Amy Kotsonis directs singers during a Met Chorale rehearsal.

WATERLOO — The Metropolitan Chorale begins its 65th season with a Unity Concert and the premiere of a newly commissioned work Saturday.

The concert begins at 3 p.m. at Waterloo West High School Auditorium. The chorale will be joined by Hoover Middle School Choir and the First Baptist Church Adult and Children’s Choir.

There is no charge to attend. A reception will follow the event.

The concert celebrates the Cedar Valley’s rich diversity, while involving the community and showing appreciation for 65 years of community support, Kotsonis said.

“Sixty-five years is a big deal. We’re the oldest community chorus in the area, and we feel very fortunate. We want to embrace who we are and be around for another 65 years,” she explained.

“Music is universal. It brings people together from different places and backgrounds, and this concert will bring together people on stage, but also in the audience. We’re trying to represent the Cedar Valley and celebrate both our uniqueness and similarities.”

The program will feature the themes of hope, peace and dreams, including a composition written by Nancy Hill Cobb, professor of music at the University of Northern Iowa School of Music.

“She’s a wonderful chorale composer, and she writes so well for the voice. We really wanted to commemorate our 65th year and featuring an Iowa-based composer is a wonderful way to do that,” explained Kotsonis, who is assistant professor of choral ensembles and music education at UNI.

The chorale began rehearsing the new piece in December.

Cobb’s composition was inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem, “I Dream a World.” The award-winning composer’s choral music has been performed nationally and internationally and is widely published. In 2016, Cobb’s “Cantate Domino” was named one of the top five all-time best sellers by Santa Barbara Music Publishing. She recently composed a commission for the UNI Varsity Men’s Glee Club, “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.”

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“Text drives everything for me,” said Cobb, noting that this is her first commission for the Metropolitan Chorale. Setting text to music is pivotal when composing a piece. “I want to set the words properly to get the right notes, but also set the right mood for the poetry.”

She finds the punch line in the text or poem and uses the technique of unison “to help the choir sing the line. It’s very important that the text comes out to make sure the audience can understand the word.”

Cobb plans to be in the audience for the premiere.

Originally known as the Waterloo Chorale Association, the Metropolitan Chorale was founded in 1954, and is now considered one of the area’s premier choral groups. The chorale features both amateur and professional singers of all ages and musical experience from throughout the Cedar Valley. No auditions are held.

“It’s a joy to sing with the Metropolitan Chorale. When the parts come together, and we sing beautifully, and Amy has this little smile on her face, I feel that joy,” said Donna Mallin, president of the board of directors and a longtime chorale member.

The chorale’s vision for the future is “to widen the diversity of our singers and our audience. We want our community choir to represent all the communities in our metropolitan area. We want to better resemble the community in which we all live and sing,” Mallin said.

The Unity Concert is a step toward realizing that vision.

By concert’s end April 6, Kotsonis expects the stage will be filled with between 120 to 150 singers.

“Everyone will sing together at the end. It’s great to bring people together on stage. For our adults, we love working with kids. It’s also wonderful for children to see you can be a lifelong singer, that music can be a part of your life forever,” Kotsonis said.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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