War torn Europe, the thrill of victory, and an 18th century war hero fuses with the solemn, uplifting sounds of a Latin Mass as Pilgrim Festival Chorus features the works of two exceptional composers, Hadyn and Willcocks, for two extraordinary concerts. Pilgrim Festival Chorus presents their spring concert, ‘Glorious Victory’ with two masterful works, Hadyn’s Lord Nelson Mass and ‘Great and Glorious Victory’ by Jonathan Willcocks at Church of the Pilgrimage in Plymouth, Massachusetts on Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, April 24. Click here for tickets and for more about Pilgrim Festival Chorus.
Longtime Pilgrim Festival Chorus Music Director William B. Richter brings this fascinating chorus to a new level each year. With 80 or more members, he takes great joy in his choral work. Pilgrim Festival Chorus is one many music ventures he embarks on each day. William B. Richter discusses the texture of these upcoming concerts, Pilgrim Festival Chorus auditions, and his love for music.
Jeanne Denizard: You wear a lot of hats! You are quite busy, but I understand you juggle like a pro. Did you always imagine taking up music as your career?
William B. Richter: My parents ensured me of a wonderful musical education early in my life. They were not musicians themselves, but always had great music playing at home throughout my childhood from across the globe. I could have chosen other career paths, but music has always been my passion.
JD: Pilgrim Festival Chorus performs their spring concert, ‘Glorious Victory’ on Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, April 24 at Church of the Pilgrimage in Plymouth, Massachusetts. What goes into deciding what works to perform over the season each year?
WBR: Elizabeth Reilly, our assistant director, has a wealth of knowledge and together we have enjoyed several decades of musical successes. We have always been on a mutual mission to stretch the capabilities of the chorus.
JD: This particular work by Haydn is about Horatio Nelson, a war hero in the 18th century featuring four talented soloists. I know the chorus takes on a number of challenging works, but how do you decide what will fit a chorus that ranges in skill from amateur to professional?
WBR: The beginning of each season is always an exciting moment to hear the approximately 80 voice “instrument” of the chorus evolve. Each year, the sound is a little different, depending on the strength and membership of each vocal section. We choose the works based on the current vocal forces at hand and how the programs will appeal to our regional audience.
JD: What is significant about this work and what kind of experience do you hope the audience will take with them?
WBR: Franz Joseph Haydn’s ‘Lord Nelson Mass’ and the Jonathan Willcocks ‘Great and Glorious Victory’ will leave our audience with the understanding that even through great conflict, humanity prevails. People save people in adversity.
As companion pieces, these works complement each other. Haydn uses the musical language of his time and employs a solo quartet to set the text with sensitivity and exuberance. Willcocks uses both simple harmonic language and complex dissonance to tell a story that includes a battle scene and a hurricane. The result is powerful, demanding music that draws the audience in, and leaving an indelible imprint of the story in their mind long after the performance subsides.
JD: Pilgrim Festival Chorus performs the Messiah Sing-along each year over the holidays. What do you think makes that show such a beloved tradition?
WBR: Handel’s oratorio is iconic. It is a work people love because it ushers in the Christmas season. We have enjoyed singing it with the audience for many years, as performers and as audience to those who stop in to join the celebration.
JD: Auditions happen every year for new members. Are you still looking for new members this season?
WBR: We always seek new members even though we have a healthy membership. The more choral members we have, the broader the range of programming we are able to provide.
JD: What has been your favorite piece that you have tackled or the Chorus has tackled in your career?
WBR: Every season Elizabeth and I get excited about the next season. There are too many choices. We are 17 years into this and can’t wait for the next challenge.
Pilgrim Festival Chorus presents ‘Glorious Victory’ on Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. An encore performance takes place on Sunday, April 24 at 4 p.m. Both shows take place at Church of the Pilgrimage, 8 Town Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and for tickets!