14 Songs in 14 Days: Day 12, Knoxville Choral Society and Exploration of the Master Work

Recap: I was challenged by one of my friends in EMU Choir to participate in one of those “14 Songs in 14 Days” kind of things, where you list or discuss 14 pieces of music that have had a profound impact on your life! Seeing as to how I have an abundance of time on my hands that I’m using only semi-usefully to this point in the quarantine/isolation, I figured why not step up my game a bit and use this challenge as the theme of a blog post series. For the entire series, click here.

Good afternoon—or at least, 6:30 pm EDT basically feels like the afternoon when your sense of time is distorted beyond reasonable hope of recovery!

I missed out on posting yesterday after once again having a few too many things left on the to do list by the end of the evening [if there’s one thing I’ve excelled at during this Coronavirus isolation it’s making lengthy lists to check off in my journal…hope I don’t run out of pages, because I can’t get back into the office at school to retrieve the next one without jumping through approximately all the hoops…] On top of all that, I had to get up early (ok… 8 am) for a faculty meeting on Zoom at 10. Woo. Besides that, this series is clearly looking like it’s going to end up at more like 21-or-so-days/I’ve-already-lost-count-of-the-number-of-songs, so we’ve got to pace ourselves, right? There doesn’t appear to be an end to the quarantine in the imminent future anyway.

Picking up where we last left off, I wanted to talk today a bit more about my time in the Knoxville Choral Society, since I focused most of the last post on the Knoxville Chamber Chorale. In that post, I wrote a bit about how we auditioned for the group right near the cut off to start the season, but then it took a little time after getting in to get used to/comfortable with how a large community choir operates. That seems strange to say that now that I’ve been singing in large community choirs for going on 10 years now…wow! But these kinds of non-profit arts organizations—found in cities and towns all over the country, mind you, but with quite varied levels of success and stability—are entirely different beasts in terms of how they operate compared to what younger singers are commonly used to singing in/with (namely, school and possibly church/religious choirs).

Looking back on the six years as a whole, I’d have to say that my most favorite aspect of singing with KCS would have to be the many, many times we sang major choral works with KCS (frequently in collaboration with the Knoxville Symphony under the artistic direction of Maestro Lucas Richman for most of those years) and our other collaborations with the KSO such as the annual Clayton Holiday Concerts in December. It didn’t always seem like it at the time—usually, it felt like we were always in need of maaaaaaybe one more week of rehearsal, but I’ve since found out that it nearly always seems that. The concept of over-rehearsal is nearly a mythical beast in this world…

So in my survey of the major works the group performed during that time, I thought it might actually be fun to list them—not to show off or anything, but to look back proudly on hard work accomplished…this is not a skill that many musicians excel at. [So often we’re off from one gig to the next; always chasing the next shiny thing.]


  • Beethoven, 9th Symphony
  • Mozart, Coronation Mass


  • Handel, Zadok the Priest
  • Handel, ‘Utrecht’ Jubilate Deo
  • Eleanor Daley, Te Deum
  • Duruflé, Requiem


  • Verdi, Messa da Requiem
  • Bach, Magnificat
  • Handel, Messiah


  • Vaughan Williams, Mass in G Minor
  • Schubert, Mass in G
  • Dan Forrest, Requiem for the Living


  • Dvořák, Stabat Mater
  • Brahms, A German Requiem (Eng.)
  • Clausen, Memorial


  • Rutter, Te Deum
  • Poulenc, Gloria

It’s entirely possible, too, that I may be missing one or two…and this list doesn’t include a work for major forces (large choir, orchestra, and 5-piece folk band) that the KCS commissioned, John Purifoy’s The Blue and the Grey, around the time of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

Of all of these, the one that probably stands out the most as influential or life changing would have to be performing the Verdi Requiem with the KSO in April 2013. I’ve now sung it (the choral bits anyway; I’d love a crack at the tenor soloist at some point in my vocal career…) twice, getting the chance to perform it in 2019 in Detroit’s Orchestra Hall with the combined forces of the Detroit Concert Choir, Oakland Symphony Orchestra, and Oakland University Symphony Chorus and Madrigal Chorale under the direction of Dr. Mike Mitchell. As my first time singing in Orchestra Hall, that concert, much like the one with KCS/KSO, will not soon be forgotten.

I leave you with a recording of the entire Verdi Req. from a live performance at the 2011 Proms. The introduction to the video and subsequent short biographical/interview parts at the beginning says what I would say about why the masterwork is so important—the combination of Verdi’s operatic writing with the religious text for the Requiem mass has created something so powerful that it ranks as one of the most performed major work (at least requiring choral forces), right up there with the Mozart Requiem as well.

One thought on “14 Songs in 14 Days: Day 12, Knoxville Choral Society and Exploration of the Master Work”

  1. Majestic! But not the same as being there. Glad you had the opportunity to sing it twice, and you probably will sing it again.


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