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PREVIEW: Berkshire Choral International to perform Tallis, Haydn, Bernstein, and more at Ozawa Hall on May 26

Tallis' "O Nata Lux" has inspired countless choristers through the centuries. Choral music can't possibly get any better.

Lenox — Choral music in the Berkshires has enjoyed a resurgence in the last couple of years, following a long period of heartbreaking pandemic silence. Performers of choral music were hit harder than most other musicians when everything shut down in 2020. But ever since the Great Reopening of 2022, Berkshire singers of every imaginable stripe and age have been celebrating their freedom to breathe free and spread their joy throughout the world (or at least the county). That is what the singers of Berkshire Choral International (BCI) have been doing this week on the Tanglewood campus, the Linde Center in particular. They have been rehearsing for their concert to be held in Ozawa Hall on Sunday, May 26, at 2 p.m.

Judging by Sunday’s program, the breadth of this group’s repertory is impressive. But if you look at their website, you will find they are just barely scratching the surface of their capabilities with these works:

  • Elgar, Edward: “Ave Maria”
  • Biebl, Franz: “Ave Maria”
  • Lauridsen: “O Nata Lux”
  • Tallis, Thomas: “O Nata Lux”
  • Shearing, George: “Who Is Sylvia”
  • Haydn: “The Heavens Are Telling” (from “The Creation”)
  • Bloch: “Y’hu L’Ratzon” (from “Sacred Service”)
  • Burleigh, Harry: “May the Words of My Mouth”
  • Lauridsen: “Sure On This Shining Night”
  • Barber: “Sure On This Shining Night”
  • Linda and Peretti: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”
  • Bernstein: “Tonight” Quintet (from “West Side Story”)

Some of these works come in pairs—two pieces that share the same text. For example, “Ave Maria,” “Sure On This Shining Night,” “O Nata Lux,” and even Haydn’s “The Heavens Are Telling,” from Psalm 19.

One of the loveliest pieces on this program is Samuel Barber’s “Sure On This Shining Night,” which, unsurprisingly, is full of carefully sculpted harmonies to die for. It is Barber.

But the most precious gem of all has got to be Thomas Tallis’ heartbreaking setting of “O Nata Lux,” a piece that has inspired countless choristers through the centuries. Choral music can’t possibly get any better.

BCI Music Director Frank Nemhauser is associate professor and director of Vocal Studies at Mannes School of Music in New York. His tenure at Mannes has been illustrious, and the school puts it this way: “Faculty, Mannes College of Music, Extension Division since 1975; College Division since 1977; Director, Extension Division, 1980-1982. Assistant Dean of the College 1989-1992, Associate Dean 1992-2000. Coordinator of Vocal Studies, College Division, since 2000.”

Mr. Nemhauser has been chorus director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 2000. Other appearances include the Tanglewood Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Jerusalem Festival, and Spoleto Festival (Italy and U.S.). He has appeared throughout the United States with such groups as The New York City Opera National Company, The Ensemble for Early Music, Chanticleer, and Concert Royal.

Mr. Nemhauser has led BCI since 1992 and will retire from his directorship at the end of its 2024 season.

Hear Berkshire Choral International perform works by a dozen disparate composers, from Tallis to Bernstein, under the direction of Music Director Frank Nemhauser at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, on May 26, at 2 p.m. Tickets are available here.

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