2009-03-26 / Entertainment

Mercersburg Chorus To Present Concerts

The Mercersburg Area Community Chorus will present its spring concerts April 18 and 19 at Mercersburg Academy Chapel. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. The 100-member chorus, under the direction of Richard Rotz, will be joined by soloists Alex Helsabek, baritone, and Arianna Zukerman, soprano, and a full orchestra, in a program featuring Vaughan Williams' "Dona Nobis Pacem" and a selection of American music.

When asked to write a piece for a 1937 commission, Williams produced an eloquent plea for peace in "Dona Nobis Pacem." Having experienced World War I, and with WWII on the horizon, the composer combined texts from the poetry of Walt Whitman with passages from the scriptures, and created a work that begins and ends with a plea for hope and peace, but echoes with the sound of battle within.

Alex Helsabeck, baritone, was a member, soloist and section leader of the United States Air Force Singing Sergeants, and is currently a member and soloist with the United States Army Chorus in Washington, D.C. He received Associate, Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in music from Academia Di Vocale in Lucca, Italy. Helsabeck directs an afternoon school vocal program in Washington, D.C., known as Notebusters, whose productions include over 200 voices, children and adults combined; and in 1992 he was named to the list of "People Who Make a Difference" in Washington, D.C., for his charitable contributions through the arts. In recent years Alex's performances have included "A German Requiem" by Brahms, "Mass in Time of War" by Hayden, "The Seven Last Words" by Dubois, and "Messiah" by Handel. Alex has just completed his newest CD, "My Altar by the Sea," a selection of spirituals sung a cappella.

Soprano Arianna Zukerman debuted with the New York City Opera in the 2005-06 season in Mark Adamo's "Lysistrata." A frequent soloist throughout the United States and Europe, Zukerman studied theatre at Brown University, earned her Bachelor of Music from the Juilliard School, and currently resides in Washington, DC. In the current season, she has performed as a soloist in Mozart's "Requiem" in a return to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Pinchas Zukerman conducting; and will be featured in May in Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9" and Barber's "Prayers of Kierk-egaard" with the Nashville Symphony, Leonard Slatkin conducting. Earlier performances include her debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under James Levine in "Moses und Aron;" and her collaboration with Lorin Maazel, with performances at the conductor's farm in Virginia; and an appearance as soloist at the Kennedy Center's New Year's Eve Gala.

Founded in 1975, the Mercersburg Community Chorus performs two programs each year. Admission to the chorus' concerts is free; however, a freewill offering will be taken. Seating at Mercersburg Academy Chapel is limited and there are no reserved seats; therefore, early arrival is recommended. For more information about the chorus' performances and recordings, call 717-328-2324.

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