William Baker, the founder and director of the William Baker Festival Singers of Atlanta and Kansas City, is an ambitious and enterprising choral conductor.
Besides flying back and forth from Atlanta to Kansas City to conduct his two choirs, he’s always thinking of new ways to bring choral music to more people.
At the end of this season, Baker will be turning over the Atlanta branch of his Festival Singers to his hand-picked successor, Lynn Swanson, so he can focus on Kansas City and his new choir, the Summer Singers of Lee’s Summit.
Baker wants Kansas City to meet Swanson, a seasoned choral director with a master’s degree in choral pedagogy from the University of Kansas, so he asked her to conduct the William Baker Festival Singers of Kansas City in music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on April 12 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.
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On the program are Mozart’s “Coronation” Mass, the Symphony No. 29 and “Exsultate, Jubilate.”
Swanson started as a singer with the William Baker Festival Singers of Atlanta in 2008 and became associate music director of the group in 2011. She’s also co-director, with Baker, of the Summer Singers of Lee’s Summit, which was created last year.
Swanson is currently the conductor of her own ensemble in Atlanta, the Lynn Swanson Festival Singers. At the end of this season, Baker’s Atlanta choir will merge with hers and the combined group will be called the Lynn Swanson Festival Singers.
“Lynn has just come up in the ranks,” Baker said. “For a long time, we’ve wanted to bring her to Kansas City so audiences here can enjoy her excellent work. She conducted the ‘Coronation’ Mass in Atlanta last year, and did such a splendid job with it that I wanted her to do it with our chorus in Kansas City.”
Mozart’s “Coronation” Mass was first performed on Easter Sunday, April 4, 1779, in Salzburg Cathedral. It became one of Mozart’s most popular Masses, acquiring its nickname in the early 19th century when it was performed for coronations at the imperial court of Vienna.
“The ‘Coronation’ Mass is just invigorating in every way,” Swanson said. “It begins in a very stately manner and ends in a very triumphant, grand manner. Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 has the same instrumentation as the ‘Coronation’ Mass, so it pairs nicely. That will open the program. And Sarah Tannehill is doing the ‘Exsultate, Jubilate.’”
Written for the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, “Exsultate, Jubilate” (“Exult, Rejoice”), is a liturgical motet and was first performed in a church, but it has more in common with one of Mozart’s concert arias than his sacred music. Dazzling trills and runs turn this hymn into a showpiece of theatrical fireworks.
“Mozart’s music is so complex and has so much depth, but it doesn’t come across that way,” Swanson said. “It comes across very simply and pure and clean. You think, ‘Oh, that’s easy,’ but when you start to study the scores, you see it wasn’t so easy, and you wonder how he was able to put it all together to sound so easy. But it’s very pleasing to the ear and at the same time very exhilarating.”
2 p.m. April 12. Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. $15-$20. www.festivalsingers.org.
Among the marvelous gifts the Friends of Chamber Music has bestowed on Kansas City over the years is the opportunity to develop a deep relationship with musicians who are beloved by cognoscenti but not necessarily household names.
For example, pianist Ivan Moravec whose many appearances in Kansas City gave audiences the chance to appreciate the many facets of his artistry. Another such artist is the Slovenian pianist Dubravka Tomsic, who will be making her seventh appearance on the series this Friday at the Folly Theater.
Like Moravec, Tomsic may not be as well-known as someone like Lang Lang, but her artistry is unparalleled. For her recital, she’ll perform sonatas by Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, as well as a selection of pieces by Frederic Chopin. Tomsic learned well from her mentor, the legendary pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who was renowned for his Chopin. Her own performances of these emotional works are incandescent.
Screenland at the Symphony: Singin’ in the Rain
Being able to see “Singin’ in the Rain” on the big screen in all its eye-popping glory is rare enough, but this Friday, Saturday and April 12 at Helzberg Hall, the Kansas City Symphony will accompany the film with a live performance of the soundtrack. That’s some kind of sensory overload.
“Singin’ in the Rain” is No. 1 on the American Film Institute’s list of greatest film musicals, and in 2007 it was ranked No. 5 on the institute’s list of greatest American films of all time. It’s hard to bicker with those rankings. Starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds and featuring catchy songs and some of the greatest dance sequences ever committed to celluloid, “Singin’ in the Rain” is more than a film, it’s American culture at its finest.
Symphony in the Flint Hills tickets
The prairie isn’t so lonesome when the Kansas City Symphony presents its Symphony in the Flint Hills concert.
Music lovers from far and wide gather for the annual concert in the uniquely beautiful Flint Hills. And the concert isn’t the only draw. There’s also a full day of family activities, like a nature walk and a post-concert dance under the stars.
This year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills on June 13 features Lyle Lovett and should be especially popular. You’re encouraged to get your tickets while you can.
The concert begins at 6:30 p.m. June 13, but the gates open at 1 p.m. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Chase County, Kan. (a few miles northwest of Strong City on Kansas 177). $41-$81. 816-471-0400 or www.kcsymphony.org.
Patrick Neas is program director for RadioBach.com. To reach him, send email to email@example.com.