The News-Times/Carol Kaliff
Members of the Connecticut Master Chorale rehearse
yesterday for Sunday's performance in Newtown under the
direction of Tina Johns Heidrich.
Chorale celebrates a
Mass by Dave Brubeck
By Robert Miller
SOUTHBURY As the singers surrounding her worked their way through a successions of "Holys''
Tina Johns Heidrich's face was rapt, overspread with happiness.
"Gorgeous . . . Gorgeous. I can't tell you how beautiful it is out here,'' she said
when the singers paused. Then Heidrich quickly moved on through the score, gave the
singers their cue, and the music started again, filling the meeting room of the South
Britain Congregational Church where they were rehearsing Tuesday evening. Heidrich, of
Brookfield, is the founder, conductor and musical director of the Connecticut Master
Chorale, a 55-member group of select singers that Heidrich brought together last year.
For its second concert to be held Sunday at 3 p.m. at St. Rose of Lima Church in
Newtown Heidrich first chose a 19th-century piece steeped in the classical tradition,
Anton Bruckner's "Te Deum."
But the concert's second work also by a "Br' composer will be the headliner of the
evening. It is "To Hope! A Celebration'' a Catholic Mass written by jazz great Dave
Brubeck that's been performed in cathedrals and concert halls around the world. Although
Brubeck is a Wilton resident, Heidrich said this may be the first time the Mass has been
performed in western Connecticut.
"I am absolutely consumed with this work,'' she said. "I heard it on a CD a few years
ago, and just fell in love with it. It's got superb chorale writing. I think the audience
is going to be delighted.''
Brubeck wrote the Mass in 1979. Russell Gloyd, Brubeck's musical director and producer,
who has conducted the piece with Brubeck on several occasions, said at the time, musicians
were writing a variety of folk, pop and jazz Masses that had little to do with the church
But Ed Murray of the Catholic publication "Our Sunday Visitor'' commissioned the work
on the condition that Brubeck follow the traditional Roman Catholic liturgy.
"Dave had a lot of problems at first with that,'' Gloyd said. "He wrote an 'Our Father'
that he envisioned as a solo piece and they told him 'No, it has to be scored for the
congregation.' So he had to rewrite it for chorus.''
But that formal structure, Gloyd said, makes "To Hope'' stronger, at home in both
church and concert hall.
"A couple of performances stand out,'' Gloyd said. "We performed it in 1997 in Moscow
with the National Symphony. The musicians were sensational, the chorus was sensational,
and it got a reception far beyond anything we could have imagined. And we performed it at
an ecumenical service in Oklahoma City after the bombing, two blocks away from the Federal
Building. This is a healing piece and it really reached out to people.''
While the liturgy is traditional, the music is deliberately far-ranging, Gloyd said. It
has elements of the traditional Catholic Mass, but also threads of Hebrew melodies,
African-American gospel, Middle Eastern and Spanish music and jazz.
Cynthia McCorkindale of Bethel, who will be the mezzo-soprano soloist in both the
Bruckner and Brubeck works Sunday, has sung in churches, opera houses and jazz clubs;
she's familiar with Brubeck's work, having sung with him recently with the Norwalk
"To Hope'' she said, isn't specifically jazz, although it has jazz elements.
"The decision you have to make is where to apply what, and when to do it,'' she said.
"He mixes all the rhythms up, beautifully. It's not like being just a jazz singer or a
classical singer. It's a matter of deciding which way to lean.''
Rehearsing the chorale on Tuesday, Heidrich was full of animation and spark, urging her
singers not just to shout but to "SHOUT'' when Brubeck's music calls for a joyful noise.
During the "Our Father'' she left her baton on the music stand and used her hands to all
but weave lovely sounds out of the air.
When chorale accompanist Joseph Jacovino Jr. played a strong, resonating solo based on
a single hearing of Brubeck's version Heidrich and all 55 singers in the chorale burst
Throughout the rehearsal, Heidrich encouraged, complimented, made a rude face when she
didn't hear what she liked. Adjusting its tone and phrasing as they proceeded, the chorale
was on its feet at the end, rehearsing its encore, singing "All My Hope is in You, Oh
Lord, You are My Rock and My Strength.'' moving with the music.
And then, Heidrich, tired but with the joy of the music still showing on her face, sent
her corps out into the night.
"I think we're ready,'' she said.
Contact Robert Miller at
email@example.com or (203) 731-3345.