Freeman to conduct ‘From Regal to Rustic’ at Epworth

When Ann Freeman received the phone call from Newark Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Music Director Simeone Tartaglione, she recognized an offer that was too good to pass up. The chorus has been invited to participate in an NSO concert featuring Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” and Borodin’s “Polovetsian Dances,” to be performed May 11. Freeman quickly related the offer to the board, and they promptly agreed.

The challenge that the Southern Delaware Choral Society then faced was how to prepare for two different concerts with only one week between concerts.

“The chorus probably could have held extra rehearsals to prepare that music independently of our own spring concert, but it occurred to me that it might be more prudent, and artistically rewarding, as well, to tailor our 2014 spring programming around these two outstanding pieces,” she explained.

Freeman said that, “while Borodin and Tchaikovsky are both Russian composers, I did not feel that a program of exclusively Russian music would be easily accessible for our singing membership or our audiences.”

The pieces of the concert, she said, fell into place like a puzzle that began with finding the right accompanist. Since the “Hymn to the 1812 Overture” and “Polovetsian Dances” were both choral pieces embedded within larger orchestral works, Freeman said, she knew that the chorus would turn to their longtime favorite piano accompanist, Paul Fleckenstein, to provide the fireworks that the pieces demand.

SDCS last performed the Brahms “Liebeslieder (‘Love Songs’) Waltzes” in 2002, and there have been many requests to repeat them. Having Fleckenstein on board made it possible, Freeman said, to include some of the “Liebeslieder” and “Zigeunerlieder” (“Gypsy Songs”), as well as Schumann’s “Zigeunerleben” (“Gypsy Life”). The program began to take shape in Freeman’s mind, with the broader theme of music from Central and Eastern Europe.

The SDCS is currently rehearsing the product of the collaborative effort, “From Regal to Rustic” featuring song and dance from Central and Eastern Europe. The concerts will be held on Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 4, at 4 p.m. at Epworth United Methodist Church on Holland Glade Road in Rehoboth Beach.

As is frequently the case with choral music from many countries, Freeman said, a major challenge for the chorus has been to attain a comfort level singing in other languages besides English: Russian, Serbian and German

“While we are singing the Brahms “Liebeslieder” and “Zigeunerlieder” in English, we decided to perform Schumann’s “Zigeunerleben” in its original German to preserve the intensity and rhythm of the poetry. We have included one sacred piece in Russian, and three of the Russian folk songs have verses in the native tongue. Finally, we selected a gypsy folk dance from Eastern Europe with driving rhythms that we sing in Serbian.”

The diverse concert program offers solo opportunities to several members of the chorus who have not previously had the chance to display their talents, Freeman noted: from the romantic “Moscow Nights” and passionate “Dark Eyes” to the rustic “Volga Boatmen” and famous “Kalinka.” Not to be overlooked, she said, will be the raucous syncopation of the Serbian “Niska Banja.”

Asked if she had a favorite, Freeman said, “I could not possibly pick a favorite piece from this concert because the program is so incredibly varied. It would be like comparing apples, broccoli, and beefsteak. I think the title of the program, ‘From Regal to Rustic,’ is very descriptive. Our audience members should come prepared for a musical potpourri encompassing the sacred, romantic era favorites, traditional folk song melodies, and elegant and energetic dance themes. Totally entertaining!”

Tickets for both performances are available by calling (302) 396-7617 and are also available online from the website at southerndelawarechoralsociety.org, and at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach and Puzzles in Lewes. Tickets will be available at the door on the date of the concert. Costs for the tickets are $20 for adults or $8 for students with valid ID.