Among the world’s Olympic-sized choral works — in the class of “Ode to Joy” ending Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony — are the 1837 Berlioz Requiem and the Finale of Boito’s 1868 opera “Mefistofele.”
Both are on the program of a massive concert in Davies Hall Sunday featuring the Redwood Symphony Orchestra, dozens of singers from Finger Lakes Choral Festival and the Rochester Oratorio Society in New York, and 140 vocalists from 35 Bay Area choral groups.
Concert organizer Adrian Horn, who founded the San Francisco Choral Society in 1989 and now directs the the Finger Lakes choir, says the idea for the Bay Area concert came two years ago as he conducted the Requiem in Rochester: “During a particularly exhilarating moment at a rehearsal, I blurted out with out giving it much thought, ‘How’d you like to perform this thing in San Francisco?’ “After the hooting and hollering died down, I realized that fate had answered. So over the next few days I contacted some of my old friends and colleagues in San Francisco, and here we are.”
Locally, San Francisco Lyric Chorus is taking a lead role — providing two-thirds of the singers and handling publicity for the event. All of the performers, including tenor soloist Dan McInerney, are appearing without pay.
The Berlioz Requiem, an enormously ambitious work, originally required more than 400 singers and instrumentalists, including four offstage brass bands. The piece is mysterious and powerful, with an ethereal conclusion that captures the essence of eternity.
Redwood Symphony Music Director Eric Kujawsky, who conducts the Requiem Sunday, calls the presentation “the latest in a long series of big, ambitious projects that characterize Redwood Symphony’s unique profile in the community.” The group already has performed all of Mahler symphonies, Messiaen’s “Turangalila” Symphony, major scores by Stravinsky, Bartók, Shostakovich, Corigliano, Adams and Lutoslawski — as well as complete operas in concert.
On Sunday, Horn leads the “Mefistofele” Finale, a work whose intensity equals that of the Requiem.
Rounding out the concert are Eric Townell of the Rochester Oratorio Society leading Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides” Overture and Robert Gurney of the San Francisco Lyric Chorus conducting “Shepherd’s Farewell” from Berlioz’s “L’Enfance du Christ.”
Kujawsky also leads the familiar Fanfare from Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the movie theme from “2001: a Space Odyssey.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $20 to $45
Contact: (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com