The Tulsa Chorale had planned to conclude its season in May with a concert devoted to a couple of the musical world’s most groundbreaking revolutionaries: Ludwig van Beethoven and the Beatles.
The coronavirus pandemic put an end to those plans, as it did for just about every performing arts group in the country. But, in keeping with the Tulsa arts community’s determination and inventiveness in the face of adversity, the Tulsa Chorale came up with a unique and unusual way of bringing music to the masses.
On Tuesday, the Chorale presented its reimagined version of its “Revolutionaries: Beethoven and the Beatles” concert at the Admiral Twin Drive-In.
The evening featured a video of Tulsa Chorale members and a quartet of soloists performing two sections of Beethoven’s Mass in C — to be specific, the “Kyrie” and the “Gloria.”
Artistic Director Tim Sharp introduced the evening by referencing a letter Beethoven wrote in 1802 that has come to be known as the “Heiligenstadt Testament,” in which the composer detailed his struggles with the realization that he was losing his hearing and stating his determination to continue in his chosen profession of creating work that stretched the boundaries of music itself.
As Sharp said, Beethoven “showed us that the human spirit can overcome all challenges.”
Putting on a performance of choral music during an outbreak of an airborne virus is certainly a challenge, and the Tulsa Chorale did probably as good a job of meeting that challenge as could be imagined.
The chorus members and soloists were recorded and filmed in small groups or individually and edited into a montage. The camera work was at times more than a little shaky, but the sound — even through one’s car speakers (the audio at Admiral Twin is broadcast on an FM channel) — was surprisingly robust and rich.
It wasn’t the perfect way to experience what the Tulsa Chorale is capable of doing. But that wasn’t the purpose of this event. It was to show, as Sharp said, how the human spirit can overcome any obstacle. And it made one hope the time will not be long before a group such as the Tulsa Chorale is able to share its artistry with its audience in a more conventional and satisfying way.
Following the showing of the Chorale’s Mass, the Retro Rockets took the stage area at the Admiral Twin to perform some of the Beatles’ best-known songs, including “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The evening ended with a showing of the film “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” although it must be confessed that we did not hang around for this cinematic fantasia on the Beatles’ classic album. As far as we were concerned, we already had our money’s worth from the evening.
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