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Visit ‘city of love’ with Brockton Symphony

The Brockton Symphony Orchestra will perform a musical celebration of Paris this Sunday at West Middle School, with the 60-member Jubilate Choral.

The Brockton Symphony Orchestra will perform a musical celebration of Paris this Sunday at West Middle School, with the 60-member Jubilate Choral.

Valentine’s Day may be over, but you can still go to Paris.

This Sunday the Brockton Symphony Orchestra, paired with the Jubilate Chorale, will perform a concert program titled “Paris – City of Love.”

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The concert features well-loved music by French composers Berlioz, Debussy, and Chausson.

In a rare collaboration, the Jubilate Chorale, a Southeastern Massachusetts regional chorus, will offer a prelude concert before the orchestra comes on stage, expanding the “city of love” theme into what choral director Maxine Asseline terms “aspects of love,” with three songs on love’s joy, sorrow, and complexity.

“We may not be in Paris,” Asseline said last week, “but we can still be in love.”

Asseline, a veteran choral director and an emerita professor at Bridgewater State University, said her 60-member chorus draws from Southeastern Massachusetts and the Cape.

“We have a very full male section,” she said, “and they make a lot of noise.”

The three “aspects of love” pieces include “The Salley Gardens,” a traditional melody arranged by David Mooney, an English composer who “plays up the melody,” rather than reaching for other effects, Asseline said.

“I Am Not Yours,” by American composer Z. Randall Stroope, “breaks our heart,” Asseline said. The words come from a poem by Sara Teasdale, an early 20th-century lyrical poet who later committed suicide. “The melody is gorgeous.”

The last song, “My Spirit Sang All Day” by English composer Gerald Finzi, is from a series of settings he wrote for works by the poet Robert Bridges.

The chorus’s female voices will also collaborate with the orchestra in an enchanting movement from Debussy’s impressionist “Nocturne” called “Sirens.” In Greek mythology the sirens were enchantresses whose beguiling voices lured sailors to crash their ships upon the rocks.

The Brockton orchestra’s program includes two works by Hector Berlioz, an early French romantic composer, including the concert opener, “Roman Carnival Overture.”

“I just love the romantic spirit of the Carnival Overture,” said Susan Caplan of Canton, who plays flute in the orchestra and serves on its board. She points out that Berlioz had visited Italy. For the overture, he drew on music from the carnival scene in one of his operas.

While the overture shows off the brilliance and color of Berlioz’s music, the “March to the Scaffold” from his “Symphonie Fantastique” shows off the composer at his most dramatic. At the conclusion of this fantasy of a symphony, the tale’s protagonist, hopelessly in love, dreams of murdering the object of his obsession and facing execution. You hear the drums of the execution march, Caplan said, “and then you hear his love melody.”

The orchestra will perform two works by Debussy, one of the most influential composers of the turn of the 20th century, including “Clair de Lune,” probably his best-known work and one of romantic music’s best loved melodies. The second, longer work is “Nocturnes,” described by the orchestra as “a sensitive and hauntingly beautiful three movement orchestral piece.”

Debussy said the “Sirens” movement depicts the rhythms of the sea and “amongst the waves silvered by the moonlight is heard the mysterious song of the Sirens as they laugh and pass on.”

The chorale’s soprano voices will help provide that musical mystery.

“The voices are interwoven into the music as if we were another instrumental part of the piece,” Asseline said. “The orchestra quiets when we’re singing, and it sounds very sensual. We are the sirens.”

“Symphony in B-flat Major” by 19th-century composer Ernest Chausson concludes the musical journey to France. “The music is always shifting,” Caplan said, “with fast runs in the woodwinds. It’s wistful, impressionistic. . . . It’s been nice to bring a piece to life that isn’t performed as often.”

The work, Chausson’s only symphony, shows some influence from his studies with German composer Richard Wagner. “The work ends with the triumphant restatement of its theme of hope,” the orchestra’s program notes state, “followed by an apotheosis in the full orchestra, only to fade away in quiet optimism at the very conclusion of the symphony.”

Asseline said she is also looking forward to a first: her chorus’s first performance in the West Middle School auditorium.

“It’s a very lively place,” she said. “Any sound you utter rings around the hall. It pleased me no end.”

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