Arts & Entertainment

Choral group livens up classical music

The Philadelphia Singers record Randall Thompson’s “Requiem.”

They’ve learned the notes and the lyrics, now the next step for the Philadelphia Singers is recording. With the help of donors, the local choral group is sharing its love of classical music, performances and interactive events. 

In January, the Philadelphia Singers raised $4,560 through Kickstarter for the opportunity to perform and record Randall Thompson’s “Requiem.”

The Philadelphia Singers quickly surpassed its goal of $1,500 thanks to backers who donated thousands more than expected.

Maren Montalbano, a mezzo-soprano featured on the recording of “Requiem,” said she believes it will not only have an impact on the Philadelphia Singers, but on its audience as well.

“It feels like I am a part of history,” Montalbano said. “This is a really important piece of work that hasn’t been recorded that often because of its difficulty. It was done top-of-the-line, though, and I think it will stand the test of time.”

Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website that helps creative projects gain funding through pledges, involves a lot of participation from those fundraising to get the word out there and gain support.

“[The Philadelphia Singers] used social media, mostly Facebook, to get the word out about our Kickstarter,” Montalbano said. “We have tried to do a Kickstarter before, which wasn’t as successful. This time, it was well thought out and became a success.”

Executive Director Megan M. Machnik also credits some of the success of the project to social media.

“People across the country, from New York to California, donated money, which shows the power of social media,” Machnik said. “Some of the singers pitched in too, which was unbelievable. Personally, I couldn’t believe how humbled and excited I was about the support that our Kickstarter received.”

With the money pledged from backers, as well as $55,000 they received in foundation grants, the Philadelphia Singers set out on a two-day session to create the first-ever “Requiem” recording.

“The recording was finished the night of Jan. 26,” Montalbano said. “It was really well done and we finished earlier than expected, which rarely ever happens. It was recorded inside the Curtis Institute of Music, which is a really nice facility. Overall, it was a positive experience.”

Along with the groundbreaking recording, the Philadelphia Singers use music outreach programs to involve the city in the art of classical music.

“The biggest goal of our programs it to expose the beauty and accessibility of classical music, especially at a young and impressionable age,” Machnik said. “We want to show that it doesn’t have to be about a stuffy concert hall, it’s about fun.”

Programs such as Chorus Connect, where the Philadelphia Singers join with school choirs in Philadelphia, aim to teach young students classical music in a new light. Conductors from the Philadelphia Singers visit these schools and help prepare them for a winter concert.

“When we have these programs, we are making a direct impact by encouraging people to participate in this type of music,” Montalbano said. “We are passing along good information to future generations.”

The Philadelphia Singers also holds events for all ages in hopes of bringing the community together through classical music. “Bring Your Sing” was an event the choral group hosted this past summer. Approximately 150 people with no professional experience joined professional singers to sing a piece by Mozart.

“With this recording and the events we have, I see an opportunity to bring classical music into the lives of even more people around the city,” Machnik said. “Although we are just a cog in the arts of Philadelphia, it is really important for us to go out and connect with the people. Classical music is an amazing and important tradition, and no one should miss out on it.”

Siobhan Redding can be reached at siobhan.redding@temple.edu.

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