MASON CITY — Seven world premieres of works by North Iowa composers as well as an acclaimed British composer will be performed by Una Vocis on Saturday.
The concert, “The Composer’s Gift,” will begin at 7 p.m. at the Clear Lake United Methodist Church.
“I couldn’t resist the opportunity to bring this music together for a concert that would celebrate these composers and the gifts they, and other composers, have given to us,” said Dennis Lee, artistic director of the select Mason City-based choral ensemble.
The local composers whose works will be performed are William Backlin, Geoff Delperdang and Maedeane Sappenfield.
Backlin, an instructor of music history, music theory, piano performance, and composition at North Iowa Area Community College, wrote a composition titled “In Sound, In Silence” that was premiered several years ago by the North Iowa Choral Society.
Backlin has since added two new pieces to the cycle, “Unresolve” and “As I Am,” which Una Vocis will premiere.
This means Saturday’s concert will be the first time Backlin’s three-part concept will be heard by the public in its entirety.
Backlin considers the set to be “Art Songs for the Choral Voice.”
Backlin went to an Una Vocis rehearsal to hear the group sing his music. He said he made comments on “things they were getting and things they could improve on.”
It was the first time he had ever heard anyone perform the two new pieces.
“That was a real treat,” he said.
Sappenfield is the organist at First Church of Christ Christian Science and teaches piano in Mason City. She also is a member of the American Guild of Organists and also has been the Dean of the local AGO chapter.
She is a long time member of Matinee Musicale in Mason City, and the Music Teachers of North Iowa Chapter.
Sappenfield said she has composed other pieces before, but “Fear Not My Flock,” which Una Vocis will perform Saturday, is the most detailed one.
It has never been performed in public until now because “it requires a choir that is strong and can divide into 12 parts,” she said.
Sappenfield is excited about hearing the piece being performed.
Lee is a great director and “expects perfection,” she said.
Delperdang, a senior at Clear Lake High School, set poems by e.e. cummings to music in his “Enter No” and “Your Little Voice.”
Delperdang took an independent music theory class from Paul Langholz during his sophomore year that got him into composing rather than just “jamming on my guitar,” he said.
Later he began taking piano lessons from Marc Irving Weber, who further encouraged him to compose music.
The pieces by Delperdang that Una Vocis will perform “show real sensitivity and genuine insight into the text,” Weber said.
Delperdang said he wanted to set work by cummings to music because “he is very visual in his writing.”
Una Vocis also will perform “If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem” by British composer Nimrod Borenstein, which has been performed previously, and will premiere the concluding two pieces in that cycle, “Idols” and “The Voice Of Melody.”
Borenstein, a graduate of the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music in London, has won several international composition competitions.
His works are gaining a worldwide reputation. His “Shell Adagio” was performed more than 30 times by 16 different orchestras last season.
In a telephone interview with the Globe, Borenstein said he learned about Una Vocis by visiting its Web site.
He contacted Lee and asked if the choir would be interested in performing his work.
Borenstein was able to visit Mason City recently and meet with the choir.
Although Borenstein won’t be able to attend the concert in person, a recording of it will be sent to him.
“It’s the beginning of a nice collaboration,” he said.
To further honor and celebrate “The Composer’s Gift,” Una Vocis member and local artist Kerry Dolch Krogh created an original oil painting with portraits of all four composers (and Borenstein’s 4-year-old daughter, Natalie) and selections of music and lyrics from their premiere pieces.
The painting is featured on the posters and programs for the concert and each individual composer’s likeness is featured on the tickets.
“Be sure and invite three friends to the concert so that you can have a collector’s set of all four tickets,” Krogh said jokingly.
The concert program also includes Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” featuring local percussionist Scott Bell, organist Mary Jane Crail, Des Moines harpist Kristin Maahs and the solo debut of 8-year-old Skyler Lee, as well as “Jerusalem” by Egil Hovland.
Tickets for “The Composer’s Gift” can be purchased by calling 641-423-7000. Tickets may also be purchased from Una Vocis members or at the door the evening of the performance.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $2 for students.