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Arts Center Relations

Kantorei will sing Rossini's 'Little Solemn Mass' in May 9 concert

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Kantorei will perform the "Petite messe solennelle" ("Little solemn mass") of Gioachinno Rossini in its final concert of the spring semester at 8 p.m. Friday, May 9 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The premiere vocal ensemble of the UI School of Music, Kantorei will be directed on this program by its assistant conductor, Dirk Garner.

Composed in 1863, the "Petite Messe Solennelle" was Rossini's last major work, written long after he had retired from active composing. The name was perhaps chosen ironically, since the mass is long enough to fill an entire concert. Many critics have considered it the crowning achievement of the opera composer's career.

Because of its operatic style -- essentially the same as Rossini's popular stage works -- the mass has sometimes been considered inappropriate for church performance, although the sincerity of the composer's expression is not in question. In his dedication, Rossini referred to the score as "the last mortal sin of my old age," and petitioned God to admit him to heaven:

"Is it really sacred music that I have composed, or is it simply damned music? I was born for opera buffa, as Thou well knowest," he wrote. "Little skill, a little bit of heart, and that is all. So be Thou blessed, and admit me to Paradise."

For the May 9 concert the mass will be performed in its original scoring for four soloists, chorus, two pianos and harmonium (reed organ). Soloists will be Jennifer White, soprano; Marie von Behren, mezzo-soprano; Ezechial Thurman, tenor, and J.S. Endres, bass. Shawn Kirchner and Matthew Faerber will be pianists, and Stephen Cook will be the organist.

Garner is completing his first year as a doctoral student in choral conducting at the UI. Before coming to Iowa he served one year as interim director of choral activities at Albertson College in Idaho and two years as director of choral activities at High Point University in High Point, N.C. He has a master's degree in choral conducting from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and an undergraduate degree in vocal performance from Illinois Wesleyan University.

For more information, call (319) 335-1667.