By AnnaMarie Prono
Our Lady of Mercy Church in Forest Hills hosted its first of two Summer Sings in Queens featuring Mozart’s Requiem on Aug. 16. The Forest Hills Choir, in conjunction with the Queens Oratorio Society and Schola Sine Nomine, sponsored the event. The requiem was co-conducted by local, accomplished maestros, David Close and Ben Arendsen.
Close is the music director and organist at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, Forest Hills, and artistic director and conductor for the Oratorio Society of Queens. Arendsen is the music director of the Forest Hills Choir, and associate conductor for the Oratorio Society of Queens.
As guests started to arrive, they were given music scores and directed to pews designated for their voice ranges (soprano alto, tenor, bass). By 7:30 p.m. Graham Bobby of the Forest Hills Choir, who worked tirelessly to make this musical event come to life, greeted everyone and briefly described the event. Before introducing maestro David Close, Bobby said, “Now let’s do what we all love to do, sing!”
Close also gave a brief introduction and set the tone for what followed by opening with,“Mozart is glad you are here. Turn to the person next to you and say: God loves you and so do I.”
He suggested that people stand when singing, noting that there would be parts for soloists during the event, in which all could sit. He tickled the ivories and warmed up the chorus, before turning the piano over to pianist, Barbara Podgurski, the accompanist of the Oratorio Society of Queens. Together, Close and Podgurski led singers in the opening movement, Requiem.
“I felt like I was standing with the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera House. The crowd was so professional, and exuded their love for classical music,” said parishioner, Pauline Szabados.
The four soloists were Nora Mooney, Linda Collazzo, Gerard Gallagher and Nathan Bahny. All followed both Close’s and Arendsen’s direction, front and center at various parts of the requiem.
A brief intermission enabled over 100 participants the chance to meet other sacred music admirers. Arendsen conducted the second part of Mozart’s masterpiece.
Afterwards, parishioner Pat Caisson said, “This was my first time doing this. I had so much fun! The people were so kind and generous. They helped me right along.”
Both maestros were pleased with the turnout and success. David Close said, “You never know how these things will turn out. I thought it was a wonderful evening on many levels!”
Our Lady of Mercy’s next Summer Sing is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Ronnie Oliver Jr., will conduct Brahms’ Requiem, which is sung in German. Tickets are $15 and are available at the doors, which will open at 7:15 p.m. All are welcome.