Beethoven Meets Will Todd: The Combined Beauty of Classical and Jazz

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WAYNE, PA — The Wayne Oratorio Society with John Grecia, Conductor announced the presentation of Beethoven’s Mass in C and Will Todd’s Mass in Blue on Saturday, April 22 and Sunday, April 23, 2023, at 7:30 PM at the Wayne Presbyterian Church, 125 East Lancaster Avenue, Wayne PA 19087.

A unique pairing composed 120 years apart and in two very different styles, these sacred works have something in common: the composers take as choral text, “The Mass Ordinary” (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei) yet each musician combines the same text with their own beautiful musical styles; classical and jazz.

The first work, Ludwig van Beethoven’s remarkable and revolutionary Mass in C was composed in 1803. His first true attempt to write a piece of sacred music, this work is both a tribute to the iconic classical era masses of Haydn and a forward-looking window into what was to come in the Romantic era. Beethoven’s words about his piece were:

“I think that I have treated the text in a manner in which it has rarely been treated.”

Beethoven’s modest analysis was right. This work has delighted hundreds of thousands of singers and audiences alike. It is sure to do the same once again in Wayne PA on April 22nd and 23rd. Joining the 100+ voice choir and professional orchestra are professional soloists, Melanie Sarakatsannis – Soprano, Raffaella Lo Castro – Alto, David Price – Tenor and Mark Hightower – Bass.

The second work is Will Todd’s Mass in Blue, composed in 2003. Todd (b. 1970) is a British composer best known for his choral works. His music is commissioned and performed by the world’s leading choirs including Grammy-winning and Philadelphia’s own, The Crossing. Todd’s Mass in Blue (2003) takes its roots in plainchant and weaves it with a style of jazz that took root in the late 50s/early 60s – think Brubeck, Ellington, and Guaraldi – a combination of chant, African American Gospel/12-bar blues, and the cool, somewhat cerebral modal jazz coming from this era. While the instrumentation and choral writing are rooted in jazz harmony and rhythm, the choir and soprano soloist perform solely with a traditional classical tone. The work is scored for soprano soloist (lyric soprano Melanie Sarakatsannis), 100+ voice choir, professional orchestral strings, select winds, and jazz combo.

These two works using the same text, the Mass Ordinary, fashion the music in completely different and intriguing ways. This makes for a fascinating study of how time, culture, and influence can inspire a composer to “paint” this eternal text in such different ways.

The Wayne Oratorio Society, a ministry of Wayne Presbyterian Church will celebrate its 75th year in November 2023 with the World Premiere of a Dan Forrest Commission, on November 4th and 5th, 2023.

Wayne Oratorio Society concerts are always free. Arrive early for the best parking and seating. The freewill offerings taken at concerts and donations from Patrons of the Arts sustain the Society.

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