DAVIDSON – The Choral Arts Society of Davidson opens its 10th anniversary season on Sunday, Oct. 29 with a centuries-old plea for peace and a quiet remembrance of 9/11. 

Featured are Joseph Haydn’s “Missa in Angustiis” (mass for troubled times) and British composer Cecilia McDowall’s mystical peace anthem “Ave Maris Stella.” 

Conductor Chris Gilliam chose these works months ago, never imagining how relevant they would be now.

“While reading the text of ‘Ave Maris Stella’ and considering pairing the two works for our concert, the phrase ‘funda nos in pace’ – establish us in peace – captured me. I thought to myself, ‘That’s what we all need right now,’” Gilliam said.

Davidson Singers, which is an ensemble from one of the Davidson College choirs, and the college’s Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra will join the Choral Arts Society of Davidson for the performance. It will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29 in Davidson College Presbyterian Church. 

“Missa in Angustiis” is one of 14 Masses Haydn wrote and is considered by scholars to be his best. He composed it in 1798 when England felt an undercurrent of fear as France was pushing beyond its borders. Later, others called it the Lord Nelson Mass in honor of Naval Commander Horatio Nelson’s 1805 victory over the fleet of Napoleon Bonaparte in the Mediterranean Sea. Haydn begins the piece in the somber key of D minor but moves in and out of minor and ends in a major key. 

Four soloists are featured in the “Missa in Angustiis.” Soprano Ilana Lubitsch, a Davidson adjunct professor with multiple opera and musical theater credits, stretches to the highest notes in her range. Mezzo-soprano Kelsey Harrison, a native Charlottean and recent graduate of The New England Conservatory of Music, has won acclaim for her performances of this work. Bryon Grohman is an operatic tenor who has performed around the world and teaches music at Wake Forest University. In addition to his roles as performer and teacher, Grohman also directs a number of ensembles. Chet Carpenter, bass, received his master’s degree in voice performance at Wichita State and has sung for several regional opera companies. Carpenter currently resides in Mooresville with his wife and two children. 

“Ave Maris Stella” is a tranquil piece first performed on Armistice Day in 2001 in the shadow of the horrific 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Composer Cecilia McDowall was in England when the planes hit. She felt it important to plea for peace as, not just the United States, but the world mourned for the loss of life.

Choral Arts Society member Laura Taylor, a dentist in Mooresville, is the soprano soloist. 

Davidson College Presbyterian Church is at the corner of Main Street and Concord Road in Davidson. Tickets are available through the Choral Arts Society website www.casdavidson.org or at the door.


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