The two choirs live and practice more than 100 miles apart.
But Mid-Columbia Mastersingers and Spokane Choral Artists have forged a strong connection the last few years — one that will be on display this weekend when the two top-level ensembles perform in Kennewick. The concerts are March 27-28.
The choirs also performed together last weekend in Spokane.
Justin Raffa, artistic director of Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, said it can be easy for performance groups to become insulated because “you’ve got your own concerns, your own stuff to pump out all the time. There’s not always room to partner with someone else.”
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But he and Max Mendez, the artistic director of Spokane Choral Artists, are good friends. And “building the choral community on this side of the state is important to us,” Raffa said. “I think it’s really encouraging when you meet people in other communities who are doing the same thing as you.”
Raffa and Mendez met through Male Ensemble Northwest, a choral group made up of music directors and educators from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Eventually, “we said, ‘Why don’t we try something together?” Raffa recalled.
So they did. The 2013 collaboration was well received, and Raffa said it seemed natural to team up again.
During the latest shows, the groups are performing pieces for double choir by a range of composers.
“The centerpiece is a cantata-style work by Vivaldi, with chamber orchestra and ornate vocal solos, very similar to his well-known Gloria,” Raffa told the Herald. Other works include pieces by Johannes Brahms and John Tavener, as well as living composers John Rutter, Eric Whitacre and John Muehleisen.
Muehleisen is based in the Seattle area and plans to be at the Kennewick performances, Raffa said.
Raffa and Mendez trade off conducting pieces during the shows, with the music building and flowing — from energetic to haunting, ethereal to robust and lively.
Raffa said he hopes the collaboration between the two choirs inspires the Tri-City community to continue collaborating — building on momentum generated through initiatives such as the re-branding effort announced last year. And the idea is that it inspires in other ways, too.
“It’s not just a fun night out. There’s transformative power in what we do. When you sit and listen to beautiful text sung by amazing singers — it hits you,” Raffa said. “You are different for experiencing that. At least that’s what we hope.”
The performance in Kennewick starts at 8 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 520 S. Garfield St.
Raffa and Mendez will give a “Behind the Music” talk a half-hour before each performance, sharing background about the composers and music and discussing the collaboration between the two choral groups.
Tickets for the performances are $20 in advance or $22 at the door. K-12 students are admitted for free.
Tickets are available online at www.midcolumbiamastersingers.org.