When 70 voices rise in song tomorrow (March 14), the occasion will be special for two different reasons.
First, the repertoire is more than a little challenging.
“It’s one of those great moments in Western music. It’s the highest level of the compositional technique of Bach, one of the most difficult [pieces] to sing,” said Jameson Marvin, director of choral activities and senior lecturer on music at Harvard University.
Marvin will conduct the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, an undergraduate chorus, along with musicians drawn from the Handel and Haydn Society, in Bach’s Mass in B Minor at Sanders Theatre at 8 p.m.
Second, the masterwork, last performed by the group in 1993, will help celebrate an important milestone: Marvin’s 30 years at the head of the University’s choral activities.
“It’s just been the most enriching, rewarding experience for me,” said Marvin, who took the reins in 1978 and helped grow the program from three to six choirs.
Along with leading the undergraduate mixed group, Marvin directs the men’s Harvard Glee Club and the women’s Radcliffe Choral Society. He founded the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus, which combines undergraduates, graduates, faculty, staff, and talent from surrounding communities, as well as the Choir-in-Progress, a group that prepares students with limited music ability to be part of a choir. He also developed the Holden Chamber Ensembles.
On April 11, Marvin will lead the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, the Harvard Glee Club, and the Radcliffe Choral Society to commemorate the glee club’s 150th anniversary as the oldest college chorus in the United States. The concert will feature Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms.”
“I can’t imagine a better job,” said Marvin of his three decades of musical service at Harvard. “The students are everything. Their sensibility and their enormous enthusiasm for singing — there’s nothing like that.”