Lawrence orchestra, choir prepare all-Mozart concert

The Lawrence Chamber Orchestra and the Lawrence Civic Choir are teaming up to present a night of Mozart.

The orchestra will open the concert with a performance of “A Little Night Music,” guest conducted by Steven Elisha.

An internationally acclaimed cellist, Elisha has traveled the world as a soloist and chamber musician. Elisha teaches at Washburn University as the Artist in Residence and is the principal cellist with the Topeka Symphony. Last year, the Kansas Federation of Music Clubs awarded “Musicians of the Year” to Elisha for his work with the Elaris Duo.

However, the internationally renowned cellist is no stranger to conducting. Since the age of 9, Elisha has studied conducting and is currently the director of the Topeka Youth Symphony.

“As much as it seems that I haven’t been pursuing a conducting career, it seems to be pursuing me,” Elisha says.

Elisha is a candidate for the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra’s music director position.

“(Elisha) is one person we’d like to see in action so to speak,” says Mick Braa, general manager of the orchestra.

Braa is hoping to have the director position filled by June.

For now, Elisha is looking forward to breathing new life into “A Little Night Music.”

The Lawrence Chamber Orchestra rehearses for an upcoming all-Mozart concert. The orchestra will join forces with the Lawrence Civic Choir for the concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive.

Mozart originally wrote the piece as background music for parties. Now, Elisha believes it is one of the most overplayed works in the classical repertoire.

“I want to make it as fresh as if it were written yesterday,” Elisha says.

“Night Music” should offer a pleasant contrast to the heaviness and somber tone of “Requiem,” Elisha says.

Steve Eubank, Lawrence Civic Choir director, will conduct both groups through the piece.

The performance of “Requiem” will feature the orchestra’s largest ensemble this season — 29 musicians. The choir will add 100 singers and four soloists: Lynda Canaday, soprano; Elizabeth Schellman, mezzo-soprano; Robert Franz, tenor; and Jim Smith, bass.

Like all of Mozart’s music, “Requiem” is a challenge to perform.

“Mozart gets more notes into a measure than any other composer, and you have to be able to sing each note clearly,” says Gloria Baker, a soprano in the choir.

Even though the groups will perform together only once before the concert, they are up to the challenge.

The Lawrence Civic Choir performs during a previous Christmas concert. The vocalists on Saturday will perform Mozart's Requiem with the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra.

“Steve Eubank is a dynamic choral director and conductor,” Braa says. “He knows how the singers are going to perform as well as the orchestra, so they will blend.”

The night promises to be a good sample of the contrasting temperaments of Mozart.