A Pulitzer Prize-nominated composer has invited local amateur singers from the Syracuse Pops Chorus (Syracuse Symphony Pops Chorus) to premiere his new musical next month in Colorado Springs.
Composer Roger Ames, whose recent works include the Pulitzer-nominated oratorio A Requiem for Our Time and the oratorio Remember Warsaw, invited members of the Syracuse Pops Chorus to join the Colorado Springs’ Central City Opera and The Chamber Orchestra of the Springs for the debut of his musical, How Green Was My Valley. Performances of the work, presented by the Colorado Springs Conservatory, will take place Aug. 14 and 15 at First United Methodist Church, in Colorado Springs.
The Syracuse Pops Chorus is an amateur group with a membership that fluctuates from about 80 to 100 singers. The group’s trip to Colorado Springs will be its first major traveling performance.
Leads from the Colorado Springs Central City Opera and members of the Syracuse Pops Chorus will showcase Ames’ How Green Was My Valley as an opera in concert. Singers will perform in costume, but the premiere will not be a fully staged production, according to Lou Lemos, the chorus director.
WATCH Lou Lemos on Bridge Street
Thirty Syracuse Pops members — including eight basses, eight tenors, eight altos and six sopranos — will participate in Ames’ premiere. They volunteered for the performances and have fronted their own travel expenses until group fundraising can reimburse them.
Lemos views this as a unique experience for members of the group.
“This was an opportunity I didn’t want to let go,” he said. “You don’t get to do a world premiere of anything very often.”
Ames’ How Green Was My Valley is based on the 1939 Richard Llewellyn novel and the Academy Award winning 1941 John Ford film of the same name. The story centers on the Morgan family as they struggle to adapt to the social and environmental changes brought about by coal mining in Wales in the 19th century. The music in Ames’ version is strongly influenced by Welsh hymns.
“There are some amazingly beautiful tunes that are very Welsh, if there’s such a thing as a Welsh theme or a Welsh mood,” Lemos said.
Lemos has known Ames since the two attended Crane School of Music together in Potsdam. When Ames could not find enough suitable singers for his musical in Colorado Springs, he turned to the Syracuse group.
“(Ames) didn’t think that the chorus there was good enough, and he asked if we would come,” said Lemos. “I threw it out to my group, and the answer was yes. So that’s why we’re going.”
This collaboration is not the first time Ames has worked with the Syracuse Pops Chorus. A combination arrangement of the patriotic tunes God Bless America and America the Beautiful Ames wrote for the Syracuse Pops Chorus has become one of the its signature pieces.
“He amazingly put together one of the most beautiful pieces that I’ve ever sung, and to this day we do it, usually as our encore. It’s kind of our theme piece,” Lemos said. “which is why we’re excited to do something bigger for Roger (Ames).”
After the premiere in Colorado, Ames may arrange a choral version of the How Green Was My Valley theme for the Syracuse Pops Chorus to perform with Symphoria in October.
To send its 30 singers to the Colorado venue, the Syracuse Pops Chorus must raise about approximately $25,000. The organization’s Kickstarter page went live last Thursday, and they are also accepting donations mailed to the following address:
Syracuse Pops Chorus Inc.
124 E. Jefferson StreetSt.
Syracuse, NY 13202