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Let There Be Light

Roland E. Martin

The Freudig Singers celebrate St. Cecilia’s feast day early

While the feast day of St. Cecilia is traditionally celebrated on November 22, the Freudig Singers of Western New York will start the celebrations early this year, when they present their “Let There Be Light” concert on Saturday, October 26 at 7:30pm, at St. Joseph’s University Church (3269 Main Street). Music director Roland E. Martin will lead the choral ensemble in a program that will feature two contemporary sacred music pieces, his own Magnificat and the area premier of the Mass for St. Cecilia’s Day by Lou Harrison, as well as an anonymously composed Te Deum from the early 16th century.

“Harrison’s Mass for St. Cecilia is a piece I’ve wanted to do for several years,” says Martin. “The mostly monophonic vocal lines resemble chant, but with a twist. Harrison creates his own scales which can be rather foreign to the singer’s ear, as they mostly resemble minor scales with one note missing. This doesn’t seem like much of a challenge until you try to sing it. Harrison couches these exotic, almost Eastern sounds in a halo of bell-like aura created by instruments such as vibraphone, crotales, and real bells, all engaged in beautiful ostinato figures or drones. Sometimes quiet organ voices are added as well, from the other end of the room, with the overall effect of a gorgeous tintinnabulation. This work will be having its regional premiere on this concert, since if anyone else has done it, they’re keeping it secret.

“I would have loved to have met Harrison, who had a wonderfully creative mind, but never had the chance.”

Roland says he composed the Magnificat and a Nunc dimittis in E flat for a soprano friend in 1988 as demanding works for solo voice and organ.

“I wanted to showcase the great range and flexibility of her voice, as well as to set these beloved texts in a beautiful modern language translation,” he says. “Later the same year I arranged them for solo soprano, chorus, and organ and added the remaining canticle from the Book of Luke, the Benedictus Dominus Deus. These three Lucan canticles provided the starting point and central movements of a larger work, The Promise, a sort of choral symphony on seven movements of about 40 minutes length.”

In the early 1990s, the work received a few dozen performances, despite the requirement of a chamber orchestra and four soloists. “Even though it has never been published, I still have plenty of requests to sanction a performance, and none of these are local, or even in New York State,” he says. “My publisher took a recent interest in this work and asked me to revise it to my satisfaction to prepare it for publication. It seemed an ideal time to bring these older pieces out, dust them off, and have them sung again.

Soprano Cristen Gregory, who was the second person to sing the pieces n the early 1990s, will sing them again next Saturday.

“The setting of the Te Deum is an interesting 16th-century work of unknown authorship,” says Martin, “but while I no longer remember how I first encountered this piece, I do remember that it was not any sort of performing edition or version, so I prepared my own edition of the piece. It is composed in the ‘alternatim’ practice, in this case alternating short chant verses with equally short, four-voice, polyphonic verses. In our performance, the polyphonic verses will alternate not with the chant but with short organ versets composed for just this purpose. The organ setting, which is also an anonymous composition, is almost exactly contemporary with the choral work, so it pairs with it perfectly.”

Suggested donation: $15, $13 for students and seniors.

Late Night with Leonard Bernstein

A strong case could be made for the late, beloved composer, conductor, author, and musical lecturer Leonard Bernstein being the most influential classical musician in America in the second half of the 20th century. While Bernstein died in 1990, his legacy lives on in his still often performed compositions, in his acclaimed recordings and books, and through the continuing legacy of his educational efforts, including his series of network-televised Young People’s Concerts, one of which featured a very young Claudia Hoca, Buffalo’s own favorite pianist.

On Friday October 25 at 7:30pm, UB’s Slee Hall will host “Late Night with Leonard Bernstein,” an affectionate, multimedia portrait of the composer’s personal side featuring his daughter Jamie Bernstein as narrator, soprano Amy Burton, and pianists Michael Boriskin and John Musto. Several of his most intimate works will be featured, along with some of his favorite compositions by Copland, Schubert, Grieg, Zez Confrey, Noel Coward, and others, as well as personal stories and audio and video excerpts of the maestro himself.

For tickets and information, call 645-2921 or visit web:

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