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Meet Dr. Tim Westerhaus, guest conductor on the April 14th concert!

By April 6, 2023 No Comments

Dr. Timothy Westerhaus, Director of Choral Studies at NAU, will conduct Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis (Mass in Troubled Times) at our April 14th concert!

Dr. Timothy Westerhaus, Director of Choral Studies at Northern Arizona University, is rounding out his second year in Flagstaff and at NAU. Originally from Minnesota, he came to Flagstaff after 11 years in Spokane, WA, where he taught Choral Studies at Gonzaga University. In addition to the NAU choir program, he is also Director of the Master Chorale of Flagstaff and Choral Arts Northwest in Seattle. As a lover of the outdoors, movement, and physical wellness, he finds Flagstaff more than suitable. You may run into him around town at the Foundry yoga studio or skiing at the Nordic Center and, when the weather is warm, trail and road running. 

At NAU, his role includes directing the Shrine of the Ages Choir, which will be joining the FSO to perform Missa in Angustiis (Mass in Troubled Times) by Joseph Haydn. He often incorporates his love of yoga and wellness into rehearsals with his students by beginning with grounding breath cycles. With a background in piano (in addition to choral performing, teaching, and conducting) and an academic focus on early music and harpsichord, he brings a wealth of relevant knowledge and experience to this collaboration with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. We are thrilled to have him conducting the orchestra along with Shrine of the Ages for our performance of the Haydn mass on April 14th.

Not long after the world started to open back up after COVID, Tim met with FSO’s conductor and music director Charles Latshaw at Macy’s European Coffeehouse to dream up the rekindling of a chorus + orchestra collaboration for the final concert of the FSO season – a long-standing tradition before the pandemic hit. One of six masses written by the Austrian composer near the end of his life was selected for its opportunity to build musicianship amongst the choir and orchestra, and for its relatability to the present-day world.

According to Dr. Westerhaus, these masses are like “symphonies for the choral musician.” This mass was written at a time when Napoleon had successfully broken through into Vienna in 1798 and was making his way towards conquering Egypt, which sheds light on the title of the piece. However, close to when the mass was to be performed for the first time, British Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon’s fleet in an unexpected triumph. To celebrate the victory, the piece was nicknamed the Lord Nelson Mass. The work reflects this emotional roller coaster with a militant and somber opening led by trumpets and timpani. The opening text is “Lord, have mercy, and the piece ends with the text “Grant us peace”  in a joyful spirit in D major. Tim explained that Shrine of the Ages Choir will sing using German-Latin pronunciation (as opposed to Italian-Latin), which brings strength and vibrancy to the piece, as well as sharper and brighter pronunciation. 

Tim points out that one can’t help but draw a connection between the events back then and the current events in Ukraine. This mass is a “fervent plea” for peace – a universal human desire. He hopes this can be a connecting thought for the audience as the FSO and Shrine of the Ages perform the famously nicknamed Lord Nelson Mass on April 14th at 7:30pm in Ardrey Auditorium. To conclude, he fervently expressed his delight in partnering with Charles Latshaw and the FSO, and we also couldn’t be happier about it.

Join us for this much-anticipated performance along with the FSO’s performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in Eb major (Eroica) under the baton of FSO music director Charles Latshaw. The concert is Friday, April 14th at 7:30pm in Ardrey Auditorium. To read about the program, click here.