University Choral Society ends semester on a high note


A group of Penn students, faculty and staff will join members of the community on stage at Irvine Auditorium on Friday, Dec. 9. The occasion is the University Choral Society’s fall concert, and the performance will include Mozart’s Vespers, K. 339 and Vivaldi’s “Beatus vir,” widely considered to be two of the composers’ masterpieces.

An orchestra of strings, winds and harpsichord—as well as the magnificent Curtis Organ, the 11th largest pipe organ in the world—will accompany the Choral Society, made up of 110 to 130 voices.

“Vivaldi wrote a lot of music, but there are only maybe a handful that are really terrific choral pieces and the 'Beatus vir' is one of them,” says William Parberry, director of choral activities in Penn’s Department of Music. “Similarly, Mozart wrote a good amount of choral music in addition to opera and the choral works. … The Vespers is considered one of his best choral works.”

The performance begins at 8 p.m. in Irvine Auditorium. Admission is free with a PennCard; otherwise, entry is $5 per person.

The Choral Society is a large chorus, comprised of both men and women. It performs repertoire twice a year, sometimes with the University Symphony Orchestra. Past performances have included Verdi’s “Requium,” Haydn’s “Missa in Angustiis” and Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.”


Throughout its history, the Choral Society’s performers have occasionally ventured off campus. In the 1970s, the chorus gave a concert performance of Verdi’s opera, “I Lombardi,” at Carnegie Hall with the Opera Society of New York. A smaller group of the Choral Society’s most skilled singers, known as the University Choir, also performed with Barbra Streisand in 2000, at her final concert at Madison Square Garden, as well as on tour with singer Michael Crawford, who originated the title role in “The Phantom of the Opera.”

The Choral Society is open to anyone at the University or in the nearby neighborhood. “With the large chorus, given the number of rehearsals they have and the type of repertoire they have to learn,” says Parberry, “I’m usually able to teach even beginners who have never sung in a chorus before.”

Tryouts for the chorus take place at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters; for information on January tryouts, contact the Department of Music at 215-898-7544.

For more information on all Department of Music performances, visit

Originally published on December 8, 2011