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Behind the Scenes

Brahms’s ‘German Requiem’ heads a musical parade

Soloist Ruth Hartt performed with the Choral Art Society at a recent concert.

Jonathan Hartt

Soloist Ruth Hartt performed with the Choral Art Society at a recent concert.

The Choral Art Society of the South Shore was well into rehearsals for Brahms’s “A German Requiem” when the bombs went off near the Boston Marathon finish line. Choral director Danica Buckley felt Brahms’s music was the best medicine for healing and helped organize a combined-chorus performance of the work at MIT that drew singers from 35 choruses.

“I thought we — as in many — have to sing this work this weekend,” Buckley said. “For healing, for hope.”

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“The piece begins and ends so poignantly,” she said. “The musical and textual structure, from a blessing of those who bear sorrow in Movement I to a blessing of the dead in Movement VII, is so cohesive and beautiful.”

The Choral Art Society’s performance of the Brahms Requiem this weekend in Scituate is one of three spring concerts of vocal music coming up this month. Two others take place on May 19.

Since that strong and beautiful ending for the Brahms Requiem is virtually impossible to follow, Buckley decided to program an instrumental piece to precede it. She chose a work by Edvard Grieg, “From Holberg’s Time, Opus 40,” a five-part suite based on 18th-century dance forms, to be performed by the strings of the Choral Art Society Chamber Ensemble.

Just as Grieg’s work is based on Baroque dance forms, Brahms’s choral piece also incorporates some earlier vocal styles, Buckley said. The two composers knew and respected each other’s work and both were strongly romantic.

“You hear that it is Grieg,” Buckley said of the suite. “You can see Norwegian meadows and mountains and fjords.”

A different kind of chorus, the 27-member Persephone’s Daughters, learn the music of their programs directly from chorus director Lynne Wilkinson in oral rather than written form. The Plymouth-based a cappella women’s chorus will celebrate spring with songs and readings that reflect the themes of dance, love, song, and fully engaged living in a concert at First Parish Church in Plymouth.

“It has something for everyone,” Wilkinson said last week. “The very ordinariness of the theme” — dance, love, sing, live — “is what makes this concert special.”

That big-tent approach to programming includes contemporary music and the popular music of various eras and genres. The songs come from the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, John Denver, and Elton John, but also from Richard Rodgers, Hoagy Carmichael, and Cole Porter.

Brief readings — “one-liners,” Wilkinson calls them — introduce the segments, such as Nietzsche’s “I can only believe in a God who dances.” A quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh on the wisdom of not holding your partner too tight is followed by Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In.” Another lead-in borrows from the movie “The Bucket List” in which a character says that in ancient Egypt it was believed that the dead were asked two questions: “Have you experienced joy?” and “Have you given others joy?”

“It’s going to be a fun, light, uplifting afternoon,” Wilkinson said.

Nationally touring baritone vocalist Andrew Garland of Kingston recruits some fellow singers for a concert to benefit the Kingston Public Library Foundation and the town’s First Parish Church, titled “Andrew Garland and Friends: Raising Their Voices in Song.”

“This concert allows the performers and audience to stop, take a moment to reflect on the treasures of our lives, and how to share them with those in need,” Garland said.

Among the “friends” participating this year are Angel Dombrowski of Plymouth, Bill Richter of Scituate (director of the Pilgrim Festival Chorus), Ashley Rossi of Marshfield, Connected the Band of Kingston (a trio consisting of Peter Eldridge on guitar, Kate Sullivan on vocals, and Tom Augello on sax), Bill Alberti of Kingston, Kristen Huberdeau of Randolph, Claire Maisto of Hingham, and Michelle McGrath of Kingston.

Behind the Scenes

The Choral Art Society of the South Shore

Scituate High School, 606 Chief Justice Cushing Highway

7:30p.m. Saturday, May 11

$20, $15 seniors and students

www.choralartsociety.org

Persephone’s Daughters

First Parish Church, Town Square, Plymouth

May 19, 3 p.m.

$20, $15 seniors and students

508-747-0212

Andrew Garland and Friends

First Parish Church, 223 Main St., Kingston

May 19, 3 p.m.

$20 in advance, $25 at the door

781-585-3051

Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@gmail.com.
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