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Chorale to close season with Beethoven’s 9th

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By Sara Miller

The Evergreen Chorale has taken part in many collaborations over the years — each one bringing a new twist to musical performance. Whether it is an Irish celebration with Colcannon or a Dixieland extravaganza with the Queen City Jazz Band, these partnerships make the musical experience of a Chorale performance even stronger. On May 7 and 8, the Chorale takes the concept of collaboration to a new level, taking on one of the top five choral masterpieces in the world, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
The concerts will be presented by a choir collaboration of 150 voices from the Evergreen Chorale and One World Singers, 85 members of the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra and guest artists Kara Guggenmos, soprano; Marcia Ragonetti, mezzo soprano; Jason Baldwin, tenor; and Steven Taylor, bass baritone. Under the baton of maestro William Morse, the conductor of the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra, the group will re-create Beethoven’s last symphony in its original form, culminating in the much-loved vocal movement “Ode to Joy.”
Beethoven’s last symphony marked a triumphant and glorious end to his career. For this reason, it seems a fitting way to close the 2010-11 Chorale season. For years, Beethoven played with a shift in emphasis and power in his symphonies. The Classical period, during which Beethoven began his symphonic career, was characterized by an intellectual, structured symphony that followed strict rules of composition. By the time Beethoven composed his Symphony No. 9, he was breaking all of the symphonic rules and creating a less-formal exercise — a more subjective expression of his inner experience.
Beethoven had been shocking audiences his whole life, but being the first major composer to incorporate the human voice into a symphony was a radical step that confounded all expectations and led to the creation of the “choral symphony.” The words are sung during the final movement and were taken from the “Ode to Joy,” a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785.
Beethoven completed the symphony in 1824 on commission from the Philharmonic Society of London. By this point in his life, the composer was completely deaf.
“It’s amazing that Beethoven had suffered through such a tumultuous life — losing his hearing — but he could create something so joyous and beautiful,” says Laurie Romberg, Chorale member and public relations manager.
According to historians, the symphony’s premiere was a great success. When the audience broke into frenetic applause, Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting. It is said that the contralto soloist walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience’s cheers and applause. The audience acclaimed Beethoven with five standing ovations. At the time it was customary for the royal family to be greeted with three ovations. Five ovations delivered to a private citizen was unprecedented.
The concert will take place at the Green Center at the Colorado School of Mines. The 1,100-seat auditorium should serve as the perfect place to capture the musical mastery of this much-beloved symphony. What better way to spend Mother’s Day weekend than with the joyous sounds of Beethoven and the Evergreen Chorale?

Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.