True Concord Voices & Orchestra will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” at the 5th annual Tucson Desert Song Festival later this month.
Mendelssohn’s oratorio retells events from the life of Prophet Elijah in the Books of Kings. “‘Elijah’ is, like its composer, complex,” says True Concord Musical Director Eric Holtan. Mendelssohn was born to a prominent German Jewish family, but raised without religion until his parents had him baptized at age 7, perhaps to help him assimilate in a Christian-dominated society. A precocious musician who was inspired by the Baroque style of Bach, Mendelssohn still experienced discrimination in his lifetime, when he was denied a position at Berlin’s Sing-Akademie. During the Nazi era, Hitler banned his music.
“Mendelssohn’s music reflects the synergistic influences of both Jewish and Christian traditions in his life,” says Holtan. “Elijah” evokes the prophet’s miracles, battles with Baal, and ultimately, a heroic defense of the Israelites.
“Elijah” will be the largest performance in True Concord’s history, marking the first professional presentation of the work in Southern Arizona. Richard Paul Fink, Grammy award-winning baritone, will sing the role of Elijah. Three rising opera stars from Chicago’s renowned Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute will perform solos. “We had hoped to perform ‘Elijah’ at Anshei Israel, but with 13 soloists, 70 vocalists and 50 orchestral players, we could not fit the [bimah] space,” says Holtan.
Holtan created True Concord (then known as Tucson Chamber Artists) in 2004 after finishing his doctorate in choral and orchestral conducting at the University of Arizona. “I recognized Tucson’s rich arts scene — theater, ballet, symphony, and opera — yet no professional chamber choir and orchestra.” Thirteen years later, with two Grammy nominations and one win to its record, True Concord draws premier vocalists and instrumentalists from across the nation.
The Arizona Daily Star says True Concord’s “Elijah” is “arguably the cornerstone of the 2017 Tucson Desert Song Festival.” Performances are on Jan. 27, 28 and 29 at venues in Tucson and Green Valley. Tickets are available at trueconcord.org.
Leslie Glaze is a community volunteer.