The Mount Desert Summer Chorale, a choir of volunteer singers from Maine and around the country, celebrates its 50th anniversary this season with a series of concerts July 28 through Aug. 4. PHOTO COURTESY OF MD SUMMER CHORALE

Summer Chorale turns 50

MOUNT DESERT — A performance of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” Aug. 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Saviour’s Church in Bar Harbor will headline the 50th anniversary season for the Mount Desert Summer Chorale.

Bass-baritone Gordon Hawkins of the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera and Seattle Opera, among others, sings the title role. The other soloists—soprano Carole FitzPatrick, mezzo-soprano Robyn Rocklein, and tenor David Parks—all make return appearances.

Performing with the 70-member chorus of volunteer singers from Maine and around the country is an orchestra made up of musicians from Maine (many from the Bangor Symphony) and New York.

A pre-concert talk is planned for 7 p.m. both nights.

The season kicks off with a gala concert at St. Mary’s by-the-Sea in Northeast Harbor on Saturday, July 28, at 7 p.m. Performed where the chorale was founded in 1968, the concert presents choruses from some of the works the group has performed over the years.

The chorale’s resident artists, a group of aspiring professional singers from Arizona State University (ASU), perform familiar songs and arias to round out the program. George Emlen, conductor emeritus of the chorale and its music director from 1982 to 1999, makes a guest appearance.

On Thursday, Aug. 2, at 7:30 p.m., a group of faculty from ASU presents a recital of classical and jazz works to benefit the chorale at St. Saviour’s in Bar Harbor. Soprano Carole FitzPatrick and flutist Heather Landes perform with pianists Michael Kocour and Russell Ryan. All are colleagues of chorale Music Director David Schildkret in the ASU School of Music.

St. Mary’s by-the-Sea choir director John Harms and organist Allen Sever founded the Mount Desert Summer Chorale in 1968. They brought a group of professional singers from New York City to Northeast Harbor to join local singers in a performance of Rossini’s “Stabat Mater.

That became a tradition each summer, usually in early August. Local residents joined New York singers to present such major works as Verdi’s “Requiem,” Haydn’s “The Creation” and Handel’s “Messiah” at St. Mary’s with organ accompaniment.

Admission to each of the concerts in the chorale’s 50th anniversary series is by donation at the door. Tickets for “Elijah” may also be purchased in advance at Sherman’s Bookstore, the Northeast Harbor Library and the Southwest Harbor Library.

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