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Saddleback Chorale and Orchestra to Perform Pieces for Peace


LAGUNA HILLS — All Al Brightbill is saying, is give peace a chance.

To that end, Brightbill will lead the Saddleback Master Chorale and Orchestra in a "Concert for Peace" Sunday at the Lake Hills Community Church in Laguna Hills. He is dedicating the final work on the program, Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Dona Nobis Pacem," to fallen Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin.

"I had programmed these pieces before the Rabin assassination took place, but it seemed a logical thing to do," Brightbill, 53, said last week. "I could have included [former Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat for that matter, and [former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin, and given what is happening in Bosnia and all over the place . . .

"If we could live more like human beings, and less like animals, we'd be much better off."

"Dona Nobis Pacem," completed in the 1930s, reflects Vaughan Williams' reaction to "the warlike moves of fascism," Brightbill says. Also on the agenda are Barber's "Adagio for Strings," which was played following the radio announcement of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Benjamin Britten's "Cantata Misericordium," written to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Red Cross.

The Saddleback Master Chorale originally was formed as part of the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts but according to Brightbill now enjoys "a symbiotic relationship" with Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. Guest soloists at the upcoming concert will include soprano Gwendolyn Little, tenor Jonathon Mack and baritone David Means.

Brightbill, who has led the 90-member ensemble for almost half its 33-year history, says he has championed anti-war efforts since childhood.

"My father was a Mennonite minister, and I got a good healthy dose of that when I was a kid. My brother was a conscientious objector. As far as the draft was concerned, I didn't have to be--I had a slipped disk in my back so I had a medical 4F.

"I'm not an active Mennonite, but I'm an active pacifist. Those roots will always be there."

"Dona Nobis Pacem," and the variety of texts Vaughan Williams employs, encapsulate Brightbill's views perfectly.

"It's like a Dies Irae or Requiem with a positive ending. 'Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more' from the Bible; Walt Whitman poems that are as appropriate today as when they were written during the Civil War; John Bright's speech to Parliament [during the Crimean War] that talks about the Angel of Death being abroad in the land, and how there's no one anymore to put the blood on the door so the Angel of Death will pass on . . .

"We're in deep," Brightbill reflected, "and there's no saving us except ourselves."

* What: "Concert for Peace," works by Barber, Britten and Vaughan Williams.

* When: Sunday at 3 p.m.

* Where: Lake Hills Community Church, 23331 Moulton Parkway, Laguna Hills.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (5) freeway to the Lake Forest exit, head west, and turn left onto Moulton Parkway.

* Wherewithal: $12 to $15.

* Where to call: (714) 582-4656.

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