Marilyn Cheetham remembers the first time she performed Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem” with MU’s Choral Union in 1978. It was special then, and she hopes that Saturday will be a repeat performance in more than one way.
The Choral Union will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Saturday with a performance of Verdi’s “Requiem.”
The ensemble will be joined by the University Singers, the Concert Chorale, the Chamber Singers and the Columbia Civic Orchestra to perform the work that Cheetham remembers so well.
Almost 400 performers will be involved in the full-scale production of the piece, including four guest soloists: soprano Adina Aaron, bass Paolo Pecchioli, tenor Scott Piper and mezzo-soprano Dorothy Byrne.
“These soloists do not frequently appear here in mid-Missouri,” conductor Paul Crabb said. “Often, these people are on the coast and overseas performing, so it is going to be a big opportunity to see these soloists.”
The Choral Union has served as a bridge between the university and the community since its creation, commonly referred to as a “town-gown choir,” combining the talents of students and community members from all walks.
Choral member Betty Wilson has been with the group since its formation, when Columbia didn’t have any groups of its kind. She remembers the first performance of the chorus, a performance of “The Elijah.”
“I was delighted and stimulated that this was happening because it provided such wonderful opportunities for people who enjoy singing — people of all walks of life — students and townspeople,” Wilson said.
Marilyn Cheetham joined the group in its second year. She remembers going to one rehearsal and being hooked.
“It’s hard to believe that 29 years have passed,” Cheetham said. “It’s something I look forward to every Thursday night. I’m retired now, but when I was working, no matter how tired I was, I always wanted to go to rehearsal because you left feeling energized and excited.”
The selection of Verdi’s masterpiece came after deliberation by Crabb and a committee of choral members. “Requiem” was recognized by the committee as a major work of the past 200 years and was selected to showcase the large amount of talent that will be on hand for the celebration.
Performance of “Requiem” requires a large chorus, a full orchestra and high-quality soloists, Crabb said.
Saturday night’s performance marks 30 years of collaboration to create some of the most memorable musical moments in Columbia history.
“This is going to be one of those exciting musical moments that will elevate people to a feeling of excitement, celebration and civilization and will unite people in a sense of community,” Wilson said. “There will be a sense of community; the audience will feel just as much a part of the performance as those singing.”