Pockets of Choral Joy at Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Apr 29, 2016

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, founded in 1874, is a largely volunteer chorus of about 140 members.  As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, its new artistic director taps into the joy of singing to celebrate the past, present, and future of choral music.


Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia concludes its season on May 1st at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion in Philadelphia with a program that includes new works by Robert Maggio and James Primosch, along with music by Britten, Vaughan Williams, and others.

Radio script:

MUSIC:  Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor

Susan Lewis: Mozart wrote his Great Mass in C Minor in 1783;  Kile Smith composed his Agnus Dei in 2015, as a commission for Mendelssohn Club, which put the old and new works together.

MUSIC: Agnus Dei, Kile Smith  

Paul Rardin: That idea is one that Mendelssohn Club has really honed over the years.

SL:  Paul Rardin became Mendelssohn Club’s artistic director at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season.

PR:  Presenting at the same time a classic masterwork...and  a new work that nobody’s heard before that is somehow connected…creates so many pockets of joy.

SL: Exposing listeners to the joy in old and new choral music continues the work of longtime artistic director Alan Harler, who in 27 years commissioned 58 new works.  Rardin’s first season featured  Alleluias by Andrea Clearfield and Jennifer Higdon, each celebrating Harler’s legacy.

PR:  Andrea’s piece is very flowing, melodic, a reflective Allelulia. Its slower tempo makes it one that reveres Alan with great love and thoughtfulness.

MUSIC:  Alleluia for Alan, Andrea Clearfield

PR:  Jennifer’s does that too, but it's in a fast way...the voices are like bells — A handbell choir for bells is the way it felt to us.

MUSIC:  Allelulia for Alan, Jennifer Higdon

Alan Harler (3rd from left) and Paul Rardin (far right) with the four composers who wrote four pieces for the new series “Alleluias for Alan” - L to R: James Primosch, Jennifer Higdon, Alan Harler, Andrea Clearfield, Robert Maggio, Paul Rardin.

SL:  Rardin says his own refrain is: "Sing like you mean it." And he’s drawn to the passion of music around the world.

PR:  You get the sense  that the singing of it is the reason for being...the singing is necessary, powerful, and visceral.

SL:  Paul Rardin is the 13th director of Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia.