LENOX, Mass. — Nearly 100 voices will peal forth in harmony once more from the Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood this Sunday as the Berkshire Lyric Chorus performs its annual concert for the first time since 2019.
COVID-19 prevented the community's biggest choir consisting of 85 people from performing the annual event and forced it to find virtual alternative options.
"Everyone's vaccinated. We've had to wear masks during rehearsals, which is not very comfortable to sing with, but people are eager to get back to this kind of thing," said Jack Brown, the chorus's executive director. "In a normal year, the choir would probably be a little bigger, but 80's a huge group."
Berkshire Lyrics is the oldest and largest chorus in the area and has been around since 1963 with volunteer members ranging in age from 6 to 83. The chorus and its three choirs explore the power of choral art and its ability to impact both the singer and the listener and perform at churches and other venues throughout the region.
The chorus will be performing the last piece Mozart wrote before he died in 1791, "Mozart Requiem," which is a Mass for the dead. They performed this six years ago and had not planned on performing it again so soon but felt that the tone of the work is relevant to the world's current climate.
"We did do the 'Mozart Requiem' in 2016. And I hadn't planned on on repeating this soon, but I thought with the pandemic and everything. It's a very popular work that part of the choir knows and we can do a good job ... [it] is a very, very moving piece," Brown said.
"Requiem is really a Mass for the dead. And we've lost so much of Berkshire County with the pandemic that I think it's got a lot of meaning to it for people that know that work."
Ozawa Hall is available for a limited period in the spring when the Boston Symphony Orchestra rents it out to local groups before it takes over the campus for the summer season in late June.
The Berkshire Lyric Chorus makes an effort to perform in the 1,200-seat hall because it is big enough to fill the space and because it has plenty of light and good acoustics.
"Ozawa Hall is one of the great concert halls of the country, but it's right in our back yard because of the BSO," Brown said. "It's an expensive undertaking, and they give us a little bit of a discount. I think we're the only group in the county that makes the effort to do that, because we're big enough and we work hard to raise a lot of money to get in there.
"There's a real thrill to this big music. In a concert hall where there's a lot of space and great acoustics, plenty of light, you can spread out, you can see everything, there's room for an orchestra."
The chorus has tried for the past decade to perform at Ozawa Hall on Memorial Day weekend. The concert is its biggest performance of the year and takes up most of the budget.
"This is a big thing. It's about half our budget for the entire year," Brown said. "It's kind of a big thing for us and the audience really loves it. ...
"It's just a beautiful place to be. No one's been able to close Ozawa Hall for three years. So, I'm thinking people will be here to get out just to see the grounds and this beautiful hall."
The chorus will be accompanied by a full orchestra and a solo quartet that will include Maria Valdes, Sam Krausz, Marjorie Dix and John Demler.
Valdes is a soprano known in the Berkshires for her leading roles with Berkshire Opera Festival. Krausz is a tenor from Chicago who recently won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions for Indiana. Dix is a mezzo for the Metropolitan Opera and Demler is Berkshire Lyric's resident vocal artist.
The chorus has three choirs separated by age. Ubi Caritas consists of 22 young adults between the ages of 16 and 28. This choir was formed in 2011 and meets for two months every summer when most of the members are home from college.
The Melodious Accord is an auditioned group of 10 to 15 school-age girls who perform a cappella and diverse music from several centuries and traditions.
The Lyric Children's Chorus is the only tuition-free professionally led chorus in the region and it seeks to instill a love of music by providing a musical experience from a diverse range of styles and centuries to children between the ages of 6 to 13.
For more information on Berkshire Lyric or to purchase tickets, visit the website.