Buffalo Composer Wins National Prize
by Jan Jezioro
Martin J. Wimmer was awarded first prize recently in the Vincent Brown Silliman Choral Anthem Competition, held in Madison, Wisconsin. His composition, entitled Peace, beat out nearly ninety other entrants to win the “Easy Anthem” category in the nationwide competition sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network. Wimmer, who is best known to Western New York classical music lovers as Marty, is the longtime host of WNED radio’s popular Tuesday Night Opera program, as well as the Saturday morning classics and local connections programs. In September, he will begin his 18th year as a music teacher in the Depew school system, where he teaches band, chorus, and general music.
“The Cheektowaga Music Boosters commissioned me to write a new choral work in celebration of the Cheektowaga School District’s 50th anniversary in 2006,” Wimmer says. “It was my first commission ever, and I was elated. Karen Robinson, who is a wonderful music teacher at the school, is the person who offered me the commission.”
Immediately, Wimmer says, his head began to spin: “Wow! My first commission! What happens next? Where do I find a text? How will I know if it’s right for the occasion?”
The handwringing didn’t last long. In the school’s lobby, Wimmer found four banners hanging on the wall, each displaying an inspirational poem, saying, or proverb. “One of them was an ancient Chinese proverb,” he says, “and I knew immediately that it was perfect for this commission. I found some scrap paper and jotted it down immediately.”
The proverb that inspired the creation of Peace:
If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.
Wimmer combined the ancient Chinese proverb with a traditional Latin text, “Dona nobis pacem,” and its English translation, “Grant us peace.”
Peace was a finalist in the Ithaca College Choral Composition Contest in 2007 and several local groups have performed the work, including both the Freudig Singers and the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus, who performed Peace at the 2008 GALA Festival in Miami. Since the Madison Festival Chorus performed Peace in July as part of the Wisconsin event, Wimmer has received numerous orders from choral directors around the country—in Alabama, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York—who plan to include the work in both worship services and on concert programs.
Wimmer says he’s dabbled in composition since he was a teenager but only began writing music seriously about seven years ago. “In that time I’ve written mostly vocal music—songs, song cycles and choral music—but I’ve also written a bit of piano music, chamber music, a children’s musical and even a work for wind ensemble,” he says. “I don’t limit myself to any one style or genre. I believe that one’s craft should be ever evolving and developing. We’ll see where it leads me.”
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