Desoff Choirs To Celebrate Spring With Bach, Buxtehude, And Barber In One Night Only Concert, 4/1

Hailed as "one of the great amateur choruses of our time (New York Today) for its "full-bodied sound and suppleness (The New York Times)," The Dessoff Choirs continues its 92nd season with a one-evening-only spring concert of repentance. Members of The Dessoff Chamber Choir and Ensemble bring diversity, spirit, and beautiful harmony to the emotionally charged season of Lent. The program includes Bach's Jesu, meine Freude, Buxtehude's Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr, and Barber's Dover Beach.

"This program is about passion, devotion, and reflection from a religious perspective as presented in the works by Bach and Buxtehude," said Malcolm J. Merriweather, Music Director and Conductor, The Dessoff Choirs. "Similarly, Barber's Dover Beach exudes the same depth of feeling but through a secular lens. Each piece is masterfully crafted, and I could not be more thrilled to present these works with the Dessoff Chamber Choir and Ensemble."

Jesu, meine Freude ("Jesus, My Joy") by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) is the second of Bach's six choral motets that Dessoff will perform over the next three seasons. Written in 1723, early in Bach's tenure as director of music at St. Thomas's Church, Leipzig, Jesu, meine Freude is the longest and most complex of Bach's motets. Based on a chorale melody by Johann Crüger, with text by Johann Franck, many of its movements speak of Jesus Christ freeing man from sin and death. Franck's chorale text is written from the believer's point of view, praising the gifts of Jesus Christ and longing for his comfort and strength. Chorale and Biblical verses together provide a text rich in stark contrasts between heaven and hell, joy and suffering, frequently within a single section.

Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), who has been called "the father of German musicians," heavily influenced Bach; Buxtehude, in turn, was influenced by Heinrich Schütz, who, along with Bach, is considered one of the most important German composers of the 17th century. Buxtehude's Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr ("From my heart I hold you dear, o Lord") is the finest example of the composer's mature cantata compositions. Based on a Lutheran hymn written in German by the Protestant theologian and reformer Martin Schalling, it is often used for funerals. The cantata's third stanza contains some extraordinary music, with meditative string tremolos accompanying the description of angels carrying the soul to the bosom of Abraham.

To round out the program, maestro Merriweather steps off the podium to sing Barber's Dover Beach for baritone and string quartet. Dover Beach (1931) by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) is based on a lyric poem of the same name by the English poet Matthew Arnold. The poem depicts human misery as grounded in the loss of religious faith, isolating each person from his or her fellow beings. The sea's ebb-tide is the piece's controlling metaphor; it stands for the retreating "sea of faith." The music characterizes a more reasoned state of mind, as the text recalls the sound of the sea, which "Sophocles long ago heard...on the Aegean."

About The Dessoff Choirs
The Dessoff Choirs, one of the leading choruses in New York City, is an independent chorus with an established reputation for pioneering performances of choral works from the Renaissance era through the 21st century. Since its founding in 1924, Dessoff's mission is to enrich the lives of its audiences and members through the performance of choral music. Its concerts, professional collaborations, community outreach, and educational initiatives are dedicated to stimulating public interest in and appreciation of choral music as an art form that enhances the culture and life of our times.

With repertoire ranging over a wide variety of eras and styles, Dessoff's musical acumen and flexibility has been recognized with invitations from major orchestras for oratorios and orchestral works. Past performances include Britten's War Requiem and Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with Lorin Maazel in his final performances as Music Director with the New York Philharmonic. Over the course of its 92-year history, Dessoff has presented numerous world premieres, including pieces by Virgil Thomson, George Perle, Paul Moravec, and Ricky Ian Gordon, as well as the first American performance in nearly 100 years of Montemezzi's opera La Nave with Teatro Grattacielo; and the American premieres of Philip Glass's Symphony No. 5, and Sir John Tavener's all-night vigil, The Veil of the Temple. Dessoff's recent discography includes REFLECTIONS, featuring music by Convery, Corigliano, Moravec, and Rorem, and GLORIES ON GLORIES, a collection of American song featuring composers ranging from Billings to Ives.

About Malcolm J. Merriweather

Malcolm J. Merriweather, recently appointed as the ninth Music Director and conductor of The Dessoff Choirs, is presenting his first season with The Dessoff Choirs beginning in September 2016. Conductor, baritone, and educator, he is also Assistant Professor and Director of Choirs at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York, Artist-in-Residence at Union Theological Seminary, and the Music Director of the "Voices of Haiti," a 60-member children's choir in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, funded by the Andrea Bocelli Foundation. Merriweather was previously Associate Choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine under Kent Tritle. Recent conducting highlights for Merriweather have included Orff's Carmina Burana with the choirs and orchestra of the Brooklyn College Conservatory; Handel's Messiah with the Harvard Club Festival Choir; and the OH, FREEDOM concert with the West Village Chorale and Orchestra, where he previously served as Artistic Director. A protégé of Kent Tritle, Merriweather holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting from the Manhattan School of Music, and Master of Music degrees in Choral Conducting and in Vocal Performance from the Eastman School of Music, as well as his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Syracuse University. His professional affiliations include membership in Pi Kappa Lambda, the American Choral Directors Association, the Association for Anglican Musicians, and Chorus America.

(Photo Credit: Carolyn Davis)

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