La Jolla Symphony & Chorus amasses 300 performers for ‘Requiem’

La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) will perform Hector Berlioz’s “Requiem,” in the fourth concert of its 60th anniversary season, 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 13, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14 and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 15 at UC San Diego’s Mandeville Auditorium.

Music director Steven Schick will conduct orchestra, chorus and special guests — the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus and tenor soloist John Tiranno — in one of the most fabulous pieces of music ever conceived.

Berlioz’s “Requiem,” composed in 1837, is one of the grandest settings of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead.

Berlioz knew while composing it that his Grand messe des morts, as he called it, would be premiered in Les Invalides, the cathedral of the military hospital in Paris. With the cathedral’s huge, resonant interior and gigantic dome in mind, Berlioz created a sound that would fill that space.

For an “ideal” performance, the composer imagined an orchestra of 200 and a chorus of equal size that could be doubled or tripled, as space permitted. Berlioz surrounds the chorus and orchestra with four brass ensembles that burst to life at climactic points and eight pair of timpani to lend their thunder to dramatic moments.

Combining 70 voices from the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus with its own 130-voice chorus, large orchestra, four brass bands and 16 timpani, LJS&C will perform the work in all its spectacle. Schick will offer a pre-concert lecture one hour prior to concert times.

In other La Jolla Symphony & Chorus news:

Mini documentary traces LJS&C history

■ In 1954, Bulgarian conductor Peter Nicoloff found himself in La Jolla and decided to put together an orchestra of non-professional musicians who would play for fun. On Nov. 11, 1954 he led them in "an open rehearsal” that took place in the parlor of the Congregational Church on Cave Street, and the La Jolla Civic Orchestra was born!

Performances moved to La Jolla High School auditorium and later Sherwood Hall.

In 1967, the newly formed music department at UC San Diego was looking to sponsor an orchestra. The Civic Orchestra became an “affiliate,” under the direction of Thomas Nee, and was soon joined by a chorus comprised of singers from all of the churches in La Jolla.

To celebrate its 60th anniversary and hundreds of performances, LJS&C put together a lively 6-minute documentary. View it at bit.ly/LJSChistory

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