Many composers have put the Bard's words to music. A set of singers from the Delaware Choral Society is working from that catalog for "Shakespeare in Sonnet and Song: A Celebration of the Bard" at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford.


The Delaware Choral Society will put a new spin on some of the best-known words in the English language this weekend. Sixteen of the society’s best singers will put William Shakespeare’s immortal work to song in “Shakespeare in Sonnet and Song: A Celebration of the Bard,” hosted by Avenue United Methodist Church this Sunday.

“We’re singing a wide variety of music, and all of the texts in all of the pieces come from works of Shakespeare,” said Kevin Thomas, who will direct the concert. “Many composers from across the world have put his words to music, and we’re presenting a selection of that.”

Along with sonnets and poems, the performance includes selections from Shakespeare’s plays, including “As You Like It,” “The Tempest,” “Romeo and Juliet,” Hamlet” and “Macbeth.” The music was written by American, British, Finnish and other composers, in a wide variety of styles.

“You’ll hear many different styles of music, and all the composers we’re drawing on have taken styles from different eras,” Thomas said. “For instance, the text, ‘Who is Sylvia?’ is set to almost a 50s doo-wop song, while ‘When Daffodils Begin to Appear’ is almost an Appalachian folk tune.”

Not all of the material was written for a small chorus, which can make it tricky to perform.

“One of the songs we’re doing was not composed for a choir — it was composed for 16 solo singers,” Thomas said. “They sang a choir piece, but there are also 16 solo segments as well. So when we’re doing it, we have 16 choir singers and nearly all of them have a solo part to handle as well.”

The Choral Society has more than 80 singers, but it’s a select group that will appear in Milford this weekend.

“We’ve created a small subset of about 16 singers, called the Delaware Choral Society Chamber Singers,” Thomas said. “We’re new — we don’t even have a group picture yet. We’re looking forward to making an impression.”

The production has its roots in an earlier Shakespeare concert that Thomas organized for a chorus in Maryland.

“In my research for that concert, I found so much repertoire,” he said. “I wanted to do it again, because there is so much fun music. I’ve been able to pull in a lot of things that I had never conducted.”

Bringing the concert to Avenue is part of the church’s Bach Artist Series, which kicked off last year with an organ concert that they hope will become an annual event.

“It’s in honor of the gift the church received from Octavio and Mildred Masten Bach, who were Milford natives and members of the church, that allowed us to buy that organ and make our musical program what it is,” said Kevin Chamberlain, Avenue’s minister of music. “As the series grows and develops more, I’d like to get other groups and artists from around the world.”

If you go…
What: Shakespeare in Sonnet and Song: A Celebration of the Bard
When: 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21   
Where: Avenue United Methodist Church, 20 N. Church St., Milford
Admission: Free admission; free-will offering collected
More info: 422-4704