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Awarded the alibi Magazine's

Best chorus Award for 2019

Best Chorus

NM Peace Choir

 

Whoa. For the first time in like a million years, neither New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus nor Quintessence won this year’s Best Choir category. Instead, this year’s winner is the very deserving New Mexico Peace Choir, a group of singers founded at the close of 2015 to sing inspirational music. The themes that this inclusive non-auditioned, mixed voice choir explores through its programming include nature, social awareness, the human spirit and peace. The choir was founded by musical director Christy Conduff and now includes over 80 vocalists and instrumentalists working in harmony.

Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents The Great War: Commemorating 100 Years in Review

Distinguished Concerts Orchestra; Distinguished Concerts Singers International

Patrick Hawes, composer/conductor

Paul Mealor, composer/conductor

Diana McVey, soprano; Scott Joiner, tenor

Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY

November 11, 2018

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns that had raged for four years fell silent. The Great War (what we later called World War One) was over. One hundred years later commemorations of those millions of lives lost take place in ceremonies throughout the world. At Carnegie Hall in New York City, Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presented a concert entitled The Great War: Commemorating 100 Years, featuring two United States premieres, Patrick Hawes’ The Great War Symphony and Paul Mealor’s Requiem: The Souls of the Righteous. It was a meaningful way to pay tribute to the memories of the fallen during this centennial anniversary.

The Distinguished Concerts Singers International had choruses hailing from Connecticut, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Wisconsin, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, and “individual singers from around the globe.”   Soloists Diana McVey (www.dianamcvey.com) and Scott Joiner (www.scottjoinertenor.com), both DCINY favorites, were present to lend their considerable talents.

Patrick Hawes (www.patrickhawes.com) took the podium to conduct the United States Premiere (Joint) of The Great War Symphony. Each movement covers one year of the war: I. Praeludium (1914-1915), II. March (1915-1916), III. Elegy (1916-1917), and IV. Finale (1917-1918). The conception is highly programmatic. The calm before the storm and steadfastness of duty of the first movement gives way to the horrors of battle in the second and to the disillusionment and despair of the third movement. The fourth and last movement expresses the final year of fighting, the silencing of the guns, and the heartache of paying tribute to those countless lives lost – with resolution never to forget the sacrifices. The Great War Symphony has a decidedly British (and Commonwealth) focus. One can hear the influences of the great British Composers (most notably Elgar, Holst, and Vaughan Williams) throughout. This is not at all surprising considering the origin of the commission in the United Kingdom and the fact that the losses were closer to home and more extensive in Britain than in the United States (where the history of World War One is often taught something like this: Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, Europe goes to war, things bog down into trench warfare where neither side makes any progress, then the United States gets involved after the Lusitania is sunk -after waiting two years! – and suddenly it’s all over).

The texts were chosen with care, and Mr. Hawes provided good program notes that I hope will be available at the DCINY website, as they have usually posted programs in past concerts. Check this link : DCINY The Great War: Commemorating 100 Years.

At the beginning of the third movement, concertmaster Jorge Ávila played a violin that belonged to Herbert Simmons, who was killed in action at the Somme in 1916. “Uncle Bertie,” as he was called by his family, was an amateur violinist who dreamed of becoming a professional musician. His brother Lawrence kept the violin to remember him, and each generation that followed learned to play on it. The family allowed the violin to be brought to New York to be used in this performance.

Tenor Scott Joiner has a strong voice that can fill any hall. While his lyric gifts were abundantly displayed, it was his bitingly ironic tone in “The Song of the Mud” from the third movement that this listener enjoyed the most. Soprano Diana McVey sang with a poignant beauty as she gave voice to the heartache of mothers, daughters, wives and fiancées, not to mention the women who witnesses events first-hand.

The Great War Symphony is a work by a composer of craft and skill. It does not descend into sentimental tripe nor does it explode into cheap “war” bombast. This listener was engaged for the hour-long duration and thought, given the programmatic aspect, that adding a visual component (such as a projection of pictures from the war) would heighten the experience for many listeners, especially those with no real knowledge of World War One.

The chorus was well-prepared, with good balance and clear diction throughout, and the orchestra played with intense focus and energy. The audience gave Mr. Hawes a standing ovation for his fine work.

NEW MEXICO CHOIR GROUP TO COMMEMORATE
END OF WWI IN CARNEGAIE HALL

By Olivia Harlow | oharlow@sfnewmexican.com Nov 9, 2018 Updated Nov 9, 2018

Forty members of the New Mexico Peace Choir will join voices Sunday as part of some 200 singers from around the world at New York’s Carnegie Hall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

The group will sing “The Great War Symphony,” which the vocalists believe has the power to transform the hearts and minds of their audience.

“Maybe it’s because of the tumultuous times in which we live that finding solace in music is something everyone can identify with,” said Christy Conduff, director of the New Mexico Peace Choir. “You get the sense that there is good in the world, that you can make a change.”

Conduff founded the choir in December 2015 as a way to “inspire peace and joy and help raise social awareness,” the choir’s website says. The group has performed at the Legislature and at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It has performed at World Day of Peace events and represented the U.S. at the World Peace Choir Conference in Vienna two years ago.

Conduff said “The Great War Symphony” is composed of four acts that reveal the excitement, bravery, terror and heartache of war.

“It’s like a real history lesson, while being amazingly heartfelt,” she said.

Kenneth Mayers of Santa Fe, a member of the choir, had a similar comment: “When we read a history book,” he said, “we see a lot of names and numbers, but they don’t convey the feeling of what it was like to be alive at that time.”

Mayers, a Marine Corps veteran and co-founder of the Santa Fe chapter of Veterans for Peace, said the text of the symphony is poetry that was written during the Great War.

“It’s so symbolic of the horror and stupidity of war,” he said.

A Native of New York, Mayers said he remembers attending events at Carnegie Hall as a child, and he expected Sunday’s performance to be a “euphoric experience.”

Conduff said she was honored the group was selected for Sunday’s performance by the symphony’s composer, Patrick Hawes, who will direct the show.

“We know we are making a significant contribution to this piece,” she said.

The New Mexico Peace Choir’s concerts in Albuquerque generally draw sold-out crowds of about 800 to 900, she said.

The expected the Carnegie Hall event to sell out as well.

The World War I anniversary, she said, is sure to have an impact.

“People come to our concerts and are brought a feeling of hope,” Conduff said. “We hope to take something back with us that continues to change this world in a positive way.”

PO Box 892 Tijeras NM  87059

Website: NMPeaceChoir.org
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