The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Nov 17, 2010

Master Chorale's 'Creation' Begins Season of Collaboration

Posted by Gregory Stepanich

Joshua Habermann

This weekend’s performances by the Master Chorale of South Florida of Haydn’s epic oratorio The Creation mark the welcome return to area concert halls of a great Classical-era masterwork.

But they also are significant for another reason. The concerts are part of a unique resource-sharing move that involves three different arts organizations in three counties.

The Fort Lauderdale-based chorale, which used to be the Florida Philharmonic Chorus, wanted to perform The Creation but didn’t have an orchestra. Lynn University in Boca Raton wanted its conservatory orchestra, the Lynn Philharmonia, to mark the opening of the school’s new Wold Center for the Performing Arts in grand style with the Verdi Requiem, but didn’t have a chorus.

And the Miami Symphony Orchestra wanted to perform the Fauré Requiem in the spring, but didn’t have a choral ensemble for that. So the three groups came up with a plan to share resources, and will do so for this weekend’s three performances of The Creation: Friday night at Trinity Cathedral in Miami, Saturday evening at the Wold Center, and Sunday afternoon at the “Pink Church” (First Presbyterian) in Pompano Beach. Soloists for the Haydn are soprano Maria Jette, tenor Glenn Siebert and baritone Graham Fandrei.

In March, the Master Chorale will sing the Verdi with the Lynn Philharmonia in three counties, and in April and May, the group will join the MISO for the Fauré. The Verdi will be conducted by Lynn’s Albert-George Schram, and the Fauré performances will be led by MISO director Eduardo Marturet.

Joshua Habermann, the chorale’s director (pictured at the top of this post), said economic necessity helped convene the meeting of musical minds.

“Arts organizations are going through a lean period right now, with budget cuts and the economy being tough, especially for donations,” he said. “And so we’ve been looking for ways for some time to do two things: to cut costs and to do things that are mutually beneficial, and the other one is to try to reach out to other arts organizations in the area and broaden our base of partnership.”

The chorale’s board of directors decided to reach out to the Miami Symphony in hopes of landing an orchestra for its Haydn program.

“To us, it seemed like a great idea,” said Habermann, who directs the choral music program at the University of Miami. “We worked out an agreement by which we could essentially work with each other at greatly reduced fees on both sides, such that it would benefit both organizations and we could do two series of concerts together.”

At about the same time, Lynn University had approached the chorale about a collaboration because its conservatory doesn’t have a choral program. “They turned to us, because we’re the major chorus in the area, and said, ‘Hey, would you like to do something? Because we’re talking about the Verdi Requiem.’ And of course, we were thrilled to do it,” said Habermann, who’s beginning his third season at the helm of the 8-year-old chorus.

For the Verdi, the chorale will perform the work twice in Boca, then once each in Lauderdale and Miami-Dade, Habermann said, “so that we fulfill our three-county mission.” The side benefit of this co-production with Lynn is that the school will host the Saturday concert of The Creation, even though its performing forces aren’t involved.

There were details to be ironed out along the way, but in the end, “everyone was really positive” about joining forces, and the upshot is that audiences in all three places can get acquainted with a broader swath of the area’s classical capability. And it was “smooth sailing” to get there, Habermann said.

“It’s been a really nice year for collaborations and organizations helping each other out,” he said.

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