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by Anna Cherkasova, staff writer

The Honolulu Symphony Chorus, however, was brave enough to accept the challenge to prepare a Russian piece. “We wanted to perform Alexander Nevsky awhile ago. Now it is a time,” said Karen Kennedy, director of the chorus, which performed Sergei Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky Nov. 11 and 13 at Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Prokofiev wrote Alexander Nevsky in 1939 and it became one of the world’s first soundtracks. It was written exclusively for the movie Alexander Nevsky, directed by Sergei Eisenstein.

Briefly, in 1242, Prince Alexander Nevsky was defending Novrogod and the Russian homeland from the Germans. The Germans attacked the Russian forces on an iced-over lake at Raven’s Rock. The Germans were crushed and defeated in a pincer counter attack. The fleeing Germans, in their heavy armor, fell through the ice and drowned. Russia was saved.

Presentation of the symphony started in the second half of the concert with a clip from the movie shown to the audience. The battle on the ice, the scene that is considered one of the best battle scenes in world cinematography, prepared the audience for the mood of the symphony.
And then the action began.

Japanese conductor Norichika Iimori took the audience into old Russia with its struggles and happiness, defeats and victories. The powerful sound filled the air. The depth of the chorus’ voices and orchestra instruments helped the audience absorb every note of the glorious symphony. Mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore performed solo in the sixth movement, singing about loss and the death of heroes.

The conclusion was phenomenal; when the chorus sang the Alexander’s Entry into Pskov movement, the audience exploded with ovations. A crying man stood up and shouted “Bravo,” and the whole audience stood up. Conductor Iimori, soloist Lattimore, and director Kennedy had three curtain calls each.

The audience was astonished not only by the performance of Alexander Nevsky, they were also fascinated by the first half of the concert.

The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra led by Iimori performed A Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky and Serenade for Strings by Peter Tchaikovsky.

After the performance, people who participated received much praises from the audience. Among them was Carol Jenkins, an HPU librarian who has been singing in Honolulu Symphony Chorus since 1979. She was very satisfied with the performance and with the work of the conductor, who, with only basic knowledge of English, was able to lead the chorus and the orchestra to the success. “Becoming a member of the Symphony Chorus was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Jenkins said.

The 2005-2006 Concert Season for the Honolulu Symphony Chorus and the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra in the Blaisdell Concert Hall will continue with the Honolulu Symphony Holiday Pops Concerts and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in December, and Mozart’s Requiem during the Hawai‘i International Choral Festival in April.


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