The Hilton Head Choral Society is going all out this spring, bringing together nearly 100 young choristers from North Carolina, Florida and the Lowcountry to perform John Rutter's acclaimed "Mass of the Children" on Friday at First Presbyterian Church.
First performed in Carnegie Hall in 2003, the choral work is the highlight of an all-British concert program titled "Pomp and Circumstance."
"In most versions of the Mass, children are usually secondary," said Choral Society artistic director Tim Reynolds. "In Rutter's piece, they're central."
To perform the choral work as intended, Reynolds recruited the Black Mountain Children's Choir from North Carolina, the Gainesville Youth Chorus Chorale from Florida and Beaufort's Low Country Children's Chorus to sing with the Choral Society's own Youth Choir, 100-member Adult Chorus and two guest soloists. A chamber orchestra will accompany the singers.
"We're thrilled to be participating in the concert," said Aline Carillon, director of the Black Mountain Youth Chorale, a group of 10 singers from fourth through eighth grades. "We don't often have the opportunity to perform a major work like this with an adult choir and orchestra. It's a great learning experience for the kids."
"Mass of the Children" features a shortened version of the traditional liturgy, including the "Kyrie," "Gloria," "Sanctus and Benedictus" and "Agnus Dei." "The Credo" is the only section left out of the choral work.
Rutter enhanced the four movements with English poetry, chronicling an entire day from waking to sleeping. Before the Mass begins, the children's choir will sing "Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun" from Bishop Thomas Ken's morning hymn, written in 1674 for the scholars of Winchester College.
"It's vintage Rutter," Reynolds said. "People love it because it's lyrically and musically accessible."
Each of the four children's choirs will learn the music on its own and then come together with the Choral Society Adult Chorus for one rehearsal the day of the concert.
"I know all of the choir directors well," said Reynolds, who is directing the Choral Society's Youth Choir. "Those kids will come prepared to sing the entire piece from memory."
The Choral Society first presented the "Mass of the Children" six years ago using three local youth church choirs. The performance was the impetus for creating the Choral Society Youth Choir.
The evening program also will feature nine British choral standards performed at royal occasions, including "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace," the well-known graduation processional "Pomp and Circumstance" and "Jerusalem," the theme from the film "Chariots of Fire."
To start things off, the orchestra will perform "Rhosymedre," the prelude of a Welsh hymn sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Adult Chorus will follow with "Old 100th," sung at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. They'll perform "O How Amiable" and "O Praise God in His Holiness," along with "Jerusalem," "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" and "I Was Glad," leading into the grand "Pomp and Circumstance."
The audience will be invited to join the choir as it sings "Land of Hope and Glory." At that point, the children's choir will form a processional into the tabernacle, filling the church with a polyphony of voices.
"The audience is going to love 'Mass of the Children,'" Reynolds said. "It's a very expressive piece."