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Freudig Singers Offer Director's Cut

Roland Martin

To open the Freudig Singers’ 26th season, Roland Martin, music director for more than a decade, has assembled a program that looks backward while also offering a world premiere. Significant anniversaries of Mendelssohn, Purcell, and Haydn are celebrated this year, and the Freudig Singers will offer works by each of these composers, as well as a commissioned work by Martin Wimmer that was performed during the group’s silver anniversary season last year, and the first complete performance of a new work by Martin himself.

The season opens on Saturday, October 24, at 7:30pm, at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Delaware Avenue. The program is entitled Director’s Cut.

Such Glorious Gifts, Martin’s latest song cycle, is based on the poetry of the 17th-century English mystical, religious poet George Herbert. Izaak Walton, the contemporary of Herbert best known as the author of The Compleat Angler, the most famous book on fishing in the English language, wrote a biography of Herbert in which he say that Herbert’s “chiefest recreation was music, in which heavenly art he was a most excellent master, and did himself compose many divine hymns and anthems, which he set and sung to his lute or viol.” Walton also noted that “he would usually sing and play his part at an appointed private music-meeting; and, to justify this practice, he would often say, ‘Religion does not banish mirth, but only moderates and sets rules to it.’”

The genesis of the Such Glorious Gifts goes back several years, when Martin composed settings of Love Bade Me Welcome for a musical conference at Sewanee University and The Altar to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Dale Adelmann as organist and choir master at Buffalo’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. Martin was in the process of turning his sketches for The Altar into a finished score on 9/11; the work, which has been broadcast in an orchestrated version, shares a special poignancy. Antiphon, Easter, and Paradise were commissioned by the Calvary Church of Williamsville, where the first five songs were performed last May. Inspired by the cover artwork featuring a dove descending for that program, Martin composed the final two settings: Whitsunday, from the poem celebrating the feast day of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles in the form of a dove; and Our Life Is Hid With Christ in God.

The Choir of Calvary Episcopal Church will join the Freudig Singers for Such Glorious Gifts with Debi Overton playing the organ accompaniment.

On display at Saturday’s concert will be a cycle of seven pictures by the noted Buffalo-based artist Catherine Parker, inspired by Such Glorious Gifts. Martin and Parker have collaborated previously, most recently on A Rose Beside the Water. Parker has often found inspiration for her strikingly vivid watercolors in poetry. She introduced Martin to the work of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and he accepted a commission from Parker to compose a cycle of eight songs for soprano, tenor, viola, and piano, based on English translations of Neruda’s poetry that he selected. Studying the individual scores as they appeared, Parker, who was trained as a cellist, created a painting based on each. A well-received performance of the work at the Burchfield-Penney last spring was followed up by a CD that is included in a handsomely produced book of the poems and paintings, designed by BPO violist Janz Castelo. The book is available at WNY Book Arts Center on Washington Street, where the paintings based on Such Glorious Things will be displayed through November 14.

In a recent interview, Parker said that working collaboratively with another artist helps her paint more effectively: “When I focus on a theme, such as in the two song cycles that I’ve done with Ron Martin, I can paint with more intensity.”

Also on the program are Songs for the People for chorus and piano, based on the words of the daughter of a slave, by Martin Wimmer. “The music has a rugged, very American quality,” Martin says, “and is about the power of music to effect change.”

Martin describes Purcell’s Funeral Pieces as “the most glorious music on the program.” Written when Purcell was still a teenager, the “plunging intervals and tortuous chromaticism make the work very difficult to sing,” Martin notes. Three of the late Part Songs by Haydn mix broad humor with late-life spiritual feelings, while Mendelssohn’s paraphrase of Psalm 13, Lass’, o Herr, mich Hülle finden, is, according to Martin “echt,’ or genuine Mendelssohn, full of gorgeous melodic lines.”

Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door ($8 in advance, $10 at the door for students and seniors.) Call 667-7088 for advance purchase, or visit

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