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NH Master Chorale at the Colonial Theater
June 19 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Franz Joseph Haydn’s masterwork Missa in Tempore Belli (Mass in Time of War) is the centerpiece of the New Hampshire Master Chorale’s final concert of its 19th season. Haydn composed it in 1796 at a time when all Europe was in turmoil as Napoleon’s army advanced on Austria. The timeless texts of the Mass symbolize stability and comfort, while the work’s insistent timpani strokes in the Agnus Dei suggest approaching strife. The urgency of the concluding Dona nobis pacem (“give us peace”) conveys the foreboding mood of Europe at the time – and our own present moment.
The program also includes two recent works by the American composer Joel Thompson. Troubled by repeated killings of unarmed black men, Thompson wrote Seven Last Words of the Unarmed in 2014 as a way to channel his sadness and outrage. He sets the last utterances of seven victims in an echo of Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ, incorporating a secular French tune from the 15th century that dozens of Renaissance composers used in Mass settings. The other Thompson piece, America Will Be!, is a hopeful celebration of the nation’s diversity. It draws on the poetry of Langston Hughes, Emma Lazarus’ famous inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty, and aspirational sentiments in no fewer than 11 languages contributed by immigrant high school students.