The Buffalo Philharmonic will perform with the State University at Fredonia Masterworks Chorus, Chautauqua Youth Senior Chorus and Chancel Choir of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in the King Concert Hall.
A second performance will take place at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on March 11.
Bach’s grandest and, arguably, his greatest work, the Great Passion will be performed in the original language with supertitles.
“This collaborative project has been more than a year in the making,” said Dr. Mel Unger, director of the SUNY Fredonia School of Music.”We are thrilled to collaborate with the Buffalo Philharmonic and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Buffalo. It allows us to bring one of the monuments of Western music to a wider audience, while also providing our students an opportunity to present a major masterwork alongside professional musicians.”
The all-star cast is highlighted by guest soloists William Hite (tenor) and Aaron Engebreth (baritone), with Fredonia faculty soloists Angela Haas, JoeDan Harper, Daniel Ihasz, Julie Newell and Laurie Tramuta. Fredonia’s Sean Duggan will be featured on continuo organ, joined by guest Baroque specialists Michael Beattie, Patricia Halverson and Christopher Haritatos.
“The St. Matthew Passion is a highly dramatic work that presents a poignant story with universal themes of betrayal, murder and redemption that can be felt and embraced by a diverse audience,” said Gerald Gray, SUNY Fredonia voice professor and conductor/artistic director for the project. “I wish to engage the audience in an emotional dialogue, with Bach the dramatist, that is transformative. This collaboration brings together four leading musical institutions in Western New York to present the ‘St. Matthew Passion’ with uncompromising artistic and vocal depth.”
In addition to the 78 Fredonia students singing in the Masterworks Chorus, current Fredonia students Michael J. Hawk, Nicole Moy, William Steadman, Lucille Horn, Michelle Cope and Lucia Helgren, and music alumni Kyle Botsford, a 2010 graduate; Timothy Flynn, a 2004 graduate; Roger VanDette, a 1978 graduate; and Michael Manganiello, a 2012 graduate; will appear in lead and supporting roles. The Fredonia Masterworks Chorus will be joined by the 35-member Chancel Choir of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and the 20-member Chautauqua Youth Senior Chorus.
“For the double-chorus,” Gray said, “we combine the excellent singers of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Chancel Choir, under the direction of their organist/choirmaster James Bigham, with select voices from the choirs of the School of Music at Fredonia, to form a superb choral instrument. The Chautauqua Youth Senior Chorus, under the direction of Marjorie Bohn, brings a lovely youthful tone that will delight the audience.”
While Bach had a very specific purpose in mind when composing this work – to present the story of the Crucifixion in music at Good Friday vesper services – Bach’s Passion continues to move audiences nearly three centuries after it was first heard in St. Thomas’s Church in Leipzig, Germany.
“The great works of antiquity, such as the sculptures of Michelangelo or the tragedies of Shakespeare, continue to live as each new generation has their own dialog with these creations,” Gray said. “Such is the case with the ‘St. Matthew Passion.’ When we engage with these works, we are ennobled. It has been over 20 years since this masterwork has been performed in Western New York. Now is our time to share the St. Matthew Passion with a new generation.”
Tickets are available by calling 673-3501, online at fredonia.edu/tickets, or in person at the Fredonia Ticket Office. General tickets are $25; student/child tickets are $10.
The event is supported by the SUNY Fredonia School of Music, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Buffalo and the Williams Visiting Professorship endowment through the Fredonia College Foundation.