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On Saturday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Helena Civic Center the Helena Symphony presents the rarely performed Missa Solemnis by Beethoven including the Helena Symphony Orchestra & Chorale, the Gillette Chamber Singers, and four internationally-acclaimed vocal soloists. This epic work is the “pre-quel” to Beethoven’s famous Ninth Symphony, performed last Season by the HSO as part of the 60th anniversary year. The 65 players of the HSO and the 90-voice Helena Symphony Chorale will be joined by the 30-voice Gillette Chamber Singers from Gillette, Wyoming, and four noted soloists (Soprano Kristin Vogel, Mezzo Soprano Holly Sorensen, Tenor Peter Scott Drackely, and Bass Paul An) who have performed throughout the world with orchestras and opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera Company.
The Missa Solemnis has only been performed once in Montana, and is Beethoven’s largest concert work. “He wanted to write something so elaborate and unique, and to ultimately combine not just the music of the Church with the concert hall, but to combine the spirituality and devotion of sacred music with the expressive power of the symphony,” says Music Director Allan R. Scott. “And the work is certainly that – a symphony, an opera, and a violin concerto – all wrapped in the setting of a sacred work that had no intentions of being performed during a religious ritual.”
With the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven said “I gave it all that I am humanly and artistically capable of, with utter devotion and fervor.” Today the Missa Solemnis is considered a musical monument, and one of the most magnificent works of human creativity. It was completed shortly before his famous Ninth Symphony, and while the Ninth’s powerful message is undoubtedly clear to anyone, the Missa Solemnis remains one of the most puzzling works spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and musically.
Today, his music maintains a strong sense of humanity and inexhaustible power of striving for the ideal, that appeals to millions of listeners with a simplicity and a sincerity that are still without parallel. The work is still perplexing for musicians and listeners today, as it appeals and challenges every aspect of our humanity, including our faith, spirituality, mortality, hopes, and fears. It is not so much a celebration of a religious belief, as it is a search for and affirmation of faith in humanity. Religious humility and modesty are downplayed, and the music of the Missa Solemnis has a radiance and spirituality that exude strength, passion, and compassion.
“While Beethoven uses the structure of a Roman Catholic mass, his Missa Solemnis in many ways is a mass of contradictions,” explains Maestro Scott. “He gave, what is perhaps, the greatest effort of his life to a God who robbed him of an essential element of his being – his hearing.”
Most of all, the Missa Solemnis does not offer some vision of a distant, perfect heaven. Perhaps, like the Ninth Symphony, the Missa Solemnis is offering a more “human” heaven, where we look for the City of God within the City of Man here on earth, as perhaps they are not two distant worlds. Maestro Scott suggests that “just as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is his hopes for our lives together, the Missa Solemnis expresses how we ultimately must believe that we each hold godliness in ourselves, and we need to see that in one another. For in the end – to Beethoven, all music was spiritual.”
Tickets range in price from $52 to $12 and can be purchased on line at helenasymphony.org, or by calling the Symphony Box Office (406.442.1860), or at the Symphony Box Office located on the Walking Mall at the Livestock Building (2 N. Last Chance Gulch, Suite 1) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Please contact the Symphony for interviews with the Soloists or Maestro Scott.