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Southern Nevadans to perform at Carnegie Hall

You know the old joke about the best way to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.

But for 34 members of the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society, it’s no joke.

That’s because they’ll be making their Carnegie Hall debuts Monday, with New York City’s Masterworks Festival Chorus and the bluegrass quintet Monroe Crossing, under the direction of guest conductor Philip Brunelle.

Brunelle conducted the “Bluegrass Mass’ ” 2007 world premiere in Minnesota, which also featured Monroe Crossing.

“They are so terribly excited,” Musical Arts Society music director Douglas Peterson said of the local singers, who are scheduled to travel to New York Friday alongside a 20-member Las Vegas entourage.

The Musical Arts Society singers are scheduled to rehearse this weekend to prepare for Monday’s Carnegie Hall concert, which will feature 125 to 130 singers, Peterson noted.

“It’ll probably be pretty intense,” he said of the group’s schedule.

The Southern Nevada-based chorus, now in its 51st season, has performed “A Bluegrass Mass” twice, presenting the Nevada premiere in March 2013 at the College of Southern Nevada and reprising the work there in March 2014.

Peterson first heard composer Carol Barnett’s “Bluegrass Mass” (which features a libretto by Marisha Chamberlain) at a Minneapolis music conference and said, “What is this?” he recalled. “A classical work combined with bluegrass? That was most unusual.”

But the unusual work, which represents “kind of fresh territory,” has “caught on,” Peterson said.

In a preface to her 2006 score, composer Barnett wrote that she hoped to “bring the solemnity of the classical-based Mass together with the down-home sparkle of bluegrass,” adding that the composition enabled her “to write cheery sacred music — all too rare in a medium rife with staid and even lugubrious settings.”

Manhattan Concert Productions, which is presenting Monday’s Carnegie Hall concert, invited the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society to participate in Monday’s revival.

“They invited me to send a disc” of the group’s performance, Peterson explained. “We had to qualify.”

As for the New York trip’s impact, “Las Vegans going to Carnegie Hall? This is rather special,” he added, calling it “something I never expected to see during my 46 years as Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society music director.”

But it’s not the only special concert the Musical Arts Society will perform this year; in December, they’ll be backing Andrea Bocelli at the MGM Grand for the sixth time during the singer’s annual Christmas concert tour.

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

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