The Los Alamos Choral Society (LACS) and the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra (LASO) are preparing an unusual experience for local music lovers.
At 3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 22 at Crossroads Bible Church in Los Alamos, LACS and LASO, under the direction of Mary Badarak, will present “Classic to Neo-Classic: Bach to Mendelssohn to Stravinsky to Bach Again,” as their winter concert.
(Tickets—$15 for adults—will be available at CB Fox and at the door. Student admission is free.)
The concert will provide an opportunity to compare the styles of three very different composers in three different time periods. However, as Badarak said recently, Bach is still truly “the master,” even though he lived some 300 years ago (1685 to 1750).
In notes prepared for the concert, she observed, “Though he was no prodigy and was not particularly well known is his time, Bach was an extraordinary performer and a consummate craftsman…” Virtually all composers since his time have “examined and learned from Bach’s craft … They all studied Bach’s use of text painting, and harmonic motion, and form and style, and all have embedded elements of Bach’s craft in their own works.”
The Jan. 22 concert will begin with Bach’s “Cantata ‘Wie Schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern,’ BWV1, “which makes listeners want to dance. Badarak said, “Bach uses just about every device in his toolbox: Finely crafted fugal entries are contrasted with brass fanfares, sustained chant of the chorale melody in the treble voices, the concerto grosso technique of solo violins (concertato) and responding string section (ripieno), all orchestrated to present a brilliant, dramatic overture.”
The second work on the concert program is “Psalm 42, ‘Wie der Hirsch schreit,’ Op. 42,” by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). Badarak noted that it is modeled after a Bach cantata, “beginning with a choral overture, then alternating choral movements with soprano solo recitatives and arias, and ending with a grand fugue.” Olivia Hakel will be the soloist for this work.
After an intermission, the concert will move on to "Symphony of Psalms (1931, rev. 1948), “a work by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). Stravinsky, known for “Rite of Spring” and other ground-breaking works, is viewed by some as a modern revolutionary in music, but even he used the Bach model for this work, a three-movement “concerto grosso” for orchestra and chorus written on a commission from the Boston Symphony in celebration of the orchestra’s centennial season.
After the Stravinsky, the program will return to the peace and order of Bach, the master, closing with “Dona Nobis Pacem” from his “Mass in B Minor, BWV 232.”
The Choral Society—an organization that dates from the days of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos—has spent months preparing for this challenging concert and joins LASO in rehearsals this week. The concert reflects the outstanding abilities of many performers—most notably the conductor and soloist.
Badarak has been the director of LACS since 2005.She holds a doctorate in music theory from Northwestern University. Before moving to New Mexico, she taught music theory and composition at the University of California-Santa Cruz. She was also the founding director of the Santa Cruz Chorale, and she conducted that group for 12 seasons.
In 1995, she moved to Atlanta, Ga., to teach at Georgia State University. She also sang in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus under the direction of Robert Shaw, a famous American conductor, and she directed the chamber choir “Impromptu.”
She moved to New Mexico in 2003 and founded Santa Fe Music Works. Choruses from the Music Works were invited to sing in Carnegie Hall in 2004, 2005, and 2013, and one went to Austria for the International Haydn Festival in 2009.
Meanwhile, under her leadership, LACS and LASO have presented a series of winter concerts featuring masterpieces by musical greats from Handel to Mendelssohn, and from Mozart to Lauridsen.
In her lighter, summer concerts, she has presented works by musicians ranging from Randall Thompson to the Beatles. She often includes one of her own interesting compositions—and her compositions have won national awards from ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), the American Choral Directors Association, and the American Composers Forum.
Hakel, an alto and second soprano performer, and her husband, Peter, have lived in Los Alamos for the past four years, but her remarkable voice has taken her to many other locations as well. In 2010, she made her European solo concert debut at the Annual Summer Music Festival at the castle in Bojnice, Slovakia.
She holds a bachelor of arts degree in vocal performance from the University of California-Irvine. She also studied acting at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, Calif.
She has sung oratorio works from composers including Mozart, Vivaldi, Handel, and Bach. And she has also performed in live opera roles ranging from “Buttercup” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, to “Annina” in Verdi’s La Traviata.
She is equally comfortable in music theater. Her recent roles have included “Julie” in a revue of Showboat with the Nevada Civic Light Opera during a dinner cruise on the MS Dixie River Boat on Lake Tahoe, and “Anna” from The King and I, in a Broadway revue at Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City, Nev.
This should be an unusual and interesting concert. Badarak hopes that at its close, members of the audience will be able to “hear the genius of the master, Bach, with new ears and new hearts.”