Women's chorus lives on with 'Requiem'

If a few more men had shown up in Mary Langsdorf's living room 14 years ago, the Orange County Women's Chorus might never have existed.

Langsdorf, the founding president of the Newport Beach-based chorus, sang with her church choir in the 1990s until its director, Raymond Egan, departed the church.

Soon after, Egan offered to start a new volunteer choir, and Langsdorf called a meeting for prospective members at her house.

The count was eight women, three men, and someone suggested before long that Egan and Langsdorf create an all-female chorus. That proved to be a wise move, Langsdorf said.

"Looking back on it, not that I'm glad the men didn't show up, but it has given us an opportunity to occupy a niche that no one else does and provide music to the community that's so seldom heard," she said.

The chorus now performs three programs a year, with members contributing funds to keep the group alive. On March 19, Langsdorf and company will make another stop at one of their favorite venues, performing Mozart's "Requiem" at St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach.

Langsdorf said the 35-member chorus had performed at St. Wilfrid increasingly in recent years and had three shows scheduled there for the current season.

"The acoustics are marvelous," she said. "The space is beautiful, and the parish is very welcoming."

The chorus will also perform the piece at 3 p.m. March 20 at Newport Harbor Lutheran Church, 798 Dover Drive, Newport Beach. Both performances will begin with a lecture by Mozart expert Kristi Brown-Montesano, which will start at 6:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively.

The St. Wilfrid show marks the chorus' first performance of "Requiem," which was unfinished at the time of Mozart's death and completed by others. Artistic Director Eliza Rubenstein said it may also be the chorus' first attempt at Mozart, whom she called a particularly challenging composer.

"Performing Mozart requires a degree of rhythmic clarity that takes a lot of practice and a lot of experience," she said. "In a lot of the Romantic masterworks, you can cover up little details if you need to. It's a little easier to conceal flaws here and there. But Mozart has to be clean first, and then it can be beautiful and passionate."

In performing the piece, the chorus will get an assist from a 23-piece orchestra — and, yes, 23 male singers, mainly husbands, brothers and other friends of the women.

"You can't do the Mozart 'Requiem' without tenors and basses," Langsdorf said.

If You Go

What: "Requiem" with the Orange County Women's Chorus

Where: St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church, 18631 Chapel Lane, Huntington Beach

When: 7 p.m. March 19; lecture by Kristi Brown-Montesano at 6:30 p.m.

Cost: $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors

Information: (714) 962-7512 or http://www.ocwomenschorus.orghttp://www.ocwomenschorus.org

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