Ode to Joy – Choral Union at Lehigh University

page from Beethoven's original score

If you don’t know the title, you definitely know the tune. The melody is heard in the chorus section of the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth symphony. Written more than 144 years ago, the symphony remains one the best known works of Western classical music. If it the first symphony where a composer included the human voice. The lyrics were an adaptation of a poem written in 1785 by Friedrich Schiller.
The first American recording of this symphony by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934. The piece remains a standard for orchestras around the world, as well as a rite of passage for all conductors.
The symphony has been performed at the opening ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano Japan (Seiji Osawa conductor). It is now a New Year’s Eve tradition in Japan. The symphony has also become known as a significant celebration of peace such as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (Leonard Bernstein conductor). In 2008, Kosovo used it in their independence ceremonies.
Here’s a translation of Schiller’s poem. If you have any thoughts about how this was an appropriate tune for Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film A Clockwork Orange and the Die Hard movie series, we’d love to read your argument. OK… moving forward (the academic in us can’t help but get a little excited about information)
This semester, The Lehigh University Choral Union will welcome anyone from the campus and local community who wishes to join in the performance. If one has ever been to a Choral Union concert, you are familiar with the magic of the sound created from hundreds of voices joined by harmony under the expert leadership of Dr. Steven Sametz. That magic doesn’t come from a simple wish or without a little work. Just as in any athletic endeavor, one must train to accomplish any physical feat. Singing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy is physical. It takes a little stamina and dedication to make sure the intentions of the words and the beauty of the music are delivered at the composer intended. This shouldn’t weaken your resolve. Quite the opposite.
We found some words from Leonard Bernstein that may also offer more points of consideration:
Anything worth doing well is worth a little time. If you want to know more about the piece, there are a few books written about it available. We recommend getting this one from the Bethlehem Area Public library. If you want to really know the piece – from the inside experience, consider joining the Choral Union. Singer registration will being at 6PM on Monday, January 16th. But what about commitment? According to the production coordinator for the Choral Union (Charis Laskey), rehearsals occur most Mondays, between January 16th and the concerts (April 27-28). The only exception is the Monday of Spring Break (March 5th). Additionally, there will be a combined rehearsal with the University Choir (that’s just the students) on Saturday, April 14th from 10am-3:30pm. There will also be a dress rehearsal on Thursday, April 26th from 7:30-10:30pm.
If you have any questions about auditions, commitments, or anything else regard the opportunity, please contact Charis Lasky by email at charislucu@comcast.net
One added bonus – you’ll be performing in Baker Hall of the Zoellner Arts Center – one of the best acoustic experiences for concerts in the Lehigh Valley.
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