The new director of the Alexandria Choral Society, Douglas R. Major, says that he is planning to emphasize the performance of smaller ler choral works in a variety of metropolitan area church halls with fine accoustics.
Major, 24, was named last month to succeed Robert Shafer, former director of the 8-year-old choral group.
"I think as I envision the group at this point, we're trying to fill a void in the musical scene in Washington," Major said. "We'll be doing more chamber-oriented works rather than larger-scale choral and orchestral pieces."
For the most part, the choral society has performed in Alexandria, Major said. "We'll now be emphasizing mobility, choosing the right music for the right location."
This approach will allow more people to hear the group in lesser-known churches that have quality accoustics for choral works, Major said.
The Alexandria Society will be performing "a good mixture of sacred and secular music," he said, noting that almost every choral composer wrote both. "In addition, we'll be trying to sing a fair amount of unaccompanied pieces."
Major said he has scheduled auditions for about 20 new singers beginning next week. "I'll be looking for all voice parts, especially men, tenors and basses."
The new director comes to the Alexandria Choral Society with a solid musical background. he began studying piano and organ in his home town of Berwick, Penn., at the age of 7, he said.
"My first teacher was my grandmother, Rhoda Fetterman, now 79 and still teaching 55 students a week in her home . . . She was my primary impetus to get into music."
The family later moved to St. Louis, where Major attended the University of Missouri for two years before being invited to the Washington Cathedral in 1974 as assistant organist and choir-master at the age of 20.
It was too good a professional opportunity to pass up. Major recalled, so he left his studies for two years. He returned to Webster College in St. Louis in 1976. Major earned his bachelor of music degree in organ last June, after completing his senior year as a work-study student at the Washington Cathedral.
While working here in 1976, Major said he was commissioned to write service music for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the Cathedral. "I set to music a set of prayers, exchanged between priest and choir, called "Versicles and Responses.'"
Major's primary professional position now is with the Cathedral, where he serves as assistant organist and trainer of the boys' choir.
Major said one of his most important teachers was Ronald Arnatt, of St. Louis, whose composition, "Miracles," he plans to present for the first time in Washington during the upcoming concert season. "Miracles," a choral suite in five movements, is based on a group of international children's poems.
The 1978-79 program of the Alexandria Choral Society begins with Christmas concerts, Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, featuring Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols." In March 1979, the chorus will offer William Byrd's "Mass for Five Voices" and "The Great Service." Locations and times are to be announced later.
The two final concerts of the season are planned in May. The area premiere of Arnatt's "Miracles" will be sung as part of the Washington Cathedral's Flower Festival, at 4 p.m. May 12. "Five Flower Songs" by Britten and several other pieces will also be performed that day.
The group will participate in the Bach Festival May 26 at Washington's Ascension and St. Agnes Church. Choral members will sing "Missa Brevis in A," a portion of "Musical Offering" and a cantata by J.S. Bach.
Major is holding auditions for the Alexandria Choral Society on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Satuday, Aug. 12, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Tuesday, Aug. 22, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Individuals will be asked to sing a selection from one familiar choral work and to sight-read from one unfamiliar musical piece. All auditions are in the parish hall of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, corner of Duke and South Pitt streets, Alexandria.
For more information, call (after 6 p.m.) Kitty Fisher, 548-7615, or Betsy Perkins, 549-5747.