In preparing his “Lord Nelson Mass,” composer Haydn assigned the soprano soloist plenty of virtuosic singing.
That happened because Haydn was working with a particularly fantastic soprano, said Quintessence conductor Matt Greer.
Greer handed the soprano part to Ingela Onstad for the Quintessence Summer Choral Festival’s July 27 performance of the Mass in Rio Rancho.
“I’d say the most difficult part about the soprano line is probably the runs I have, the succession of quick notes,” Onstad said. “It’s a rather high range for a Mass like this … but not as high as parts I sing in operas.
“Generally, Masses and other concert works are a little bit more mid-range. (This) goes up to a high B flat or a high B natural. … It’s virtuosic in the realm of concert works but it’s not impossible,” added Onstad, who sang opera professionally in Germany for about six years.
Onstad, who recently received a master’s of music in vocal performance from the University of New Mexico, said the “Lord Nelson Mass” is a great mix of orchestra, chorus and soloists.
The other soloists in the performance are mezzo-soprano Darci Lobdell, tenor Seth Hartwell and bass Michael Hix. The chorus will have about 25 members of Quintessence augmented by more than 75 other voices.
“They are people in the community who love to sing choral music,” said Greer, who is artistic director of Quintessence: Choral Artists of the Southwest. “These people sing in several different choruses around the city but most are off during the summer. So this is a special event they can participate in.”
Though the event is a single concert, Greer calls it a festival. He explained: “Festival has a variety of meanings. … It’s a festival in that we’re putting together a chorus in a week’s time that’s never been a chorus before the concert itself.”
Last summer’s festival concert was at St. John’s Methodist Church. The 600 audience members filled the church. The capacity of the V. Sue Cleveland High School’s concert hall can handle twice that number, Greer said.
“It’s a wonderful space to do a concert. It has a great acoustic,” he said. “And Quintessence has not done many events on the West Side.”
Haydn wrote the Lord Nelson Mass in 1798 and originally titled it “Mass for Troubled Times.”
“He wrote 14 Masses and it’s probably his best known,” said Greer. “This is one that I’ve always loved. I sang it first in college. I was in the chorus. I think it’s a very dramatic setting. It has lots of really beautiful moments, some of which are dark and some of which are light.”