Monumental. Magnificent. Mammoth. These are just a few of the superlatives often used to describe Arthur Honegger’s oratorio King David.
In fact, those very same adjectives are used by singer John Parkinson, who is also executive director of the Fairfield County Chorale and Orchestra, which will perform the work Saturday, March 15, at the Norwalk Concert Hall. David Rosenmeyer will conduct.
“King David has a story that goes from innocence to power, from grief to joy, from lust to agony,” Parkinson said, adding that Honegger’s music conveys all these emotions and states of being with a sweeping and dramatic touch.
And who better than to narrate this epic tale than someone whose voice is up to the challenge: two-time Tony Award-winning singer-actor James Naughton.
In addition to a top-notch narrator, Parkinson said the work calls for an accomplished cast of soloists who will join scores of singers and musicians. Featured will be soprano Camille Zamora, mezzo soprano Malena Dayen and tenor Chee Shen Tan. Kelly Cranston, a 16-year-old sophomore from Trumbull High School, will have a cameo role as “the shepherd.”
The performance by the chorale will be in French, while the narration will be in English, Parkinson said.
In a recent brief chat, Naughton said he was looking forward to his second turn at the podium as a narrator.
“A few years ago, I did a narration of Peter & The Wolf and I discovered that I really enjoyed the experience,” said the longtime Fairfield County resident who is featured in the CBS drama “Hostages.”
Naughton said he considers the FCC gig as an opportunity to be active in the community. “It will be a lot of fun. Being up on the stage, the sound is amazing. I’ll have the best spot in the house,” he said.
And for a career actor, who’s found notoriety from stage and screen work, doing a narration should be fairly worry-free: “I don’t need to memorize any lines,” he said. “I can just read the whole thing.”
Parkinson noted that “the orchestra, voices and narration move in and out of synchronization as Honegger deploys this wide range of musical formats, sometimes sequentially, sometimes one on top of the other, to create the wide range of moods the story demands.
“This is one of few choral works where one can experience all of this in a single work, and quite likely walk away with a tune or two that will be hard to forget.”
Opening the concert will be a Bach motet (a type of choral composition), “Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden,” followed by three arias, also by J.S. Bach, from the “Notebook for Anna Magdalena.” The arias will be performed by Malena Dayen.
After intermission comes King David written in 1921 by the Swiss national Honegger, who spent much of his life living in Paris, writing his oratorios in French.
“This oratorio follows the life of David from the time of Saul to David’s death and the crowning of Solomon,” Parkinson said.
“The music expresses the wide ranging emotions and drama, beginning when David was a shepherd, to his conquests in battle, his rise to power, his lust for another man’s wife, his agony over his son’s death, his disobedience to God and, finally, to his own death.
“Baroque or Neo-Baroque influence is heard in parts of the oratorio. Other influences include Faure (who taught Honegger in Paris), Stravinsky and the then new musical form: jazz. James Naughton as the narrator will carry the story forward, while soloists and chorus provide commentary, celebratory music and lamentations, many of which are derived from Psalms.”