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Michael Palumbo, director of the WSU Symphony Orchestra, practices before a recital.
Weber State University’s Symphony Orchestra will combine with faculty soloists and the WSU Concert Choir in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on Nov. 13.

This piece is the last complete symphony Ludwig van Beethoven completed. Written for an orchestra, soloists and choir, many consider it a masterpiece as well as a challenge.

Mark Henderson has been WSU’s director of choral studies for the past 26 years. He has been rehearsing with the 95-member choir three times a week for the performance. Choir members have also been rehearsing with CDs outside of class.

“Otherwise, we would not be able to master a work of this level of difficulty and challenge,” Henderson said. “It is a tremendous challenge for the singers, musically and also vocally. There is no major work that is more difficult to sing than Beethoven’s ninth. It is analogous to training for a marathon interspersed with 100-meter dashes.”

Catherine Coda has agreed to join the performance as a soprano soloist. Coda is the assistant dean for finance and administration in the nursing department at the University of Utah.

“This will be the first time I have performed with Dr. Palumbo and the WSU choir and orchestra,” Coda said. “I’m truly looking forward to working with all the talented young musicians.”

According to Coda, she has been singing virtually all her life. Even with her background in music, she doesn’t hesitate to relay the intensity of a piece such as Beethoven’s final symphony.

“It takes many hours of both practice and performance experience to be able to perform as a soloist for Beethoven’s ninth symphony,” she said. “It’s truly something you prepare for your whole life.”

Despite the long hours of practice for orchestra and choir members, Palumbo said he has confidence in their abilities.

“We have been practicing five hours a week since Oct. 1,” he said. “That sounds like a lot of hours, but it’s a relatively short amount of time. The orchestra is very good, so we can do works like this fairly quickly.”

Palumbo said he is also excited to conduct such an intense concert.

“I’m looking forward to again collaborating with Dr. Henderson and the choir, and also the collaboration with the great professional soloists we have,” he said. “Most of all, I’m looking forward to listening to the orchestra as it rises to the occasion to perform this incredible work.”

Austin Toney is a music education student at WSU, and will be participating in the concert.

“I’ve always loved Beethoven’s ninth, but I never thought learning it would be so difficult,” Toney said.

Toney is admittedly looking forward to the challenge. More than that, he said he finds inspiration in the work.

“Beethoven’s ninth is inspiring because it forces you to push your boundaries and your comfort zone,” he said. “Some of the parts are completely mind-boggling. I guess the inspirational part of it is the difficulties that come along with it.”

Toney will be participating in the final movement of the performance, also one of the most challenging portions. The finale will be sung in German.

“It’s going to be great, and I think I speak for everyone who enjoys a challenge when I say, ‘Bring on the Beethoven! We can handle it!’” Toney said.

The performance will take place this Sunday evening at 7:30 in the Browning Center. Students are eligible for a free ticket and may go to Room 331 in the Browning Center to request one.

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