Octavo Singers has a problem other choruses might envy: It has 90 singers.
That’s terrific for audiences to hear, but what venue can handle that number for their Sunday concert?
“There are only two venues in Schenectady County that can hold us: St. John the Evangelist and Union College’s Memorial Chapel,” said Curtis Funk, Octavo’s artistic director. “We’ve always been in the county but we wanted to branch out into Albany County. “
After scouting around, Funk remembered St. Pius X Catholic Church in Loudonville.
He knew the church was beautiful, as he’d played funerals there — he’s the church organist at Trinity Methodist Church in Albany.
“So I went down and walked around, sang, clapped, determined the hang time and reverb,” he said. “It’s similar to Immaculate Conception in Glenville and has a high arch, an open chancel. There’s also a great pipe organ and great acoustics. And Father Walsh is very supportive of music.”
Funk was also charmed by the history of the church. Around the turn of the last century, the area was home to many wealthy families who had hired Catholic Irish immigrants as domestic staff. But when these young people discovered there was no close Catholic church for them to attend Mass, they quit to live in more populated areas. Several residents approached then-state Sen. William Byrne to find a solution. Bishop Thomas Cusack reviewed the situation and approved the establishment of a mission chapel in 1916. The church was later named St. Pius V and became an independent parish. In 1954, the church was renamed in honor of the canonization of St. Pius X.
Octavo will sing Mozart’s Requiem in D minor and his “Vesperae solennes de confessore.” The latter was Mozart’s final liturgical work, written in 1780 for the Salzburg Church as part of his service for Archbishop Colloredo. He wrote it after his return from Paris, where his mother had died and before he moved to Vienna. He was 24.
Set to five psalms and a Magnificat, the music moves continuously with lightness and grace. Funk chose four singers from the chorus to work as a solo quartet. The work is not new for the chorus, but it’s the first piece Funk conducted in 2001 when he was hired as the chorus’ new artistic director, he said.
The Requiem, however, is one of those works that not only the chorus but audiences worldwide know. Recently, the Philadelphia Orchestra performed it to close its 2019 SPAC season. Legends and mysteries surround the piece. In fact, during the summer of 1791, Count Franz Walsegg-Stuppach, a recently widowed nobleman known for hiring composers to write works he later would pass off as his own, requested Mozart to write a suitable memorial. Already in bad health and overwhelmed with having to complete “The Magic Flute” and conduct its premiere, write his Clarinet Concerto and a cantata for his Masonic lodge, Mozart was only able to finish the opening Kyrie, Introit and had drafts of the Lacrimosa. On the morning of Dec. 5, after having friends gather to sing through what he’d composed, he died. He was 35.
His 25-year-old student, Franz Xaver Sussmayr, completed the work.
“It’s such a popular piece … phenomenal. It has such a rich history,” Funk said. “It has all the Mozartean challenges: The sopranos are above the staff, and he doesn’t put the altos and basses in a corner and tell them to behave. He makes them work just as hard.”
This is the first time Octavo has done the Requiem with Funk and the first time Funk has conducted the entire work. Soloists will be soprano Susan Boddie; alto Ann Marie Adamick; tenor Tim Reno; and bass John Demler. An 18-piece orchestra will support.
The next Octavo Singers concert will be the annual Handel’s “Messiah” set for Dec. 1 at Union College’s Memorial Chapel.
WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: St. Pius X Catholic Church, 23 Crumite Road,Loudonville
HOW MUCH: $25, $20, $15
MORE INFO: 518 253-7088; www.octavosingers.org