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FEBRUARY 28, 2020

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JANUARY 26, 2020

Community comes together for Missa Solemnis performance

Amarillo Globe News article by David Gay

The Missa Solemnis, the 81-minute, five-movement work by Ludwig Van Beethoven which translates to “High Mass,” is known for being one of the hardest works ever created for a chorus.“It’s too high, it’s too long and it’s too loud, meaning the voice can’t withstand it,” said David Palmer, executive director for Chamber Music Amarillo. “Really, only truly professional choruses do it.”The piece demands major commitment and dedication from the people involved, Palmer said. But he has faith that his team, consisting mainly of residents of the Panhandle, can pull it off.After nearly two years of preparation, area representatives from Chamber Music Amarillo, Panhandle PBS, Amarillo College, the Amarillo Master Chorale, the Amarillo Symphony, West Texas A&M University and the First Baptist Church will come together as part of the Missa Solemnis Orchestra and Chorus on May 30 to perform the work at 7:30 p.m. in the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts.The performance will feature Katie Van Kooten, soprano, Ellen Graham, mezzo-soprano, Eric Barry, tenor, and Clayton Brainard, bass. The performance will be conducted by Michael Palmer, David Palmer’s father.David Palmer said the thought came to his mind to do this performance in 2016 as he was thinking about what he wanted to do to celebrate the 250th birthday of Beethoven.“I wanted to do something that was a collaborative effort in the community,” he said. “When I thought of the Missa, it was 3:30 a.m. in the morning and I was lying awake in bed. I thought to myself that this was the best or worst idea I have ever had in my life.”David Palmer reached out to Nathaniel Fryml, the director of choral activities at Amarillo College and the artistic director of the Amarillo Master Chorale, to see if the master chorale would be willing to be the core for this initiative. Fryml said his first thought was terror, being one of the people to tackle this notoriously difficult work in his first full-time choral position.“I was just trying to get my feet on the ground here in town and learn the lay of the land and everything,” he said. “Artistically, it was extremely exciting. On the practical side, it was very daunting.”Rehearsal for the performance started in the summer of 2018 due to the challenging nature of the work, as well as balancing its rehearsal with the other obligations the Master Chorale had. Fryml said the main challenge of the Missa Solemnis is the number of notes performers have to sing.While this mass is choral-centric, like the others of this classical period, Fryml said none of the others are on this scale. The challenge and the beauty of the project is undertaking a piece of this magnitude with the Master Chorale, an ensemble which consists of members of the community who are not all professional musicians.“There are all sorts of backgrounds present, a lot of professional musicians in the group, but definitely more than half of the members have never been professional musicians,” he said. “They may have had a degree in music at one point, or they may have just sung in choirs for many years … It’s exactly the unlikelihood of this sort of endeavor even being attempted that made a lot of us so excited at the beginning.”Because of the community coming together in this way to put on the performance, Panhandle PBS was called on to make a half-hour documentary over the two-year rehearsal time before May’s performance. Kyle Arrant, the director of operations for Panhandle PBS, said before the project began, he did not know much about the piece. But he quickly recognized the significance of this piece and of this project.“This is not only difficult, but taxing. It’s one of the hardest pieces that I know of,” he said. “It’s certainly one of the hardest of Beethoven. This takes a lot of work to put together. This is not something in a traditional symphony format, (where) you come in and rehearse for a couple of weeks or get it a couple of months in advance and do. The choral parts of this especially are just incredibly difficult. It’s every range, it’s every feeling. It’s every emotion in this piece.”The documentary will give participants the chance to relive the process, David Palmer said. When you are in the middle of practicing and, eventually, the performance, it is impossible for someone to process the scale of the project.Through the rehearsal process, Fryml has learned to depend on others, using their unique talents and experiences. Everyone brings something new to the table.“This is not the sort of project where any one person could clone themselves into 100 or 150 people and have it work, because there is so much more going on than just one particular skill set,” he said. “As a teacher, it’s very humbling to not know everything, to not be able to do everything, and yet still have that task of guiding the ship, in a way. It’s thrilling, at the same time.”Arrant’s eyes have been opened to the collaboration it takes for a project like this to get off the ground. The power of the arts community in Amarillo is incredible, he said.Even though the performance is a few months away, there is still a lot of work to do, David Palmer said. “Faith has become a major force for me moving forward, not because I don’t believe in the people — I do believe in the people,” he said. “When it comes down just before the downbeat, the bottom line is going to be that there are elements that we are going to experience that faith is going to carry us through.”Kevin Ball, chief executive officer of Panhandle PBS and vice president of communications and marketing at Amarillo College, said he expects there to be a big response from the community about this performance.“I think when they understand the magnitude of it and it’s touched so many people,” he said, “because every one of those singers, everybody, everybody at WT, everybody at the symphony, everybody at Amarillo College, when that network starts to click out there, I think there will be a huge (response).”Arrant said even though only one performance is currently scheduled, he hopes there are at least two: This is an important experience for residents in the community to witness.“This community has a history of doing big things and not really singing their praises, not really telling the world, ‘Hey, we did this,’” Arrant said. “This is one of those things that Amarillo and the Panhandle can be very very proud of. It’s an incredible adventure, experience, slog, whatever you want to call it. I think May 30, you are going to see everyone come together. It’s going to be magical.”Tickets for the performance range from $20 to $55 and are currently on sale at Panhandle Tickets locations as well as on the Panhandle Tickets website, https://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?pid=8778651.

Original article can be found HERE.

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JANUARY 17, 2020

A LITTLE ABOUT MISSA SOLEMNIS

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SEPTEMBER 20, 2019

A LETTER FROM THE CONDUCTOR TO THE CHORUS

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OCTOBER 2, 2019

So many times in my life, I think to myself, “How did I

get here?” Most of the time, I am pretty pleased with where I am. Right now, I am working with Panhandle PBS in documenting

the wonderful and daunting preparation and performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, set for May 30, 2020.The Missa Solemnis

is a choral mass composed by Ludwig Van Beethoven, the fulfillment of his dream

to capture the full spiritual experience the life of Christ through choral

music.Today, it’s the dream of David Palmer, Chamber Music

Amarillo’s artistic director, to perform this massive work right here in

Amarillo. He enlisted the help of the Amarillo Master Chorale and

the First Baptist Church Choir, led by Amarillo College’s Nathaniel Fryml and

First Baptist Church music minister Dan Baker, respectively.David also knows how important it is to document and

promote the event, so naturally Panhandle PBS became a partner too. I was asked by Panhandle PBS to help chronicle the lead

up to Chamber Music Amarillo’s Missa Solemnis

performance. I’m a disk jockey- turned TV producer- turned speech teacher. I

left my producer job at Panhandle PBS and began working in Amarillo College’s

speech department in 2014. I love what I do now, but I missed the creativity and the

work that goes into telling stories about our region, specifically with regard

to the Amarillo arts community.So when this opportunity came up, I thought, well, OK,

this could be cool. I know David, I’ve continued great friendships with

everyone at Panhandle PBS, and I still have an itch to scratch creatively, so

why not?Naturally, the first question was “What is a Missa Solemnis?” What I found out is

that the Missa is a really big deal. It requires a lot of preparation, concentration and

motivation because it is every bit as difficult as it is beautiful. And, as a person

whose very limited knowledge and understanding of classical music was gained as

a Panhandle PBS producer, I can tell you that it is accessible.  In April 2018, David gathered a group of potential

performers and donors together to reveal the idea of executing the concert in

May 2020 to commemorate Beethoven’s 250th birthday. Since then, the wheels have been turning. The Amarillo

Master Chorale and the First Baptist Church choirs agreed to go to work.

Maestro Michael Palmer (David’s father, an acclaimed conductor) will visit from

Atlanta to work with the chorus, Nathaniel and Dan will recruit more vocalists

and soloists, and Panhandle PBS will be there to show the people the process.As I visit with the great people involved with this , I

see a common thread: They all are dedicated. It will take hard work and time

away from family. It will be a challenge to many of the vocalists (and their

vocal cords). And it will be our challenge here at Panhandle PBS to tell their

story.But it is happening. The Amarillo arts community will

collaborate and pull together their resources, talents and financial gifts and

bring this extraordinary piece of music to life in the Globe-News Center for

the Performing Arts just in time to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s

birth. Beethoven’s Missa

Solemnis is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am honored to witness the

way art is made, and I invite you to come along as it unfolds. And, this might be a spoiler, but the most significant

part of this whole undertaking will be to show that we can do it. We are a

small community with an abundance of talent. May 30 will be the ultimate

showcase for how we do it — with heart, lots 

of practice and a heap of pure gumption.