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Missouri Choral Artists Take You to the Baltic

(Poster design courtesy Missouri Choral Artists)

The Missouri Choral Artists is a brand-new Springfield-based group of professional choral singers founded earlier this year by Kelly Garrison and Matthew Felts.  When Matt Felts calls the group "professional," he defines them as "all either former music majors, current teachers, some former teachers--kind of all ages.  I just moved to Springfield to actually help get this project off the ground about a month ago."  The group will perform Arvo Pärt's Berliner Messe (Berlin Mass) for chorus and string orchestra, and other works by Baltic composers, in a concert Sunday June 26th at 4:00pm at All Saints Anglican Church, 2751 E. Galloway, under the direction of conductor Dr. Amy Muchnick.

Missouri Choral Artists is comprised of between 16 and 24 musicians from both the local area and as far away as Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Topeka and Columbia.  "The numbers in the ensemble change with every performance," says Matt Felts. "This group is unique in that it doesn't really have necessarily a 'season' that it fits into.  It's more like a 'pick-up' choir. You hear of groups in New York or elsewhere, a 'pick-up orchestra' to record something. So this is kind of an opportunity for singers who can't commit to Kelly Garrison's other project, the Springfield Chamber Chorus, to those weekly rehearsals.  This is, like, twice, perhaps three times a year."

Conductor for this concert, Dr. Amy Muchnick, Professor of Music at Missouri State University, is proud to note that "many of these guys and girls are from MSU and the (Guy) Webb dynasty." In fact, Matt Felts says he met his Missouri Chamber Chorus co-founder Kelly Garrison while singing in the MSU Concert Chorale in 1999.

"Our big showpiece" for the Sunday concert, says Dr. Muchnick, "is Arvo Pärt's Berliner Messe (Berlin Mass), which is just amazing."  Pärt originally scored the work for chorus and organ, but decided the organ accompaniment "wasn't enough.  So with strings, it's even more mystical and spiritual. To do this music--and to hear it--is to go to another place.  And what we have collected here is kind of interesting: a group of composers living in a very 'modern' time, who are actually anti-'modern.'" Arvo Pärt's music looks back to liturgical chant.  The Ave Maria by Polish composer Pawe? ?ukaszewski demonstrates his ideal of "renewed tonality, not going with the norm of the day." The Estonian composer Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962), says Dr. Muchnick, "collected religious folk songs." Also on the program is music by ?riks Ešenvalds, who she describes as "an upcoming, amazing Latvian composer who's being heard all over the world.  So it's a really interesting group of works. It's not that you're not going to hear some dissonance, but it's all very interesting--and very different."

As a sort of "palate cleaner" after the "mystical and spiritual" Berliner Messe, the concert will also feature soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson singing Gershwin's "Summertime," and the Flower Duet from Delibes's opera Lakme with mezzo-soprano Darcy Johnson.  Both of them are also MSU vocal music alums.

Tickets are $10 for the concert, or $17 for a premium ticket, which includes admission to the concert, and to join the musicians and director for wine and hors d'oeuvres at 6 PM on Sunday the 26th at the Hotel Vandivort in downtown Springfield.  Amy Muchnick says, "c'mon, you know you wanna do that... after Arvo Pärt one definitely needs a glass of wine... or five!"

For information call (573) 289-6321, visit, or email Ticket information is also available at the groups's Facebook page; and they'll be available at the door Sunday.