at 10% off single-ticket prices, and may be purchased at, or by phone (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) at 800-658-4CPM (800-658-4276).

Chorus pro Musica is a distinguished, independent Boston-based chorus recognized for versatility and excellence in performing traditional, adventurous and seldom-heard works.  The chorus was founded in 1949 by the late Alfred Nash Patterson and quickly built a superb reputation for its professional-level musical standards and innovative programming.  These strengths have led to collaborations with such organizations as the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra as well as with opera companies including the Opera Company of Boston and Commonwealth Opera.

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