Pilgrim Festival Chorus Launches 20th Anniversary Celebration

PFC Spring 2017 by Dan Rapoza 4 Cover
PFC Spring 2017 by Dan Rapoza 4 Cover

Scituate performance launches high school choir collaboration, cultivating an intergenerational mission for the ensemble

Singers with Pilgrim Festival Chorus in concert
Photo by Dan Rapoza

McGRATHPR.com – Pilgrim Festival Chorus (PFC), the South Shore’s principal non-profit community chorus, launches its 20th year anniversary celebration this spring featuring two Mozart Requiem concerts on Saturday, April 27, 7:30 pm at St. Bonaventure Parish, 803 State Road, Rte. 3A, Plymouth, and on Sunday, April 28, 4 pm at Scituate Center for the Performing Arts, 606 Chief Cushing Highway, Rte. 3A, Scituate. The chorus is directed by founding Co-Artistic Directors William B. Richter, conductor and Elizabeth Chapman Reilly, accompanist.  The concerts feature a 20-piece professional orchestra.

Pilgrim Festival Chorus commemorates its 20-year milestone of performing the world’s great choral music with two performances of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem, one of the best-known choral pieces ever composed, and a setting of England’s Poet Laureate John Dryden’s poem, A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day, by Massachusetts composer Clifton J. Noble. The work, which celebrates the important role music plays in our lives, was commissioned by the Assabet Valley Mastersingers in 1998 as a companion piece to their performance of the Requiem. 

“None of us knew that founding this chorus would lead to two decades of incredible choral music making,”  shares Richter.  “The collaboration that Elizabeth and I have enjoyed has exceeded any expectation that we imagined early on, and we’re only 20 years into this!  I can’t wait for all the experiences and performances that touch the lives of so many singers and audiences that are yet to come!”

PFC’s inaugural performance at Scituate Center for Performing Arts features a debut collaboration with Scituate High School’s (SHS) Select Choir, under the direction of four-decade educator William B. Richter, who serves both ensembles.  The Select Choir, an auditioned ensemble of nearly 60 high school singers, is currently immersed in rehearsing the masterwork, an effort that aspires to foster the students’ lifelong appreciation of classical and choral music.  This in-depth study, part of their school curriculum this semester, will enhance the students’ understanding of the work.  The opportunity for the choir is unparalleled – singing with a large, intergenerational choral group, performing alongside adult chorus members, voice teachers, professional instrumental musicians and music educators.

William B. Richter, Pilgrim Festival Chorus Conductor and Co-Artistic Director
Photo by Michelle McGrath PR

“I knew my Select Choir was becoming attached to the Requiem when during rehearsal one student leaned over to another and whispered, ‘What’s your favorite movement?’” said Richter.  “They have embraced this challenge and greatly look forward to performing with this adult chorus and orchestra.”

Tackling this Mozart masterwork is a landmark achievement for Pilgrim Festival Chorus, as well as an extraordinary learning opportunity for all its collective singers, orchestra members and audiences. The resulting Scituate performance features an assembled ensemble of more than 140 singers, inspiring PFC’s creative and administrative leadership to achieve greater outreach in the broad South Shore community.  The collaboration is supported in part by a grant from Scituate Cultural Council, in addition to funds contributed by several regional Massachusetts Cultural Council chapters.

Elizabeth Chapman Reilly,
Pilgrim Festival Chorus Accompanist and Co-Artistic Director
Photo by Michelle McGrath PR

Programming the Mozart to mark this important anniversary demonstrates Pilgrim Festival Chorus’s level of musical maturity. “It can take a long time for a group to be ready to perform a complex work like the Requiem,” says Reilly. “For the last twenty years, we’ve intentionally programmed increasingly complex repertoire that has helped our singers grow to the point where they can perform great works, both old and new.”

Four professional soloists were selected from a talented pool of recent vocal performance college graduates, giving them the opportunity to expand their professional experience and grow their classical resume.  The vocal quartet includes Rachel Burke, soprano; Marissa Plati, mezzo-soprano; Fran Rogers, tenor; and Justin Parish, bass. 

Three accomplished Scituate High School instrumental students join the ranks of the orchestra, offering them the opportunity to play with seasoned professionals.  The orchestra also features two basset horn players that add to the flavor of authenticity in the concert. The basset horn, popular in the 18th century, was a favorite instrument of Mozart’s.  Retired Scituate music educator and professional clarinetist Jennifer Gilman is embracing the opportunity to play the instrument in this orchestra in order to perform alongside Diane Heffner, a basset horn expert with several professional regional orchestras.

Pilgrim Festival Chorus enjoying abundant audience applause during its spring 2017 concert Photo by Dan Rapoza

Pilgrim Festival Chorus is an auditioned choral group with 80 active members representing all skill levels, dedicated to the performance of choral music in many genres.  Cultivating a passion for classical and choral music in audiences is central to its mission.  The ensemble typically performs major concerts in the winter and spring each season.  Pilgrim Festival Singers, a PFC offshoot ensemble, performs an annual summer concert series of lighter music, and occasionally sings at local community events.  

Tickets to the Mozart Requiem are $20 for adults, $18 for senior citizens and $15 for students over 14.  Children age 14 and under are admitted for free.  Scituate Public School students up to age 14 are admitted for free by reservation, and special discounted tickets are available for Scituate families available only by online advance purchase, supporting PFC’s mission to increase access to the professional performances of classical and contemporary masterworks. Tickets sold at the door do not qualify for discounts.  All tickets are available at pilgrimfestivalchorus.org and from PFC members.  To reserve tickets by phone, please call Gail at (781) 826-8416.  Limited tickets will be available at the door, as venue capacity allows.

For more information, please visit pilgrimfestivalchorus.org, or follow Pilgrim Festival Chorus on Facebook.

About Pilgrim Festival Chorus

The Pilgrim Festival Chorus (PFC) is a volunteer, not-for-profit singing group dedicated to performing choral music in public and private concerts; to providing music education to its members and the public; and to encouraging and promoting the performance of quality choral music.  The PFC is funded in part by grants from many of the region’s Cultural Councils, local agencies supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.  For more information about PFC, please visit pilgrimfestivalchorus.org, or follow Pilgrim Festival Chorus on Facebook.

Rachel Burke, Soprano
Courtesy image

Rachel Burke, Soprano

Rachel Burke is a general music and chorus teacher at Gates Middle School in Scituate. She is also the music director for Theater Plus! theater company in Marshfield. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Music Education. Rachel recently performed as soloist for the Pilgrim Festival Chorus’s annual winter Messiah Sing.

Marissa Plati, Mezzo Soprano Courtesy image

Marissa Plati, Mezzo-Soprano

Boston-based mezzo-soprano Marissa Plati is the recipient of the prestigious Ellalou Dimmock Honors Award for outstanding performance in 2016. Additionally, she was a first round finalist at the Classical Singer Competition at Hofstra University and New York University. Marissa graduated from Boston University with a degree in vocal performance, and has engaged in summer festivals including the Boston Conservatory Vocal/Choral Intensive and Oberlin Conservatory Vocal Academy. She served as an emerging artist at OperaWorks in Northridge, California and as studio artist with Manhattan Opera Studio. In 2017, she made her Carnegie Hall debut with Manhattan Opera Studio singing scenes from Cendrillon and Les contes d’Hoffmann. Additionally, with Manhattan Opera Studio, she made her debut with the role of Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro. With Boston University’s Opera Project and Opera Workshop, she has performed in scenes as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Dorabella in Così fan tutte and Fidalma in Il matrimonio segreto.  Additionally, she performed the role of Moth in the Opera Institute’s 2016 mainstage production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the role of Madame Terentia in the Opera Workshop’s production of John Duke’s Captain Lovelock. She is equally at home in concert and recital, and has performed as a soloist in many works including Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, Respighi’s Il Tramonto, and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.  

Fran Rogers, tenor
Courtesy image

Fran Rogers, Tenor

Award-winning tenor Fran Rogers has been critically acclaimed for his “open, free, and effortless high notes”, his “athleticism”, and “raw strength and natural timbre”.  Recent opera credits include Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme, Ruggero in Puccini’s La Rondine, Danceny in Susa’s The Dangerous Liaisons and Ramiro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola. Fran recently made his Boston Symphony Hall debut with the Terezin Music Foundation singing a collection of songs by Pavel Haas and Gideon Klein. He regularly serves as national anthem soloist for Boston’s professional sport events, having performed on multiple occasions for live audiences up to 70,000 attendees and for international television audiences of up to 14 million.

Justin Parish, Bass
Courtesy image

Justin Parish, Bass

American composer and bass vocalist Justin Parish hails from Massachusetts’ South Shore. His musical philosophy is rooted in the idea that humans can accomplish more when creating together. Having worked with dancers, poets, filmmakers, visual artists, and performers of several mediums, he values interdisciplinary collaboration, and believes artists of all types can support and encourage one another. In his search for connection with listeners and performers, he seeks to filter musical thought through human experience, and approaches composition and performance by exploring colorful and evocative topics and themes. Justin received his Bachelor’s of Music degree in composition and voice from Indiana University. There he studied composition under Don Freund and Aaron Travers as well as voice under Patricia Stiles. Previously, Justin studied under Jorge Grossmann and Carol McAmis at Ithaca College. He is a proud member of The Brookline Consort, a collaborative, member-run chamber choir based out of the Boston area. Through close work with friends and fellow musicians, Justin maintains a reputation as an imaginative performer and advocate for the newly composed and classical repertoire. 

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