FAIRFIELD — The Vallejo Choral Society, under the direction of Andrew Brown, turns 96 this year. It’s one of the oldest choral groups in the western United States.
Ironically its upcoming spring production on March 24 is “The Promise of Youth” and features works by two well-known composers who began their illustrious careers as musical prodigies.
“We are performing two Masses by young composers: Schubert’s Mass in G, which was written when he was 17 years old and Mozart’s Missa brevis in D, which was written when he was only 12,” Brown said. “It’s not just that they are youthful works, but that they are extraordinary and show outstanding sense of harmony and compositional technique.”
The program will also feature four singers who are all on the younger side of professional soloists, two of whom sang in children’s choirs growing up. They are Jennifer Kay, mezzo-soprano; Todd Minson, bass; Seth Arnopole, tenor; and Kate Offer, soprano.
Offer, who is married to Seth Arnopole, cannot remember a time when should couldn’t sing.
“My mom says that I sang before I talked actually,” Offer said. “I made up songs. I don’t think there was a time that I didn’t like singing and people have encouraged me all along the way.”
Offer earned a Master of Music degree from Holy Names University and in addition to teaching music at the Marin Preparatory School in San Francisco, she is also a board member of the Northern California Association of Kodály Educators. Offer has performed with Volti, Berkeley Opera, Oakland Opera, Piedmont Light Opera Theater and the Pacific Mozart Ensemble among others.
Offer is passionate about music education, which is in line with the mission of the Vallejo Choral Society to encourage awareness, appreciation and enjoyment of live choral music.
“I think classical singing can be a little intimidating to audiences, especially now since we don’t have the same level of music education in our schools as before. People aren’t getting the same exposure to classical singing as they used to when it was part of the curriculum,” Offer said. “They usually think it’s like Wagner – four hours long and everyone is wearing horns and breastplates. There is plenty of beautiful classical music out there that is very approachable.”
Making classical music approachable is something Offer took to heart when she started performing as a “melodramatic soprano.” Her comedic act uses the music of satirist Peter Schickele, also known as P.D.Q. Bach, and features, among other things, Offer playing the kazoo and bopping herself on her bicycle-helmeted head with tuned cardboard tubes all while singing and being accompanied by a pianist. The idea for her act came from years of recitals.
“When you go to a recital that a classical singer puts on, it is pretty common that at the end they do an encore – kind of like a little dessert piece,” Offer said. “It’s usually something funny and I saw that audiences really loved them and I loved them and after a while I thought since I’m not in school anymore and there’s nobody telling me what I have to sing, that if I had to choose, I would just do the funny pieces.”
At “The Promise of Youth” however, Offer plays it straight and is grateful for the opportunity.
“It is the great privilege of classical singing to be part of a group and making beautiful music together singing with an orchestra and working with colleagues like Jenny and Seth and Todd and Andrew,” Offer said. “It’s why you get into this field. We’re all going to take the black dots on a white page and turn them into the outpouring of the human soul.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com.