The world premiere of a specially commissioned new work by Daniel Brewbaker will be the centerpiece of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus’ 75th anniversary concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall.
The chorus was founded in 1937 as the Buffalo Schola Cantorum. It has had many distinguished directors, but the anniversary spotlight is focused on Cameron Baird. His 10-year directorship (1945-55) established the chorus as a top-level ensemble, collaborating with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in performing the most difficult major masterworks in the choral literature.
In 1992, the name was changed to Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. The group has a close association with the BPO, but remains an independent entity, producing its own, separate concert series. The 75th anniversary concert is seen as an overview of the chorus’ history and repertoire.
At one end of its chronology, the program includes Palestrina’s “O Bone Jesu,” sung during the chorus’ first public concert in 1938. And at the other end, the BPC will present the premiere of Brewbaker’s “How Sweet the Music,” commissioned as a tribute to Baird and supported by the Cameron & Jane Baird Foundation. It is dedicated to the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus.
From the great choral literature there will be excerpts from Bach’s “Magnificat” and Brahms’ “German Requiem,” with Handel’s “Hallelujah” from “Messiah” as a concluding exclamation point.
Representing what might be called popular classics, the BPC will sing a choral medley from Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and Cole Porter’s ubiquitous “Begin the Beguine.” There are two spirituals on the program, “Steal Away” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” as arranged by Dale Adelman, from the folk/traditional category.
Additional modern works will be Morten Lauridsen’s “O Nata Lux” and “Passage Into Spirit” by Randol Bass, an earlier BPC commission.
The 75th anniversary concert will be conducted by Roland Martin and accompanied by pianist Susan Schuman. Martin is a Buffalo-based conductor/composer/organist and one of three candidates for the currently open position of BPC music director. Filling this post is another priority of the BPC’s 75th year. Dale Adelman and Paul Ferington will guest conduct parts of the program.
Baird (1906-1960) was a man whose modesty and geniality tended to obscure the breadth and significance of his accomplishments. He was the founder of the music department at the University at Buffalo.
Through his worldwide connections he was instrumental in bringing to Buffalo such noted guest professors or lecturers as Paul Hindemith and Aaron Copland, while also persuading the renowned Budapest String Quartet to take up residence at the university.
He also was a prime mover in securing William Steinberg and Josef Krips as music directors of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
In addition to many other honors, just two weeks ago Baird was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.
It is appropriate that the text for Brewbaker’s “How Sweet the Music” is from a dialogue between Lorenzo and Jessica in Act V of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” It is one of the greatest of all paeans to the beauty and power of music and was previously used in Vaughan Williams’ 1938 “Serenade to Music,” a favorite work of Baird’s.
This text should mesh well with the smooth compositional style of Brewbaker, who was praised by Baltimore Sun critic Tim Smith for his flair for writing “unabashedly beautiful themes.” (I was an unpaid consultant to the BPC in the selection of this text, but was not involved with any other aspect of the commission.)
Admission to the concert is free, but reservations are required and may be obtained by email at email@example.com.
Kleinhans Music Hall is alive with music this weekend from the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the concert featuring the chorus.
Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 is a luminous classic, and it takes center stage in concerts Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, led by eminent guest conductor Hugh Wolff. The concert also features violinist Alexandre Da Costa, playing Michael Daugherty’s “Fire and Blood Concerto.”
A kind of melting pot of a piece, the concerto was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It is a tribute to the car industry – specifically, a mural that Edsel Ford commissioned from painter Diego Rivera in 1932. Daugherty’s music includes portraits of the car factories and of Rivera’s wife, the artist Frida Kahlo.
Bridging the centuries, Da Costa plays the pre-industrial-revolution 1727 “Di Barbero” Stradivarius.
The concert, part of the BPO’s Classics series, takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $27-$74. For information, call 885-5000.
-Mary Kunz Goldman
What: Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus’ 75th anniversary concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mary Seaton Room, Kleinhans Music Hall
Tickets: Free, but must make reservations by email at firstname.lastname@example.org