The Winston-Salem Symphony Chorus is teaming up with bluegrass stars Hank, Pattie & the Current for a concert to be streamed on demand starting at 7:30 p.m. April 24.
Hank, Pattie & the Current will join the Winston-Salem Symphony Chorus to lend energetic bluegrass rhythms to the sacred liturgy in composer Carol Barnett’s “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass.”
“The World Beloved” concert, presented by the Winston-Salem Symphony, will stream on demand for 30 days on the symphony’s Stage Pass and on Artarie, a streaming platform for arts and culture.
The concert was performed and recorded earlier this month at Reynolds Auditorium. Winston-Salem Symphony Chorus Director Christopher Gilliam is the conductor.
Gilliam said the symphony chorus has been working in unique, safe spaces throughout the season amid the pandemic in preparation for the concert.
Of the nearly 100 members of the Winston-Salem Symphony Chorus, “about 40 were willing to mask up and sing with us,” he said.
During the fall, rehearsal spaces for “The World Beloved” included a Winston-Salem city parking garage and the parking area of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church until it got too cold outside. More recently, the symphony chorus has rehearsed at the Hanesbrands Theatre and Star of Bethlehem Lutheran Church.
“We’re delighted to perform this amazing work; despite the challenges we all have faced because of the pandemic,” Gilliam said.
Barnett’s “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” first premiered in 2007.
The symphony stated that the piece “blends the classical mass, modern choral sophistication, touching poetry and traditional bluegrass instrumentation into an exhilarating musical experience.”
Barnett “creates audacious and engaging music, both for traditional instrumentation, and for cross-pollinations such as a mass accompanied by a bluegrass band or a duet for steel pan and organ. “
Barnett has been a force in the Minnesota music scene since 1970. She was composer in residence with the Dale Warland Singers from 1992 to 2001 and taught composition at Augsburg College from 2000-2015.
In a program note about “The World Beloved,” Barnett wrote: “To bring the solemnity of the classical-based mass together with the down-home sparkle of bluegrass — now there’s an assignment. My highest hope is that listeners coming from one tradition — classical or bluegrass — and perhaps dubious about the other, might discover something new and wonderful in the combination.”
“The World Beloved” concert will open with Hank, Pattie & the Current performing several songs with the Winston-Salem Symphony String Quartet. The second part of the concert features the chorale performing with Hank Pattie & the Current.
“Hank, Pattie & the Current is going to be doing some solos and playing in the ensemble, and some of our symphony chorus folks will be soloing in the concert as well,” Gilliam said.
There are 12 movements in the piece, and a couple of them are a cappella.
“What happens is the bluegrass band, which is made up of a fiddle, a mandolin, a banjo, an acoustic guitar and string bass, will be accompanying us,” Gilliam said.
In their bluegrass music, Hank Smith and Pattie Hopkins Kinlaw draw from different styles including classical and Motown. They are backed by musicians Stevie Martinez on bass and vocals and Billie Feather on guitar.
“We are extremely excited to be working with the Winston-Salem Symphony again this year,” Pattie Hopkins Kinslaw said. “This will be an uplifting, unique experience that invites the classical music enthusiast as well as our beloved folk fans. Come join us to celebrate the union of two beautiful genres and the joy we all share as we perform again.”
Gilliam said that “The World Beloved” is an interesting combination of classical and bluegrass that he thinks “will give both lovers of their individual art an appreciation for the other.”
He added, “It’s an exciting piece. It’s a unique piece. We’ve never sung anything like this before, but we’re hoping to attract a large audience.”