Press Release April 25, 2014


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Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra Will Present Epic Oratorio, Elijah, in June

Berkeley, Calif. – The Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra (BCCO) will bring Mendelssohn’s stirring Old Testament oratorio Elijah to Hertz Hall at UC Berkeley in its spring concert series in June.  


Under the direction of BCCO Music Director Ming Luke, the 220-singer chorus will present three performances of this powerful masterwork on Friday, June 13, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 14, at 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 15, at 4:30 p.m.   All BCCO concerts are free and open to the public; donations are gratefully accepted.


The dramatic role of the Biblical prophet who saves Israel from drought and ascends into heaven on a fiery chariot will be sung by baritone James R. Demler. The work also features professional soloists Carrie Hennessey, soprano; Megan Berti, mezzo soprano; and Brian Thorsett, tenor.


“Mendelssohn’s Elijah is one of the pinnacles of oratorio composition. It is a privilege to perform such a great work and to have the ability to learn it at great depth over the course of the semester. The chorus has put in a lot of work into bringing out the nuances and various colors in the piece, and we’re looking forward to performing it in June,” Luke said.


Mendelssohn was recognized as a genius early in his life.  Beethoven heard him play in 1821 and made a prophetic entry in one of his journals: “Mendelssohn -- 12 years old -- promises much."  And no wonder-- by the time the young prodigy was 12, he had already produced four operas, 12 string symphonies and a large quantity of chamber and piano music.


Elijah was given its premiere in Birmingham, England, in 1846, conducted by the composer.  Ten years in the making, it was considered the Messiah of its day. It was wildly popular and cemented  Mendelssohn’s position as one of the greatest composers of sacred music.  BCCO’s performances will offer an exciting opportunity for Bay Area audiences to experience the full scope and scale of this classic.


The concerts will also feature Derek Tam, BCCO’s first-ever assistant conductor, whose three-year appointment ends this summer.  “We couldn’t have found a better first assistant conductor for BCCO than Derek Tam,” Luke said. “His innate talent and musicality were apparent from the first time he was on the podium, but most impressive has been his growth and confidence as a conductor over the course of these three years. We are proud that he has been a part of the BCCO family, and we look forward to identifying other talented young conductors in the community,” he added.  Luke created the BCCO assistant conductor position to provide that all-important first career experience for aspiring conductors. 


The Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra is a non-auditioned community chorus dedicated to performing major classical works with orchestral accompaniment, free to the public.  Ming Luke joined BCCO in 2011, becoming only the third music director to lead BCCO since its founding nearly 50 years ago.  Widely recognized for his innovative music education programs, Luke has performed more than 120 educational concerts with the Berkeley Symphony, for which he is the Associate Conductor.  He frequently conducts for the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. 



Contact:  Mary Rogier at 510-845-5305,