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Bel Canto's 'Give Us Peace' Commemorates Civil War

Classical Preview

May. 17, 2011
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Under Music Director Richard Hynson, the Bel Canto Chorus is hosting a concert titled “Give Us Peace.” Drawing from an array of talent, it will feature contributions by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under maestro Edo de Waart; the Waukesha Choral Union, led by Artistic Director Ernest Brusubardis; and the Baptist College of Ministry Concert Chorale under Daniel Van Gelderen. The concert will feature guest soloists including Eric Greene (baritone) and Mary Elizabeth Williams (soprano).

The concert commemorates the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, which started when Confederate soldiers attacked the U.S. Army at Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12, 1861.

The concert opens with “Songs of the Slave,” a five-movement excerpt from Kirke Mechem's opera John Brown, which includes quotes from actual letters and anecdotes from slaves as well as African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and culminates with the chorus singing the soul of the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal.”

The concert's second half features Ralph Vaughan Williams' immortal Dona nobis pacem. Among the great composers of religious music in the 20th century, Williams had firsthand knowledge of the dark side of man's nature during his service in World War I. Dona nobis pacem is a worldwide prayer for peace with text excerpts from the Roman Catholic mass, the Bible and the poetry of Walt Whitman.

The concert will be held 7:30 p.m. May 21 at Oconomowoc Arts Center, 641 E. Forest St., Oconomowoc.


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