The Valley College philharmonic choir and chamber singers will hold a spring semester concert April 2 featuring works from Richard Strauss, Rodgers and Hammerstein and various contemporary composers.
The event is both a celebration of spring and an attempt by the university's music department to give student musicians more exposure to the pressures of the concert setting.
The students will exercise their stage muscles by embarking on a series of performances that call for complex rhythm changes, changing harmonic textures and songs sung in several languages, said George Attarian of the music faculty, who will conduct.
An example of the rigorous night ahead of them, Attarian said, lies in the featured performance--contemporary composer Mack Wilberg's "Tres Cantus Laudendi" ("Three Songs of Praise").
"This piece has a real interesting and complex rhythm and harmony," said Attarian, "but there may be more dissonance than some people are ready to hear."
It's enjoyable, however, because it is so rich and organic, he added.
Based on three hymns from the Book of Psalms, Wilberg's 25-minute piece exemplifies the various dimensions from which praise can be exhibited, Attarian said.
For example, one section starts off with a simple melody, in which a group of children softly rejoices in the existence of God. From there, Attarian explained, a xylophone, a glockenspiel and chimes jump in to elaborate on the children's joy, adding complexity to an otherwise simple statement.
"It's an enhancement of the text," Attarian said. "Rather than simplicity, the same praise is being given on a variety of levels."
Including works like Wilberg's is an attempt to expose audiences to seldom-heard works and to teach Valley College musicians about the creative drives shaping contemporary compositions.
A continuation of Wilberg's theme will lie in other concert pieces that include both the 90-member orchestra and the 16 chamber singers.
The singers will perform two songs from Morten Lauridsen's "Les Chansons des Roses,", a song cycle contemplating the image of a rose.
"These are basic poetic visions of what a single rose could mean and how it reflects on life in general," Attarian said. "The piece isn't very long, but it represents a lot of hard work."
The concert will be held at 7 p.m. in Congregational Church of the Chimes, 14115 Magnolia Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Admission is $5. Information: (818) 781-1200, Ext. 349.