Pilgrim Festival Chorus Shifts Focus, Champions New Work Amidst Pandemic

S T A L L E D    I N    S O N G , S U S T A I N I N G    H A R M O N Y :

New choral commission to commemorate

Plymouth’s postponed quadricentennial in 2021

Pilgrim Festival Chorus poised to perform in concert in 2017, image by Dan Rapoza Photography

McGRATHPR.com – Singers are among the first to chime in about love for performing during the holiday season.  In this pandemic year, Pilgrim Festival Chorus (PFC), known for “sharing the world’s great choral music”, cancelled its 2020 season due to the pandemic, last performing in the winter of 2019.  But the chorus’s leadership and membership remain strong, currently championing a new choral commission in preparation for the PFC’s hometown commemoration of Plymouth’s 400th anniversary in concert, now postponed until next fall.

PFC Music Director William B. Richter,
image by Dan Rapoza Photography

“PFC is a community of singers who are invested in producing choral music together.  In lieu of singing during the pandemic, we’re thinking ahead and strategizing to optimize the premiere of this new work once mainstream performance for our choral-loving audience is reinstated,” shares William B. Richter, PFC Artistic Director and a founder. Even though we can’t be together, we are actively and passionately looking forward to the future.”

The concept for a commemorative commission in honor of Plymouth’s 400th anniversary has long been in discussion among PFC leadership.  The plan evolved into reality when PFC collaborated with the selected composer early this year, around the same time that Covid-19 gripped the nation.  Committed to the project, and knowing that the performances may be delayed, PFC’s leadership continued the plan, holding out hope that no matter when the work would premiere, despite the pandemic interference, it would eventually still happen. 

“Someday, hopefully soon, the show will go on,” shares PFC Board President Greg Martin.  “Until then, we will keep our eyes, hearts and voices focused towards the prize of being able to make beautiful music once again for the public and ourselves.”

PFC selected Massachusetts composer Clifton J. Noble to originate the commemorative work, of whom another composition was previously featured in its 20th anniversary celebration concerts in 2019.  During two widely attended and applauded performances, Noble’s setting of English Poet Laureate John Dryden’s poem, “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day”was performed as a companion to the Mozart masterwork “Requiem”.  

The initial new work experience with Noble opened the door to the commission opportunity.  Together, the composer and PFC’s leadership explored the possibility for a new companion piece – one to parallel a compilation of shape note (a variant of Western music notation) works. “Melodious Accord: A Concert of Praise” is a collection of 15 hymns with instrumental accompaniment, arranged by Alice Parker.  Noble was tasked with setting some poetic texts by William Bradford, the first Governor of Massachusetts, an appropriate choice in historical context.  In serving as a companion work, the instrumentation was projected to be identical to that of the Parker piece – consisting of two trumpets, two trombones, harp and piano.

“The composition is a wonderful setting of the writings of Bradford,” shares Richter.  “Taken from two sources, ‘Of Plimoth Plantation’ and his poem ‘Providence and the Pilgrim’, Mr. Noble weaves a dramatic work which closes with a rather hymn-like setting of ‘And then all tears wipes from their eyes. For whom He loves He doth chastise.’  We look forward to exploring this work in performance next fall.”  The premiere of the commission is dedicated to Elizabeth Chapman Reilly in recognition and gratitude for her years of service as a PFC founder, co-artistic director and accompanist.

Since 1999, Pilgrim Festival Chorus has served the South Shore as a volunteer, not-for-profit singing ensemble dedicated to performing choral music in public and private concerts; to providing music education to its members and the public; and to encouraging and promoting the performance of quality choral music. More than 80 vocalists of all adult ages fill out the ensemble. Traditionally, PFC presents a major choral work each spring, holiday season concert performances, annual Messiah Sings in December, and summer concerts featuring pops-style programming. 

In preparation for its opportunity to perform the concert A Pilgrim Journey, Songs of Faith and Courage, Celebrating Plymouth 400, PFC is engaged in a year-end fundraising campaign to support the next steps for its commemorative commission, participation in Plymouth 400 events in 2021 and for operating expenses due to lost performance revenues in the pandemic and challenging funding cuts to the arts.

To make a donation in support of Pilgrim Festival Chorus, or for more information, please visit pilgrimfestivalchorus.org, or follow Pilgrim Festival Chorus on Facebook.

About Pilgrim Festival Chorus

Since 1999, Pilgrim Festival Chorus has served the South Shore as a volunteer, not-for-profit singing ensemble dedicated to performing choral music in public and private concerts; to providing music education to its members and the public; and to encouraging and promoting the performance of quality choral music. More than 80 vocalists of all adult ages fill out the ensemble. Traditionally, PFC presents a major choral work each spring, holiday season concert performances, annual Messiah Sings in December, and summer concerts featuring pops-style programming.  PFC is funded in part by grants from many of the region’s Cultural Councils, local agencies supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.  For more information about PFC, please visit pilgrimfestivalchorus.org, or follow Pilgrim Festival Chorus on Facebook.