Over the past few years, the Madison Boychoir has grown in confidence and musical strength, thanks in good measure to the talents of its artistic director and conductor, Dan Krunnfusz. The audience for the MBC's Spring Serenade concert, to be given at 4:00 p.m., Sunday, May 16 at The Mitby Theater on the MATC-Truax campus, will offer yet another perspective on Krunnfusz' abilities when the ensemble's Britten Choir (the most mature of the MBC's several choirs) presents among other works a Mass in Times of Struggle, which Krunnfusz composed in the spring of 1998.
I was privileged to hear a rehearsal tape of the Mass and to follow with a score, and I was struck by the work's musical complexities. I was also frankly amazed by the skills and expressive ranges the young voices displayed in dealing with music containing significant dissonances and highly charged emotional content. The piece would not be easy for mature singers, I think; to hear children come to grips with such a piece, largely successfully, bordered on stupefying.
Curious about how all this came to pass, I went to the source and found Krunnfusz to be very forthcoming about the work's genesis and the ultimate meaning he feels it conveys. "Dealing with frustrations in my own life," he said, "my thoughts turned to places where there is trouble -- the Middle East, Ireland, Africa, Yugoslavia, the harshness of life working against the human spirit, the incomprehensible suffering, the emotion of yearning for peace -- and it came to me that the mass, drawing upon these emotions, is the pure poignance of emotion."
Such eloquence -- the music itself is even more so -- might be unexpected from a Baraboo resident, parent of kids aged 8 and 10, with bachelor's and master's degrees in music education from the UW-Madison -- from a source so familiar to us all, who for over eight years has directed the now 96-voice boychoir with discipline, love and hard work. "Another aspect of this," Krunnfusz said, "was to give the boys a voice for letting their own emotions come out. Their anger and fear and feelings of loss may not be on the same level as ours, but such feelings are present and they are real. The music gives them one way to explore and experience their emotions without hate, without violence."
Taking these youngsters on such a journey of self-discovery and self-expression seems to me especially exalted, and I feel sure the audience for this concert will find the event uniquely intense and moving.
Isthmus, May, 1999
Copyright 1999 Jess Anderson