Catherine Parker’s paintings were often inspired by poetry and music, things that made Saturday afternoon’s commemorative program by the Buffalo Chamber Players (and friends) quite fitting. While there were readings from the Old and New Testaments, along with prayers and hymn singing, the bulk of the memorial was devoted to poetry and musical settings of poems that influenced her art, in addition to instrumental works that prompted her to paint.
One of the first things greeting the eye upon entering St. Joseph University Church was a collection of Parker’s paintings – mounted, framed and sitting on easels placed around the chancel and facing viewers. It was a visible reminder of Parker’s art as the afternoon’s program progressed.
The natural reverb of the sanctuary was muted somewhat by the number of people in attendance and added a constant (and appropriate) acoustic gravitas to the music. This became apparent when trombonist Timothy Smith began the concert with “Sang till Lotta (Song for Lotta)” by the Swedish composer Jan Sandstrom. The beautiful, slowly developing lines played by Smith were accented by the softly insistent pulse of Roland E. Martin on piano.
Martin’s participation in this memorial was pretty extensive. In addition to supporting Smith’s performance, he took part (along with violist Janz Castelo) in a well-played arrangement of Arvo Part’s “Spiegel Im Spiegel” and a subtly moving rendition of the final movement from Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” that featured violinist Amy Licata.
He also showcased compositions from his own oeuvre, including selections from a brace of song cycles along with a section from his choral score, “Such Glorious Gifts.”
Castelo joined Martin and singers Cristen Gregory and Jeffrey Porter in two well-performed selections (“A Rose” and “Serenade”) from Martin’s “A Rose Beside the Water,” while Gregory and cellist Robert Hausmann teamed up for a nice take on “August” and “December” from “A Northeast Gardener’s Year.”
The most impressive of Martin’s compositions, melding volume and beauty, was “Easter,” as sung by the Freudig Singers and the St. Joseph University Parish Choir. The wash of sound from the choir loft, where Martin was conducting and playing the organ, was an aural shock, compared with the smaller scaled works peppering the program.
The balance of the concert, other than the pair of hymns sung by the audience (“For the Beauty of the Earth” and “Moved by the Gospel, Let Us Move”) and three Peter Siedlecki poems read by their author, featured Baroque works by Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel that have stood the test of time.
Handel’s operatic aria “Ombra Mai Fu” was presented in a pleasant, stripped-down arrangement for oboe (Anna Mattix), four string players and soprano Colleen Marcello, while Amelie Fradette’s cello was front and center in a solid, straightforward reading of the “Bourrees” from Bach’s Suite no. 3 in C major for solo cello.