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Meet the artist: Michael Pettry


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Michael Pettry, executive director for the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, will lead more than 300 singers and two orchestras in this weekend's performance of
Michael Pettry, executive director for the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, will lead more than 300 singers and two orchestras in this weekend's performance of "War Requiem" the Center for Performing Arts.


Getting a choir of even 100 people to sing together on a particular piece can be a challenge for a director.

Increase that number to more than 300 voices, with accompanying orchestras and soloists, and you have one of the more difficult, complicated and touching musical performances in the world.

The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir will stage, “War Requiem,” at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel. The bombastic composition, set in World War I and written in the wake of World War II, will close out the choir’s season.

Joining them on stage will be Indianapolis Children’s Choir, Butler Chorale and the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus.

“The piece is really poignant,” said Michael Pettry, executive director of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. “At the end of the day, the audience will experience something it would not have expected.”

Tickets to the event range from $20 to $68.

What sets this performance apart from others?

The epic scale of the “War Requiem” sets it aside from so many other compositions. It’s an adult choir of 250 voices, plus a children’s choir of 75 voices. There’s not one orchestra but two orchestras and three soloists. Given all of the performing voices needed, it’s so rarely performed.

Considering all of that, what are the challenges that come with putting this on?

It’s a hard piece. It’s difficult musically, for the singers and orchestra alike. Every part in the piece is a blur. The composer, Benjamin Britten, was charting new territory. The size and the difficulty of all of that is the challenge.

How have you been preparing?

We began rehearsing the piece this January, for the May concert. Usually, symphonic concert takes about six to eight weeks to learn a piece, so we began this quite a bit earlier than our other pieces. The symphonic concert singers even took a weekend retreat in addition to regular rehearsals.

What has it been like getting all of these groups to work together?

The composer was very specific in what he wanted. He wanted a children’s choir to sing the part of the angels. Then the adult choir plays a role much like a soprano or the tenor or the bass roles in a musical or opera. Britten was very specific about the roles that each group plays, so much of this we dictated by the composer.

What can people expect from this piece of music?

It’s a piece that someone cannot prepare for. Go to this performance, and expect the unexpected. If you’re going to prepare, prepare and come with an open mind and an open heart.

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