Saint Peter Choral Society

The St. Peter Choral Society is shown here performing Bach’s “Mass in B Minor” in Christ Chapel, Gustavus Adolphus College in 2016. They’ll perform Sunday in St. Peter and New Ulm.

Mozart's timeless piece highlights group's annual concert

This Sunday marks the Saint Peter Choral Society’s 39th year of performing large choral pieces not only for St. Peter, but for surrounding areas, as well.

Sara McKay, the group’s conductor, says it began as an effort to bring large choral pieces such as “Elijah,” or “Passions” by Bach, to the community.

“We are the only group in this community that does this,” McKay said. “We give one major concert a year, that’s our focus.”

The group is also known for performing pieces that have never been done in the St. Peter area, including “Elijah” and Hayden’s “The Seasons” in 2011. This year the group takes on Mozart’s “Requiem,” and although it’s not a premier for St. Peter, McKay believed it was time to bring it back to the community. They last performed it in 1995.

The choral is accompanied by an orchestra hand-picked by McKay. This year, since “Requiem” is a bigger endeavor, the orchestra is made up of 23 musicians. Some are either from colleges, including Gustavus, some are from the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, and this year a special guest from Germany (a foreign exchange student from St. Peter High School) will be joining the orchestra.

And although the orchestra is curated by the conductor, the singers in the choral are not.

“We’re a bit different; we don’t have auditions,” McKay said. “If anyone wants to kill themselves on one of these huge works and they are willing to dedicate 20 weeks of that, they’re welcome!”

Jokes aside, McKay applauds the 37 people in this year’s group (and in the past) who have dedicated their time traveling (there are people from 12 different communities) and rehearsals.

Part of the appeal for many of the singers is how close the choral is to their community. McKay says the nearest similar experience would be in the Twin Cities.

Transporting the St. Peter experience to other communities has been a big part of the Society’s plan. Each year it chooses another town in which to hold a performance. This year, the choral will be singing at New Ulm’s Holy Trinity church. The group has also performed in Madison Lake, Nicollet and more recently, Blue Earth.

They certainly liked us in Blue Earth,” McKay Laughed. “They want us to come back. We have been invited back to Madison Lake, too, because no one has given a concert out there. The church had never been asked to host a concert.”

Music speaks universal truths, which is why a piece such as “Requiem” has been requested by famous composers (Chopin, Schubert) to play during their funerals. It was also used for funerals for John F. Kennedy and the victims of the Kent State massacre.

“(The music) speaks to be human ... it’s very dramatic, it’s very beautiful and very profound,” McKay said. “And these (concerts) are so wonderful, that when people hear them, people will never forget them. They are so beautiful and amazing, people will think ‘how can this exist? How did someone do that? How did they create such wonderful work? People will never forget.”

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