Alma Symphony, Choirs Perform Beethoven Masterpiece

Concert also features the world premiere of a new work by Alma College faculty composer Murray Gross.

Alma Symphony Orchestra with the Alma Choirs. Alma Symphony Orchestra with the Alma Choirs.

The Alma College Choirs and Alma Symphony Orchestra join together to perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s dramatic Mass in C Major in a season-ending masterworks concert that also features the world premiere of a new work composed by Murray Gross.

The concerts will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 13 and 4 p.m. Sunday, April 14 in the Remick Heritage Center, Presbyterian Hall, on the Alma College campus. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for seniors 62 and up, and free for Alma College staff, students and youth 18 and under. Seating is reserved. Call (989) 463-7304 for ticket information.

The symphony orchestra opens with “Look in the Eyes of People You Don’t Know,” an original composition written by Gross especially for the Alma Symphony Orchestra. The title comes from a line in a poem by William Palmer, a retired Alma College English professor

“I wrote a song cycle a couple of years ago, and one of the songs from the cycle referenced this line from Bill Palmer’s poem and forms the basis of this new piece,” says Gross, professor of music at Alma. “The work is intended to be a concert opener; however, it’s not totally upbeat and bright like many openers, though it ends up that way. It starts ominous and dark but at the end leaves us with an optimistic view of the world.

“The piece uses the full orchestra and lots of percussion,” says Gross. “I’m really looking forward to hearing it performed for the first time.”

The more than 90 members of the Alma College Choirs join the symphony for Beethoven’s powerful Mass in C, a 45- to 50-minute work composed in 1807.

“In composing the Mass, Beethoven is participating in a tradition going on for many centuries,” says ASO Director Jonathan Spatola-Knoll. “It incorporates several different music styles that takes the listener on a spiritual journey. Beethoven intended it to be less turbulent that his Fifth Symphony, which was written about the same time.

“The Mass features several vocal quartets, which provides a good opportunity for some of our choir students to work with an orchestra in this way,” says Spatola-Knoll.

The Alma Symphony Orchestra includes a mix of professional musicians from the mid-Michigan area and Alma College student-performers.

Story published on March 21, 2019