The Choral Society of the Hamptons (CSH) is going all out this holiday season to present a truly magnificent concert: two glorious Magnificats. One is by J.S. Bach—“Some of the most beautiful music for solo voice, chorus and orchestra he ever composed,” says CSH Conductor Mark Mangini—and the other is a rarely performed, remarkable achievement by Felix Mendelssohn.
In 2016, the choral society will be celebrating its 70th year. Here on the East End, CSH remains the only choral organization dedicated to the classical repertory, performing three times a year. Founded in 1946 by Charlotte Rogers Smith, who was a local church choir director, it has grown to 60-65 members, representing all ages and levels of musicianship, and is open to all who would like to audition. Although overwhelmingly drawing members from East End communities, CSH includes musicians from Maestro Mangini’s Greenwich Village Singers for its summer concert, thus providing CSH with an opportunity to expand to close to 100 voices to perform larger works, such as Haydn’s crowning achievement, The Creation, which it will do next June.
Many East End audience members know that Mendelssohn is held by some to have been an even earlier blossoming prodigy than was Mozart. The Mendelssohn Magnificat was written when Mendelssohn was only 12. Concluding the concert will be a special treat: an arrangement of a short, gorgeous late work by Mendelssohn, “Behold a Star from Jacob Shining,” taken from the Book of Numbers, 24:17. It will be performed by the Choral Society members, joined by 40 students from Sag Harbor’s Pierson High School Chorus, under the direction of Choral Society member Suzanne Nicoletti, a soprano. As always, CSH will be accompanied by The South Fork Chamber Orchestra, led by Maestro Mangini, a group made up of professional musicians who are also your neighbors and friends. Of special note will be the soloists, all of whom have performed with the Choral Society before and have received standing ovations: Darynn Zimmer, Soprano, Charlene Marcinko, Mezzo-soprano, Nils Neubert, Tenor and Dominic Inferrera, Baritone.
The first piece audience members will hear will be Bach’s Magnificat in D Major, Mary’s Song of Praise, taken from the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke (verses 46–55). A splendid sacred choral piece, set for a five-part choir (sopranos I and II, alto, tenor, bass), it is said to have been composed for Christmas, but it is also beautifully suited for other great feasts of the church year. It has 12 movements, each short, each spectacularly different, each illustrative of the genius of Bach.
Those who know music will be especially interested in picking up echoes of the Bach in the Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was a significant pianist and a conductor, but also, as Maestro Mangini admiringly suggests, a bit of a show-off, composing his Magnifcat in a way to demonstrate not only what he learned from Bach but also, daringly, to show what he could do on his own. Some of his distinctive touches include intricate runs and haunting harmonies. As Maestro Mangini also points out, some passages challenge singers by putting them on their own, their voices “exposed” without orchestral reinforcement, but he trusts that CSH members enjoy challenge (true) and will meet it as they always do (true.)
On December 7 the CSH will give two performances at The Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church on Main Street: at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. There will be a free reception after the 5:30 p.m. show, across the street at the new parish hall of Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church along with a silent auction and, perhaps, a bit of caroling. For tickets, go to choralscietyofthehamptons.org. or call 631-204-9402. The Choral Society is also sponsoring a fundraising “Elegant Brunch,” preceding the 3 p.m. performance, at the Bridgehampton Inn’s restaurant at 1 p.m. Reservations are a must.