Philharmonic Chorus joining other groups for significant Brahms work

For the sake of historical musical culture, the Philharmonic Chorus has required its participants the past couple of seasons to learn their share of Latin and Hebrew, as they sang grand, classic works in their originally-composed languages.

This time, chorus member John Drebus of Nashville was ready, he figured.

He had studied German in both high school and college — and even lived in Germany for three years. All that seemed perfect prep for Johannes Brahms’ exultant work, “Triumphlied,” written in German to mark part of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

Only thing is, as it turns out, the chorus will join with two Anderson choral groups and the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic on Saturday evening at Judson Erne Auditorium in Columbus to sing the complex, rarely-performed piece — in English. While Drebus loves the idea, he also broke into laughter over the irony.

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All that apparent equipping for noth-ing, huh?

“Exactly,” Drebus responded, still cracking up.

Truth be told, he and his wife, Pamela, love the universal language of the chorus’ music even more than he ever thought possible.

And they figure that when local voices this weekend blend alongside those of the Anderson Symphonic Choir and the Anderson University Chorale, the resulting 150-singer sound could turn simply glorious.

Richard Sowers, who leads both Anderson groups, agrees.

“Choir members universally find it to be a very exciting experience to be a part of a group that large while performing with a full symphony orchestra,” Sowers said.

The Philharmonic is so committed to such multi-ensemble performances that it recently purchased new two-step risers to enable it to more comfortably and creatively fit more vocalists onto the auditorium stage, said David Bowden, its music director. Bowden and Sowers have collaborated regularly over the years for various concerts.

Bowden labels Sowers as “the finest choral conductor I have ever met.” And in his 31-year tenure with the local orchestra, he clearly has met a few.

The local maestro also refers to this performance as something of “a grand experience” for literal staging and more. He is a huge fan of all three Brahms’ works, including a “Hallelujah Chorus” and “Alto Rhapsody.” But the three-movement, 23-minute “Triumphlied,” based on texts from the 19th chapter of the book of Revelation, pushes him to superlatives.

In part of the work, one element of the combined choir sings antiphonally to the other choir section, and then the other section responds.

“It’s exceptional,” Bowden said. “It’s unbelievably exhilarating to listen to them go back and forth as we hear them praising God. I think it’s fabulous.”

Those who study classical music say few groups can do the piece justice. And Drebus understands that pretty clearly.

“You’ve really got to focus,” he said. “The piece certainly does take a lot of concentration.”

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Who: The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, the Philharmonic Chorus, the Anderson Symphonic Choir and the Anderson University Chorale performing together with music ranging from Ludwig von Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to Johannes Brahms’ “Triumphlied.”

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St. in Columbus.

Musically Speaking: With Philharmonic Music Director David Bowden at 6:45 p.m.

Tickets: $5 to $50.

Information: 812-376-2638 or