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Chorale to present the ‘music’ of Shakespeare at SUNY Schenectady

Chorale to present the ‘music’ of Shakespeare at SUNY Schenectady

Hudson-Mohawk singers to perform Sunday at SUNY Schenectady
Chorale to present the ‘music’ of Shakespeare at SUNY Schenectady
The Hudson-Mohawk Chorale will perform Sunday at SUNY Schenectady Community College’s Taylor Auditorium.
Photographer: photo provided

Susan Fedak, the artistic director for the Hudson-Mohawk Chorale, wanted something different for her 60 singers to perform on Sunday. The result: music based on Shakespeare’s texts.

“It was a suggestion from one of the chorus [members],” Fedak said. “The music is all new for us.”

That includes Fedak, who had to do some research to find the pieces. Much of the music’s texts come from 10 of Shakespeare’s plays and one sonnet but composers/arrangers didn’t always stick with his exact words.

“There is old English and a lot of double entendres, some of which are pretty funny,” she said. “Program notes will help.”

Roger Quilter’s “Three Shakespeare Songs” were written in 1905 and are considered some of the best English art songs.

“They’re beautiful, lovely melodies with complex accompaniment that complements the voices,” Fedak said. “I was really taken with them. They’re not too difficult and have contrasting moods. They’re about love, nature and are magical, bouncy.”

Jazz pianist George Shearing wrote “Songs and Sonnets” in the 1980s and asked John Rutter, the noted choral composer, to help him. 

“There are seven movements and they’re very upbeat,” Fedak said. “Originally, they were written for jazz piano, bass and voice.”

Getting the right feel for the jazz has been new for the chorus.

“Singers are used to 4/4 time, but to learn to do swing style together is a technique they’re not used to,” she said. “For instance, two eighth notes are done more as a triplet.”

Al Fedak, Fedak’s husband, composer-in-residence, and pianist for the group, will have his newest work premiered. A prolific composer, he has written 300 pieces for chorus and organ, 150 hymn tunes, which also includes instrumentals, and 130 pieces only for chorus. This one is called “Three Shakespeare Miniatures” and uses texts from “King Henry VIII,” “The Mer chant of Venice,” “Othello,” and “Orpheus with his Lute” from “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

“There are different rhythmic patterns and tunes and are chromatic but in a tonal style,” she said.

The chorus will also perform John Rutter’s “When Icycles Hang” from 1975, which uses some 17th century words.

“It’s an early work and not for American audiences,” Fedak said. “It’s more scholarly and not a pop sound. It’s a tricky piece.”

Al Fedak will support at the piano; tenor Rand Reeves and bass James Coker will solo.

Fedak said she’s glad she’s discovered these new works.

“It will really be an enjoyable concert,” she said.

Hudson-Mohawk Chorale

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24
WHERE: Taylor Auditorium, SUNY Schenectady
HOW MUCH: $16 pre-sale or $20 at the door; students, free
MORE INFO: 518 466-1960; www.hmchorale.org

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