Classicalfaces2Appearing on the Basie stage this weekend are (clockwise from top left): MCC conductor Mark Shapiro; sopranos Sungji Kim and Christine Reber; MSO assistant conductor Lucian Rinando; bass Nathan Baer; tenor Daniel Molkentin; clarinetist/conductor Roy Gussman; and violist Dorothy Sobieski.



Time to shake those swallowtail tux jackets and evening gloves out of storage; unbag those stoles and tiaras and opera glasses — we’re kicking it classical this weekend.

All right, dress codes aren’t what they used to be, at the symphony hall as at any other place. But it shouldn’t mean that our own homegrown performing arts entities aren’t worth getting dressed up for. If anything, we here in Monmouth are guilty of having taken for granted the fact that our once-rural county boasts an exceptional chorale and a truly first-rate semi-professional orchestra — a couple of innovative, creative organizations, packed with passionate and talented people.

And both, by some way-cool karmic astrology, are storming the stage of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre this weekend.

In its nearly 60-year existence, the Monmouth Civic Chorus has certainly delivered everything that’s been expected of it, from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas to an annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah that has helped to define the Yuletide season for generations of Red Bank area families.

But under the tenure of director Mark Shapiro, the MCC — an all-volunteer assembly of retirees, homemakers, professionals, church choir members, musicians, friends and neighbors — has upped the artistic ante via such bold offerings as last year’s world premiere of Jorge Martin‘s Stronger Than Darkness, as well as a series of programs that have investigated some intriguing intersections of music, prose and poetry.

The words and the wondrous music come together again on Saturday night, as the Chorus presents a juxtaposition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s unfinished “Great” Mass in C Minor, with a pair of works by Ralph Vaughan Williams set to the words of Walt Whitman and William Shakespeare.

Writing in the Asbury Park Press last Sunday, the paper’s extraordinary music critic and columnist Carlton Wilkinson offered that “A good guess is that Mozart failed to complete the mass because it wasn’t a paying gig. Commissions and operas, of which there were soon to be plenty, were worth cash. The mass was a labor of love.”

As Wilkinson opined, “The decision to use Vaughan Williams to fill in the blanks in Mozart’s genius seems inspired. The contrast between the styles of the two men could hardly be greater, yet they both possess a love for simple beauty and a delightful skill for text setting.”

For the 8p program, Shapiro and the chorus are fortified by a complement of professional guest artists, including award-winning sopranos Sungji Kim of South Korea and Christine Reber of Germany, who appeared with the MCC in 2006. Another returning guest, bass Nathan Baer, joins tenor Daniel Molkentin and the MCC regulars on the program. Tickets (priced between $15-$45) may be reserved by visiting the Basie’s website.

Also closing in on 60 seasons as an outstanding aggregation of both professional and amateur musicians, the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra has made its full-time home since 2002 at the Count Basie, where it has presented some eclectic (even esoteric) programs under the baton of conductor Roy D. Gussman.

For Sunday afternoon’s characteristically adventurous bill, maestro Gussman comes down from the podium to perform on clarinet in Max Bruch‘s Double Concerto for Clarinet, Viola, and Orchestra in E Minor, Op. 88. Apparently the only concerto ever written for this particular combination of instruments (shades of PDQ Bach‘s Pervertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle and Balloons), the 1911 composition teams Gussman with the Polish-born violist Dorothy Sobieski, herself a conductor of the Georgian Court University String Orchestra.

So who’s driving this bus, you ask? Well, with the maestro busy on the woodwinds, this performance will mark the debut of Lucian Rinando, the Orchestra’s new assistant conductor and a flutist who’s a veteran of both the MSO and the Red Bank-based Monmouth Conservatory of Music (where Gussman also serves as an instructor and board member). Rinando, who’s further affiliated with the Garden State Philharmonic, the Shrewsbury Chorale and the Metropolitan Opera (among many others), is reportedly the proud proprietor of “a vibrant flute studio and flute repair shop” in Leonia.

Also featured on the 3p program are The Walk to the Paradise Garden by Frederick Delius (excerpted from his 1906 opera A Village Romeo and Juliet); Viviane, Op. 5, Ernest Chausson‘s 1880 “symphonic poem” adapted from tales of Arthurian legend, as well as Vasily Kalinnikov‘s 1894 Symphony No. 1 in G Minor.

The admission price of $30 includes a pre-concert lecture at 2:15.

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