Choral societies, by definition, rarely do much besides sing, but the Santa Barbara Choral Society has been very busy lately. Former 3rd District supervisor Brooks Firestone has become the chair of the newly founded Santa Barbara Choral Society Foundation, a charitable organization designed to maintain a permanent fund for the society. “It’s a vehicle for a perpetual grant to ensure choral music in the community,” according to Firestone. “A number of organizations have similar funds. We thought that, after 60 years, it was time to take care of the society. People volunteer an amazing amount of their time in singing for it, and we wanted to make sure it kept going.”
The S.B. Choral Society has recently become more ambitious in several ways. It is now the resident Choral Society at the Granada Theatre, a newly renovated-and very challenging venue. “Our director, JoAnne Wasserman, wanted us to be as good as we can be, and we needed to measure up to this new, big theater,” Firestone said.. “We made our debut there with Orff’s Carmina Burana, and it came off very well. Then we did a more ambitious version of Handel’s Messiah, with more people and even higher quality soloists. Lately, we’ve been working with some Music Academy of the West graduates, and they’re marvelous.”
The next concert, a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, presents an even greater challenge. The concert, which will be held on Saturday, May 16, at 8 p.m., and on Sunday, May 17, at 3 p.m., at the Granada Theatre, will include Metropolitan Opera star-and local favorite-Eduardo Villa as the tenor soloist, along with soloists Erin Wood, Cynthia Jansen, and Michael Gallup. “Verdi’s Requiem is one of the all-time greats,” said Firestone. “We’ve been planning it for two years, and we’ve been rehearsing it since October.”
The concert will also take place on the anniversary of the day that the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin was liberated; a concert will take place at the site of the camp in the Czech Republic on the same day. “The camp was a showcase for the Nazis, a kind of display camp, so they organized the inmates into musical and choral groups to perform Verdi’s Requiem. Adolf Eichmann, the chief architect of the Holocaust, even attended one of the concerts,” Firestone said.. “All the performers were later shipped off to the other camps to perish. When we heard about the other concert, and that a couple of our singers had relations who died there, it just moved us. Both concerts are dedicated to those prisoners, and we’re hoping people around here will come to ours.”
The Santa Barbara Choral Society performs with the Santa Barbara Symphony on Saturday, April 18, at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, April 19, at 3 p.m. at the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.). The society will perform Verdi’s Requiem on Saturday, May 16, at 8 p.m., and on Sunday, May 17, at 3 p.m., also at the Granada. For more information, call 965-6577 or visit sbchoral.org.