'Trial by Jury'
Graphic illustration by Dan Talsky, daniel.talsky@journaltimes.com

Council Chambers in Racine’s City Hall is not where one typically goes to hear live music performed. Yet, that is exactly where the Choral Arts Society of Southeastern Wisconsin will present the first concert of its 2017/18 season on Saturday, Oct. 21.

And, according to the chorus’ artistic director, James Schatzman, Council Chambers is the perfect location for their performance of “Trial by Jury.”

The one-act, comic opera by Gilbert & Sullivan is a satire of the legal system and the recently refurbished Council Chambers — with its phenomenal acoustics and historic atmosphere — seems a very appropriate place to present such a courtroom drama, he said.

“It is a glorious room,” Schatzman said. “I don’t think people will want to miss this rare opportunity to hear music in one of Racine’s finest spaces.”

Topsy-turvy fun

Created in 1875, “Trial by Jury” is one of the earliest collaborations of the celebrated theatrical partnership of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. Still, it is a wonderful example of the humorous, topsy-turvy musical world they became known for creating, according to Schatzman.

“The lyrics are extremely clever,” he said. “You really have to pay attention to the words and, if you do, they will make you laugh.”

Audiences will meet a jilted bride, a disingenuous groom, an opportunistic old judge and a love-tainted jury, as they make their way to the show’s absurd, surprise ending. And the characters will be played by “some of the finest comedic actors in southeastern Wisconsin,” Schatzman said.

Featured artists will include soprano Nancy Anne Davis Hart, in the role of the plaintiff, Angelina; baritone Doug Clemons, as the judge; and tenor Paul Ivkovich as the defendant (he is also directing the show). When their voices are combined with those of the chorus, “this music is going to soar in that room,” Schatzman said.

Audiences should also keep an eye out for a couple “celebrity” walk-ons in this production. Since seating is limited, two performances are offered at 3 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21.

Another first

“Trial by Jury” is one of several firsts for the CAS in its new season. Another is their performance of Carl Orff’s masterwork “Carmina Burana,” which the chorus is co-producing with The Studio of Classical Dance Arts for a March performance at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Somers.

Studio directors Marc Darling and Linda Bennett, both former principal dancers with the Milwaukee Ballet, will choreograph and stage the production. Student dancers from The Studio will perform, along with the CAS and a group of young singers from Keith Griffin’s choral ensemble Our Musical Life. And together they will bring Orff’s score, which Schatzman described as “some of the most memorable and dramatic music ever written,” to life on stage.

“This is music people know,” he said. “It is emotional music and, when you see it danced, it will heighten that.”

“Carmina Burana” is one of the biggest projects the chorus has ever taken on, Schatzman said.

“We are so very fortunate to be able to work with Marc and Linda and their ballet company,” he said. “This performance is going to be quite memorable.”

Thoughtful music

The CAS will also delve into a topic that seems to be on the minds of many today, with its performance titled “Migration” in May. Presented at Racine’s First Presbyterian Church, this program will feature two, powerful works — “Letters from Ireland” by Mark Brymer, which will feature an Irish band; and “The Golden Door” by Ronald Perera, which will feature a chamber ensemble.

Each offers its own perspective on the subject of migration, while expressing the varied emotions of those who leave behind all that they know to strike out on their own in a new land, where everything from the language to the values are different. And, while they may differ in their focus, both works tell stories of people coming to America in search of freedom and opportunity, Schatzman said.

“At our best, that is something we’ve always represented as a country,” he said.

Schatzman said he is especially excited to be able to present this program in First Presbyterian Church, which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad — a U.S. network of secret routes and safehouses established in the mid-1800s to help African-American slaves escape to freedom.

“Being in that space brings even more reality to these issues,” he said.

Ringing in the season

Before the new year, though, the chorus will offer audiences the chance to welcome the Advent season with its popular “Lessons and Carols” concert the first weekend in December. All are invited to share the wonder of the Christmas story, told through ancient readings and evocative music.

This year’s production will feature the talents of baritone Nicholas Barootian in two performances — one at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Racine and the other at First United Methodist Church in Kenosha. As is tradition, the audience is invited to sing along during the program.

Tickets to single CAS shows cost $15 in advance or $17 at the door for adults; $12 or $14 for seniors and $5 for students. Season flex passes, which include four tickets to any of the performances, are available for $50 per adult, $40 per senior and $20 per student. They are available online at www.choralartsonline.org" target="_blank">www.choralartsonline.org and at Personal Touch by Julie Florists locations at 4060 N. Main St. and 5445 Spring St., with cash or check made out to Choral Arts Society.

More about the entire 2017/18 CAS season is available at www.choralartsonline.org or by calling 262-634-3250.

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