BENNINGTON >> Naturally, the Bennington County Choral Society has performed pieces from the 20th century. This weekend, that trend will continue in its spring concert, "Cries of War, Hopes for Peace."

The show will be held at the First Congregational Church in Manchester on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and at the Bennington Center for the Arts on Sunday at 3 p.m. Soloists Jenna Rae and James Anderson will join the society, as well as a small group from the Bennington Children's Chorus. On Sunday, last year's Scholarship Audition winner and pianist Patrick James Staples will take the stage first. He studied the instrument for nine years and is a student at the Long Trail School, according to a release.

Rae is the co-founder of PanOpera and sang the title role in "Tosca," according to a release. Anderson sings tenor and has a career in opera houses and concert halls throughout South America, Africa, Europe, and the United States. Both currently teach in Brattleboro.

Prior to the performances, Music Director Cailin Marcel Manson will provide a half hour information session about each musical piece.

"The community can really take ownership of this institution of choral society," Manson said. "It's a representation of the area and the more I work with them and the more people come into the choral society, it just says something about the community feeling."


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The program encompasses "Dona Nobis Pacem" by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, the "Chichester Psalms" by Leonard Bernstein and "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber.

"The theme: "Cries of War, Hopes for Peace," has to do with the particular text that the chosen repertoire has to do with. Three pieces, two full, and a middle piece for strings alone," Manson said. "The choral pieces basically were composed by a continual longing four piece and try to evoke the human impact of war. There are also a bunch of different texts from the Bible, Walt Whitman and the Old Testament and part of a speech from John Blight to describe the effects of war and some of the impacts of war."

Inspiration for choosing which pieces to play are associated with a theme, Manson explained, and typically take a innate path. For example, it's winter concert theme surfaced with the tragedies Paris was experiencing at the time.

"I think that there is sort of a philosophical threat that is going through it. By my own inspiration, or by a conductor and artist I see what's going on and what's around me and reflective of the times or has a message that speaks to now, even if it's 200 years old," he said. "I want it to have a story that's being told with some relevance to what we're experiencing, or what the zeitgeist is. Some things happened without me even knowing."

The theme around this concert's "emotionally gripping masterpieces" reveals the negativity in war, but with the consistent prospect of peace and neutrality. Blight's speech reflects the impact of war, and Whitman's text describes a funeral procession for a double grave of two individuals lost in war. In the final piece of the concert, there's a juxtaposition between the females and males of the choir.

"Ladies singing 23 psalm in a blissfully ignorant pastoral way and the men of the choir with percussion raging in a savage motif back against the ladies peacefulness of war and peace in the sound of the piece. At the end it ends with how beautiful it is," he said. "The entire concert is about this juxtaposition between the sonic representation and a longing for peace."

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door, in advance from choristers, or at the Bennington Bookshop. Student tickets cost $10 at the door. The Bennington Center for the Arts is located at 44 Gypsy Ln., and the First Congrgational Churh is located at 3624 Main St. in Manchester. For more information visit thebennington.org.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.