Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society's concert to feature eclectic compositions

The Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society plans to kick off its 49th season this week by pushing the musical envelope in a concert that members hope will attract people who have never seen the classically trained group perform before.

The group -- made up of the full Musical Arts Chorus and the select Musical Arts Singers -- typically performs works by big-name classical composers such as Mozart, Handel, Bach and Beethoven. But the show scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Drive, is set to open with "Missa Criolla," a contemporary Mass by Argentinean composer Ariel Ramirez.

"It's an interesting piece," said Douglas Peterson, the society's director. "It's based on rhythms and traditions of Hispanic America."

The decision to include the piece was part of a conscious effort by the group to reach out to a new audience and expand its reach.

"We live among a large Hispanic population," Peterson said. "We've been coming to the Winchester for three seasons now, and we wanted to do something that would appeal to an Hispanic audience. We want to reach people who have never heard us before."

The group plans to perform the piece in its original Spanish, which has proved to be a challenge for some singers.

"It's not like Europe, where everyone knows these different languages," Peterson said. "It's coming along, though, and it's going to sound fantastic."

"I admire them for reaching out and trying some different stuff," said Patrick Gaffey, cultural program supervisor for Clark County Parks and Recreation. "They don't always do stuff that's this contemporary."

Another piece the group is set to perform is so new that Gaffey had a hard time tracking down information about it. The "Horn Mass" is a work by Korean composer Byung Hee Oh. The Musical Arts Society performed it last year at the Winchester Cultural Center, and it was so well received that the group is bringing it back.

"They come close to filling the room every time they perform here," Gaffey said. "They have a reputation for putting on a really quality show."

The Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society plans to round out the show with two medleys of show tunes, one focusing on the works of George M. Cohan and the other on Jerome Kern.

"Our Kern piece includes 'Old Man River' and some other really big songs," Peterson said. "We find there's a group of senior citizens who find the Broadway stuff really appeals to them."

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at or 380-4532.