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Summit Choral Society commemorating Kent’s May 4

4/17/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Frank Jacobs, founder and artistic director of the Summit Choral Society, will conduct when the Masterworks Chorale performs its spring concert April 26.
Photo courtesy of Summit Choral Society
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Frank Jacobs was a state away when four students were shot to death at Kent State University (KSU) on May 4, 1970, as anti-war protests escalated there.

“I was teaching at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.,” said Jacobs, now a Fairlawn resident who moved to the Akron area in 1977. “I was on a campus, and it obviously shook the whole world when that happened, so I was not untouched by that event.”

With the 44th anniversary of the KSU shooting approaching, Jacobs, artistic director and founder of the Summit Choral Society, thought it might be fitting to memorialize it in the Masterworks Chorale’s annual spring show.

The result is “Spanning the Spectrum: A Unique Musical Odyssey,” to be performed April 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St. The concert will feature Karl Jenkins’ “A Mass for Peace,” as well as Carol Barnett’s “A World Beloved: Bluegrass Mass” with the Honeytown Bluegrass Band, from Kidron.

The evening also will feature a preconcert lecture at 6:30 with Jerry Lewis, KSU professor emeritus of sociology.

“Those of us sitting there when the idea blossomed were all aware that every year Kent State does something — in fact, many things — to commemorate that tragedy,” Jacobs said. “So we decided first of all to connect with some Kent State folks and see what was going on. I had the first conversation with [Lewis], and he’s such an engaging guy and so passionate about keeping the memory of that day and events in the consciousness of who will listen, we figured it was a good idea.”

The piece by Jenkins, a Welsh composer, is an anti-war composition that Jacobs said “communicates very easily and powerfully with the listener.”

“What he did was take the ordinary — the mass — and interwoven in those texts are poetry that he hand selected that expresses these ideas of war and the casualties and the absolute tragedy of war,” he said. “It’s very tonal — he uses the sheer weight and quality of percussion instruments and brass to get a hold of listeners’ emotions.”

The 75-member chorus will be accompanied in the piece by a full brass quartet and four percussionists, in addition to flute, piccolo, string bass and cello, Jacobs said.

The Barnett work is something the chorus previously performed and found to be a challenge, Jacobs said.

“We did this piece about five or six years ago, and I have to say that many singers felt it was the most difficult work they had ever prepared,” he said.

Bluegrass is usually considered a more foot-stomping music, but in this case, “the harmonies are not as predictable as you might imagine,” Jacobs said.

The two pieces will be a contrast, but he thinks ultimately it will work.

“It’s a bit of a controversial and out-of-the-box pairing,” Jacobs said. “We conductors like to think out of the box. The Jenkins piece is so serious and powerful. The bluegrass mass is just as much work and blood, sweat and tears, but the contrast will be enormous. I hope the audience will connect with both, but on completely different levels.”

All seats are reserved, and tickets are $20 and $25. Discounts are available for students, senior citizens, groups and schools. Tickets may be purchased through www.akron civic.org or by calling 330-253-2488. For more information, call 330-434-7464 or go to www.summitchoralsociety.org.

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