The Mineola Choral Society will open its 70th anniversary performance season in a style consistent with its classical roots, presenting Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem, along with other pieces by Mozart and Jean Racine in a program at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Franklin Square on Sunday, Jan. 28.
Conductor Thomas Jones who is entering his 12th year as the group’s musical director, said the group seeks the sort of challenges that naturally come with performing the demanding devotional music of great composers.
“Composers respond to sacred texts,” Jones said. “It tends to pull from them a major effort and that of course, goes back centuries.”
According to Jones, the 80 amateur members of the Mineola Choral Society respond to the performance challenges at hand. Some members of the choral society are music teachers themselves while other members have limited musical experience. The choral society currently consists of members from all walks of life who live in Mineola, New Hyde Park, the Willistons, Roslyn, Great Neck, Port Washington, Westbury and other central Nassau County communities.
“The group goes and studies on its own and that’s been a matter of trust when we’ve taken on more ambitious works,” Jones said. “That’s why we can do a nice ambitious schedule—including Handel’s “Messiah” in the Christmas concert and the two addition concerts.”
The Mineola chorus performed its free annual Christmas concert with the Nassau Pops Orchestra at Chaminade High School in December. The group’s other major concerts are staged in January and May.
The Mineola Choral Society of Long Island was formed in 1947 as a part of an adult education program at Mineola High School and presented its first concert in 1948. Later on, the group became an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the performance of choral music and has doubled in size from the time when Jones took over as conductor in 2006.
Under the direction of Jones, the choral society has covered the works of Bach, Handel, Brahms and Mozart it has also performed works by Berlin, Copland, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gershwin. In addition, the chorus has also performed for civic organizations, nursing homes and hospitals, libraries and at a variety of special events.
Most of the members of the amateur choir have had prior experience singing in a church choir or other local singing group before they auditioned for the choir. Some people joined the choir—which has a range in age to match its repertoire—after taking a long break from singing.
“We were the sum of the efforts of many people,” Jones said. “There is a given level of singing ability. I’ve loved looking at a chorus of different ages and levels of ability willing to pull together and produce this wonderful music and emphasize working together as a community of singers. We as a society tend not to think in collective manner of things.”
Along with serving as the MCS conductor, Jones is the conductor of the Huntington Men’s Chorus and the Stone House Singers, a chamber choir based in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He also has been the assistant conductor of the New York Choral Society and the New York Choral Society Chamber Singers.
“Tom challenges us,” said Baldwin resident Mary Schmidt, a veteran member of the Mineola Choral Society. “For me, it gave me discipline in stretching myself with this kind of music. I had always sung in school. I never thought I could do this kind of music with sight reading.”
Schmidt, an alto, had sung in a glee club and a folk music group in college. She joined the Mineola chorus after hearing the group perform Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” several years ago.
“It blew my socks off,” she recalled.
It had been 20 years since Port Washington resident Bob Prokkop had sung in a choir when he joined the group as a bass 15 years ago after hearing the group perform the Brahms Requiem.
“It’s been great,” said Prokkop. “I love it. I enjoy the practice. I enjoy the people. It’s a great group. I always liked the classics and choral music is particularly interesting.”
Tickets for the Mineola Choral Society’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem with a full orchestra and soloists on Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. at St. Catherine of Sienna in Franklin Square can be purchased for $20 in advance by calling 516-204-1175.