Trip begins in highlands

Masterworks Choral Ensemble season a journey of sight, sound

Contributing writerOctober 11, 2013 

Masterworks Choral Ensemble plans to take this season’s audiences on an adventure with more opportunities for interaction, more visuals and more guest artists.

The season begins Saturday with a visit to music of the British Isles. Along for the ride are Celtic band The Burren Boys, the Seattle Irish Dance Co., harpist Margaret Shelton and pianist Fay Lee.

The season’s theme is “Escape With Music: See and Hear Something New and Different,” and the chorus is setting the travel theme with a passport that audience members are encouraged to bring back to each show they attend and get it stamped.

“There are little surprises for patrons who return with their passports,” said Gary Witley, Masterworks’ artistic director. Each stamp in the passport also is good for one entry into the end-of-season drawing. The prize is season tickets for the 2014-2015 season.

The idea, Witley said, is to create a multimedia experience.

“It’s our 33rd season, and we decided to break the mold a bit,” he said. “We have some new surprises for our audiences, things they haven’t experienced before. In addition to the wonderful music we do, we have new ways of presenting it. We’re going to be more interactive with the audience and break the fourth wall.”

Saturday’s concert will include lots of movement, and not only by the dancers. The singers will be out in the audience for several numbers singing in different locations, and the choir and guest artists will be performing in various configurations throughout the program.

Harp soloist Shelton is the principal harpist for the Olympia Symphony, while piano soloist Fay Lee, a sophomore at Olympia High School, is one of the winners of the ensemble’s annual Youth Music Competition.

The concert also includes two videos: Images from the British Isles that will be projected on stage during “Loch Lomond,” and the group is trading its traditional spotlight on community talk for a video presentation on the featured group, which this time is the Nisqually Land Trust.

“It’s much more interesting than just somebody standing at the podium,” Witley said.

If the concert will have a new look, the sound won’t be strange to Masterworks regulars. The chorus last performed a Celtic-themed concert five years ago.

“We’ve had such a great response to this style, because it’s fun and upbeat,” Cathy Duffy, Masterworks’ board president, said in a release. “It just makes you feel good when you’re listening.”

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