MIDDLEBORO — Mozart’s “Requiem”, his most celebrated choral composition, will be given two free area performances during the third weekend in October by the Mayflower Camerata, a civic chorus directed by J. Fred Thornton. They will be assisted by the Mayflower Chamber Orchestra, which consists of twenty-five of the finest free-lance musicians in southeastern Massachusetts.

The concerts are scheduled for Friday evening, October 19th at 7:30 p.m., at Saints Martha and Mary Church in Lakeville; and Sunday afternoon, October 21st at 3:00 p.m., at Central Congregational Church in Middleboro. Both churches are wheelchair accessible. These performances are supported in part by grants from the Local Cultural Councils of Berkley, Bridgewater, Carver, Freetown, Lakeville, Middleboro, Plympton, Raynham, and Rochester, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

The Mayflower Camerata dates from 1992, when it became the vocal chamber ensemble for a much larger organization, the Mayflower Chorale, which Mr. Thornton started in early 1983 with the support of the Middleboro Music Guild. For 15 years, with the aid of grants from the Middleboro, Lakeville, and many other local arts lottery councils, the Chorale gave what is believed to be the only performances in the Middleboro area of many major choral masterworks using the composer’s own orchestral accompaniment. These include Mozart’s “Requiem” and “Mass in C Minor”; Bach’s “Magnificat” and “Mass in B Minor”; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; Haydn’s “The Creation”, “The Seasons”, and the “Lord Nelson Mass”; Vivaldi’s “Gloria”; Telemann’s “The Times of Day” (in English); Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”; Requiems by Brahms, Faure, and Rutter; and Gluck’s “Orfeo and Euridice” (complete with ballet dancers). During its heyday, the Mayflower Chorale became noted for its bi-annual performances of Handel’s “Messiah” from 1984 thru 1997, with emphasis on using authentically historical performance practices. They performed Handel’s “Messiah” complete, or nearly so, 13 times, plus an additional three “Messiah Sings” with chamber orchestra in 2000, 2002, and 2004.

In 2015, the Mayflower Camerata was awarded grants from both the Middleboro and Lakeville Cultural councils, allowing it to expand its membership and program a pair of concerts using a small accompanying chamber orchestra. In the fall of 2016, Mr. Thornton put together a program reminiscent of the programming of the Mayflower Chorale during the 1980s and 1990s, and the performances included Haydn’s “Mass in Time of War”, written while he was also composing his great oratorio, “The Creation”. Last fall, the Camerata gave two area performances of Handel’s “Messiah”, also with chamber orchestra.

The “Requiem” in D Minor (K. 626; Vienna, 1791), which Mozart left unfinished at his death in late 1791, will use the new edition/completion by Robert Levin, first published in 1993. The “traditional” completion by Mozart’s “pupil” Sussmayr has long been criticized (going back to 1825) for its numerous compositional and technical inadequacies, and over the past few decades there have been several new editions/completions (including one by Richard Maunder, performed by the Mayflower Chorale in 1991) which represent a considerable improvement on it, including the expansion of the two “Hosanna” fugues, as well as completing the “Amen” fugue (following the “Lacrimosa”) from Mozart’s sketch (not used by Sussmayr) discovered in 1961. Robert Levin, a professor emeritus at Harvard University and an internationally renowned performer of the piano music of Mozart and Beethoven, completed his version of Mozart’s “Requiem” in 1996, and it is generally regarded as the best of the revised versions.

The concerts will also include performances of two other Mozart masterworks: the “Coronation” Mass in C Major (K. 317; Salzburg, 1779) and his Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major (K. 543; Vienna, 1788). The “Coronation” Mass, composed when Mozart was 23, is probably his most popular choral work other than the “Requiem” and the brief motet “Ave verum corpus” (also from 1791). Its moniker probably arises from the fact that it was performed in Prague in early September of 1791 as part of the festivities concerning the coronation of Emperor Leopold as the King of Bohemia, when it was conducted by Mozart’s rival, Antonio Salieri. Its joyous, at times even ecstatic character stands in marked contrast with the somber, introspective “Requiem”.

The Symphony No. 39 in E-flat is the first in Mozart’s great symphonic trilogy dating from the summer of 1788 (which includes #40 in G Minor and #41 in C Major (the “Jupiter”, his final symphony). It is Mozart at his most beautiful and elegant, with a sunny, joyful disposition reflected in its scoring as the only Mozart symphony using clarinets instead of oboes. The monothematic finale, with its asymmetric phrases and subtle twists and turns, is Mozart at his wittiest, and may well be an act of homage to his great friend, Joseph Haydn.

The soloists include Sylvia Thornton (soprano, Middleboro), Katie Allen (alto, Plymouth), Pamela Blair (tenor, Rochester), and Larry Carlson (bass-baritone, Carver). Ms. Thornton, Ms. Allen, and Mr. Carlson were soloists in the Camerata’s recent “Messiah” performances.

For further information, contact the director, Fred Thornton, at 774-240-0934 (cell phone) or by e-mail at j.fred.thornton@comcast.net.