GMChorale opens season with Bernstein tribute

The GMChorale in concert, led by Artistic Director Joseph D'Eugenio.

MIDDLETOWN — The GMChorale opens its 43rd season with a nod to the Leonard Bernstein centenary that stands out from the many other tributes during this “Bernstein Year.”

On Sunday, the 80-voice ensemble will present “Dream with Me Tonight, Dear Friends,” a concert of choral and keyboard music by Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Randall Thompson, three giants of American composition who enriched each other’s lives as friends and mentors.

“As a composer, pianist, teacher, and conductor, Leonard Bernstein had a profound and lasting effect on the color and flavor of American music,” said Artistic Director Joseph D’Eugenio, now in his 21st season with the GMChorale.

“So instead of simply performing a selection of Bernstein’s choral music, we broadened the program to include music by Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson, two composers who influenced, and were influenced by, Bernstein.”

Copland’s deep roots in American folk music will be heard in a selection of spiritual arrangements, including his iconic “At the River.” Thompson’s affinity for the singing voice and his sensitive text settings have ensured that his Frostiana and Alleluia remain fresh and compelling. Bernstein’s wide-ranging virtuosity, encompassing the languages of classical, jazz, opera, expressionism, and musical theatre, will be on display in his virtuosic Touches for solo piano and in choral selections from Mass, West Side Story, Peter Pan, and Candide.

“These giants of the 20th century American musical scene knew each other not only as friends but in deeply influential mentoring and teaching relationships; between them, they helped to create a new, distinctively American sound,” added D’Eugenio.

Pianist Allan Conway, who is highly-regarded across the region, will perform the solo piano work, Touches.

“Yes, we often include instrumental music in our choral programs,” said D’Eugenio. “It’s always interesting to hear music that complements and perhaps illuminates the choral selections, and the audience enjoys the contrasts of texture and color.”

Another textual contrast will be the performance of Randall Thompson’s iconic Alleluia by Alchemy, the 24-voice chamber ensemble of the GMChorale.

The concert takes place on Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Middletown High School Santo Fragilio Performing Arts Center, 200 La Rosa Lane, Middletown.

The site is fully handicapped accessible.

A pre-concert talk by Neely Bruce, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music at Wesleyan University, will begin at 3:15 for all ticket-holders.

Tickets are on sale at www.gmchorale.org. Discounts are available for seniors, students, and groups of 8 or more.