Mendelssohn Club director Jeff Vredenburg is really looking forward to Friday’s concert. Like most of the club’s concerts over its 106-year history, it has a theme: “Salute to the Union.” Unlike many past concerts, though, much of the repertoire was new to the singers.
“I do a lot of research. Sometimes it takes hours and hours to find the music,” Vredenburg said.
“Many of these songs, though, were familiar to me. I had no trouble finding them. I’m always open to the suggestions from the men and there is a music committee of six club singers who help decide. It’s always a joint effort. But I like to have them do fun things and balance those with more serious pieces.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Chancellor’s Hall, 89 Washington Ave., Albany
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: 428-5382, www.mendelssohn.org
The concert, which falls the day before Armed Forces Day, is a salute to all veterans in conflicts as far back as the Civil War.
Vredenburg has a lot of experience with singers. For years until he retired in 2005, he directed the Saratoga Springs High School chorus and its Choraliers. This is his second stint as director of the Mendelssohn Club; his first was from 1989 to 2001, when Victor Klimash took over. When Klimash moved back to Louisiana in 2011, Vredenburg returned.
“I’ve always loved the sound of a male chorus,” he said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie and they’re enthusiastic to sing. It’s a pleasure to conduct and move them ahead.”
Klimash had worked a lot on vowel sounds and introduced the men to more complicated repertoire.
“I’ve been building on that,” Vredenburg said. “I’m always working on their tone quality and try to get the words nice and crisp.”
The 60 singers, however, are a mixed bag of skills. Some don’t read music well, while others are professional singers.
“I have a core of about 10 to 15 excellent singers, so it’s a challenge to find the appropriate material,” Vredenburg said. “I try to get a balance and take great pains to find it.”
The concert will feature such favorites as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” along with pieces new to the group: “Goober Peas,” a three-part a cappella tune with finger snaps that was intended to make light of the hardships of war; and an old and darker arrangement of the spiritual “Go Down, Moses.” Also new is the famous Union tune of the “Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Green Grow the Lilacs” with its beautiful melody in a chromatic setting.
Vredenburg re-discovered “Stout-Hearted Men” from a long-ago club program and found an arrangement of “God Bless the U.S.A.” on a compact disc made by a southern men’s church chorus that the chorus emailed him after he contacted them.
“It’s modern but hot,” he said with a laugh.
His big find was John Philip Sousa’s words to the “Stars and Stripes” march, for which the club’s longtime stalwart pianist Michael Clement will play Vladimir Horowitz’s virtuosic arrangement.
The 12-member brass and drum Christian Brothers Academy Band will play a few tunes. A slide show will set the period of each segment. A portion of the concert’s proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project STRIDE Adaptive Sports.
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