The Monadnock Chorus and two Keene State College choirs will team Dec. 7 and 9 to perform Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms,” a piece in three movements featuring roughly 130 voices and a full orchestra.
The organizations began planning the collaboration roughly three years ago, when Matthew Leese, artistic director of the Monadnock Chorus, reached out to Sandra Howard, an associate professor of music at the college, with the idea.
“This piece needs forces and resources that none of the groups could have done by themselves, but together we were able to do it,” Leese said.
Keene State College is providing performance space at the Redfern Arts Center for the first of the performances; the second will be in Peterborough. Also, the Monadnock Chorus is covering the cost of bringing in professional orchestra musicians from all over the Northeast, according to Howard.
The three participating choral groups — the Monadnock Chorus and Keene State’s Concert Choir and Chamber Singers — have been rehearsing independently but will come together for group rehearsals this week ahead of the performances, Leese said.
He noted that the symphony, which premiered in 1930, is a unique selection that not many audiences have had the opportunity to see perform, and for the singers, it’s certainly a musical challenge.
“The ‘Symphony of Psalms’ is one of the greatest masterworks of choral orchestral repertoire,” she said. “It is rhythmic, it’s exciting, it’s highly technical, it’s challenging with the harmonies that are produced. So, none of these three choirs alone in isolation would be performing this.”
Besides the symphony, which runs roughly 35 minutes, each group will perform a few short selections, Leese said.
Attendees will also get a look into Stravinsky’s life, and the significance of his work, with a pre-concert lecture by Joseph Darby, a professor of music at Keene State who specializes in the areas of 20th-century music and Soviet Russia.
“I would say for our students, the opportunity to collaborate with experienced community singers and to sing with a professional orchestra will be a real highlight of their college experience,” Howard said.
Leese noted that the Monadnock Chorus and the Keene State choral program are part of a vibrant musical community in the Monadnock Region. This weekend alone there were choral performances by the Chamber Singers of Keene, the Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs, the Keene Chorale, the Greater Keene Pops Choir and the Animaterra Women’s Chorus.
“I feel like it’s another example of how incredibly exciting the choral scene is in our region, and that there are so many collaborations happening,” Leese said. “This is just one of many that I know of in the past few years and that are already being planned for the future.
“I’m just really excited to be part of this bigger scene that’s happening in our region.”