Fall 2013 Newsletter

Insight into Elgar's ​The Kingdom
Member Profile: Katie Mason

Rehearsal Highlights
Ticket and Raffle Information

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Dear Friends,

A summer of rehearsals, full of challenges and joyful surprises, has brought us to this moment. In just a matter of days, we will present Edward Elgar's oratorio, “The Kingdom,” the second part in an unfinished trilogy about the Apostles. Please see later in this newsletter for more details about this piece and its composer!
We hope you will join us at the concert on Saturday, September 7th, at 7:30 p.m. at First Church of Boston, located at 66 Marlborough Street. You can purchase tickets in advance online at, or by phone at 617-759-2057, for $25 general admission; $30 premium seating; and $15 for students and seniors (with valid ID). Tickets may also be purchased at the door, pending availability.
As per tradition, at the concert we will have both a raffle and a silent auction. You can buy raffle tickets ($1 each, or 12 for $10) and bid on auction items before the performance or during intermission. Items up for bid at the auction include works of art, Boston Chamber Music Society tickets, handmade items such as blankets and shawls, and interesting food and drink items including specialty beer, a martini kit, and a pancake breakfast basket. Our fantastic raffle prize package, with an approximate value of $600, includes a two-night stay at the Colonial Inn in Ogunquit, ME (for dates in September or early October), dinner at Jonathan’s Restaurant, a pair of tickets to West Side Story at the Ogunquit Playhouse, and a $50 gift certificate to Out Of The Blue, a gift shop in Perkins Cove. Be sure to enter, and YOU could be the lucky winner!

Rehearsal Highlights

Even though the summer is winding down, Calliope is gearing up for our performance! As we make our way through the movements of "The Kingdom," we are working on creating more beautiful music, using dynamics and techniques to shape phrases and bring out themes that may be buried otherwise. The blessing and curse of rehearsing chorus and orchestra together is that we have to be very solid on our individual parts in order for everyone to come together and blend as one. We have now fully integrated the chorus, orchestra, and soloists during rehearsals, which is helpful for balance and for gaining a better grasp of the entire score.

Edward Elgar and The Kingdom

Though Sir Edward William Elgar (1857–1934) was a relatively unknown English composer during his career, his works are now widely performed. He was highly influenced by romantic composers and contemporaries in continental Europe, such as Schumann, Brahms, and Wagner. A somewhat awkward personality, Elgar felt like an outsider both socially and academically — he was mostly self-taught during an era dominated by academia, and Roman Catholic in Protestant Britain.

The son of a music shop owner in Worcester, Elgar was surrounded by music his entire childhood. His parents encouraged his musical development. He took piano and violin lessons, and borrowed books from the library to learn theory and composition. At age 15, he completed basic schooling and began working at a solicitor’s office, but left after a year to follow his passion and become a freelance musician/composer. He hoped to pursue formal training at the Leipzig Conservatory, but could not afford it. In 1873, he became assistant organist to his father, eventually taking over the position in 1885. During trips to London in 1878 and 1879, he took more advanced violin lessons and attended concerts regularly, which allowed him to freelance as a violinist in Worcester and eventually take on students of his own.

Elgar married Caroline Alice Roberts, one of his former piano students, who was eight and a half years his senior. They had a daughter, Carice, and moved to London so Elgar could begin his career, but they were forced to move to the Midlands when his income as a freelance musician and composer was not enough to support the family. He continued to teach violin and piano lessons, but was also hired to conduct. In 1899, Elgar’s most well known work, Enigma Variations, premiered in London, marking his breakthrough as a composer and international success — years of struggle had finally paid off.

Elgar’s most popular, continually performed works (aside from Enigma Variations) are The Dream of Gerontius (1900), Pomp and Circumstance Marches (1901), his two symphonies (1908 and 1911) and his violin concerto (1910). After the success of The Dream of Gerontius and The Apostles (1903), the Birmingham Festival commissioned Elgar to compose yet another oratorio. The Kingdom was to be the second installment in a trilogy of oratorios: The Apostles, The Kingdom, and The Last Judgment. Elgar envisioned the trilogy as a monumental work, to be performed on successive nights, similar to Wagner’s operatic Ring cycle. But The Kingdom quickly outgrew his original plan, forcing him to make it a separate, self-contained work. Due to his failing health, Elgar finished just the first two oratorios, though he continued to sketch out the final oratorio until his death in 1934.

The Kingdom is written for orchestra, chorus, and four soloists representing St. John (tenor), St. Peter (bass), the Blessed Virgin (soprano), and Mary Magdalene (contralto). Using text from the first four chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, with a few extra lines from the Gospels, The Kingdom tells the story of the acts of the disciples after Jesus’s ascension. The orchestra sets the scene in the prelude of St. Peter reflecting on the denial of Christ in Jerusalem. Moving directly into Part One, “The Upper Room,” St. Peter greets St. John, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene, and together they all remember Jesus. “At the Beautiful Gate,” Part Two, takes place on the morning of the Pentecost, the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples after Jesus’s ascension. Mary and Mary Magdalene are reminded of his powers of healing after seeing a lame man. Returning again to the “Upper Room” in Part Three, the tenor soloist, serving a role as narrator, reflects on the Pentecost. This section closes with the chorus, playing the roles of “the people,” after Peter calls to them to be baptized in the name of Christ. Opening with a tranquil interlude, Part Four, “The Sign of Healing,” takes place at the Gate of the Temple, where Peter and John see the same lame man the women had seen earlier. They command him to rise and walk, and witnesses marvel at the miracle. Upon preaching to the people of Jesus’s resurrection, the two are arrested. Mary then sings a nocturnal interlude, “The Sun Goeth Down,” reflecting on the miracles she has witnessed. The fifth and final section, subtitled “In Fellowship,” returns to The Upper Room. Peter and John take Holy Communion together, and the Lord’s Prayer is heard. Rather than ending in a dramatic climax, The Kingdom fades out gently and serenely, and like in Wagner’s Ring cycle, leigtmotifs — or musical phrases — are repeated throughout.

Member Profile: Katie Mason, French Horn

Katie Mason first performed with Calliope as a substitute in February 2010, and later joined as a member in 2011. She was particularly interested in Calliope for the chance to observe choral rehearsal techniques on a regular basis, as she was working as a general and choral music teacher during that time. Katie has stayed with the group because she enjoys working with the other musicians, and gets to perform unusual pieces she wouldn't encounter otherwise.
Katie began taking piano lessons when she was in the third grade, and started learning the French horn in the fifth grade. She found that she liked the sound of the horn better than the piano, and began to play with more and more groups as she progressed through school. An memorable early moment, she recalls, was her first standing ovation, after a performance of Orff's "Carmina Burana" at a music camp. More recently, Katie has enjoyed playing French horn and Wagner tuba in Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" in its 100th-anniversary year. 

Katie's favorite Calliope performance thus far was the September 2012 concert, "A Mass in Pieces," and in particular from that concert, the Gloria from Bach's Mass in F and the Kedusha (Meditation) from Bloch's Sacred Service (Avodath Hakodesh).
She says she is up for the challenges posed by the current concert season's programming, as Elgar's "The Kingdom" requires continuous playing without many measures of rest and constant changes, from big orchestral flourishes to playing underneath the chorus and soloists. 

Outside of rehearsals, Katie is busy with various pursuits. She works in sales for Music & Arts, teaches privately, and performs with orchestras in Massachusetts and Connecticut. She is also pursuing a paralegal certificate at Suffolk University.

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Calliope's Mission Statement
Calliope shares the joy of music through passionate collaboration between singers and instrumentalists. It is our mission that audiences benefit from collaboration between instrumentalists and singers, resulting in deeper understanding and performance of the music. We pursue this goal by:
  •  Providing excellent music to the community of Greater Boston via a new, more inclusive method of rehearsal and performance
  • Capitalizing on the power of music to contribute toward social improvement via one benefit concert each season for an organization whose mission is reflected in our programming for that performance
  • Cultivating artists and their supporters for the future through our mentoring scholarship program.
 Julia O'Toole, Artistic Director
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