Breaking new musical ground

April 16th, 2010 in the Oak Leaves
By: Chris LaFortune

Having run them through their two parts separately, Director Paul Lindblad divided the two choirs of Oak Park Concert Chorale in half.

The early evening sky outside St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1025 W. Lake St. in Melrose Park, was going from light to dark blue as the two choirs spread along both sides of the church, one choir member at the end of every other pew.

Lindblad remained at the head of the church, behind a podium, preparing to direct. This portion of rehearsal was without music, a cappella, and at Lindblad's signal, the choir of about 30 men and women launched into Mendelssohn's "Heileg."

And their voices filled that empty church up to its high ceiling.

Oak Park Concert Chorale will hold a performance starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 17, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 611 Randolph St. in Oak Park. It will hold a repeat of that performance at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 25, at Our Lady of Sorrows, 3121 W. Jackson in Chicago.

The centerpiece of these two concerts is performance of Richard Hillert's "Motet for the Time of Easter," a song that Lindblad said hasn't been performed anywhere for the last 40 years.

At the time of its commissioning, Hillert's Motet was considered cutting edge, Lindblad said. There are sections of music unfamiliar and difficult, complex rhythms that few choirs do anymore.

"It's giving the impression of uncontrolled freedom in the piece," Lindblad said. "But everything is carefully defined."

Saturday's concert is dedicated to Hillert, a professor emeritus of music at Concordia University in River Forest. Hillert died Feb. 18, 2010. Members of his family will attend Saturday's performance, Lindblad said.

"This is going to be unique," Lindblad said. "It's the first time this has been performed since 1970. Who knows if it will be performed again?"

Walking on ground rarely tread is something Lindblad enjoys. As the Concert Chorale embarks onto its 30th season next fall, he already has a particularly interesting spring lined up for its members.

Within choral circles, there is a well-known piece by Antonio Lotti called "Crucifixus." The eight-part piece comes from a larger creed, or "Credo," Lindblad said, a piece Lindblad made it his mission to find.

He found that the Credo was never published. His search for it brought him to a rare manuscript library in Venice, Italy. While there, he pulled a box from the top of a bookshelf, buried beneath what must have been an inch of dust.

"I discovered a manuscript in the composer's handwriting," Lindblad said.

Lindblad's had "Credo" for about 20 years, he said, waiting for the right occasion to release it. The chorale group's 30th anniversary is that time.

"We're going to do, next year for our spring concert, what is pretty much the world premiere, at least in this century, of this work," he said.

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