This week’s spate of Mozart concerts in Costa Mesa by the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale, in conjunction with Sunday’s 257th anniversary of the composer's birth, hold special interest for this reporter. Yes, I will be at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall to hear his celebrated Requiem and several other pieces linked by the fact that they were composed during the final year of Mozart’s short life. But you'll find me embedded with the chorale, adding my modest voice to theirs.
It’s the upshot of a bold experiment I proposed upon noticing several weeks ago that along with Mozart’s celebrated deathbed composition, the Requiem, this week’s concerts would also include his Ave Verum Corpus, a short but sublime work for orchestra and chorale.
Officials at both organizations generously greenlighted my proposal to sit in with them — something more common to the world of pop and rock bands I’m usually writing about for The Times than to the traditions of classical music.
I suggested it because I’d randomly gotten the opportunity to sing it with an ad hoc choir in 2011 and fell in love with the piece, to the extent that I’ve continued singing it regularly, hundreds of times on my own, with recordings, with friends and anyone else I could cajole into reading through it with me.
The opportunity to temporarily join the chorale this week and experience the 3 1/2-minute Ave Verum Corpus from the inside out blossomed into unexpected territory: I’ve also been invited to sing the hourlong Requiem as well as two other Mozart pieces for which the choir will join the orchestra during five performances over four days starting Thursday.
Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St.Clair programmed the Mozart pieces for the orchestra’s “Departures” series, which examines composers’ final works as a way of exploring their last thoughts that were committed to music. The “departures” theme also applies to the unconventional way the concerts are presented: An actor will portray Mozart during the first part of the program as one way of appealing to audiences who may not already be confirmed classical music aficionados.
I’ll be writing more extensively later about the experience and the unexpected path Mozart’s music has taken me on since I was introduced to the Ave Verum Corpus. Until then, above is a short video preview of how it’s all unfolding.
Here is information on Thursday, Friday and Saturday concerts. Saturday night's performance will be broadcast live starting at 8 p.m. on KUSC-FM (91.5).
Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2