by MICHAEL CARUSO
Chestnut Hillers will have the opportunity to usher in the new year of classical music concerts on Sunday, Jan. 8, 4 p.m., in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave. The church will host a joint concert featuring The Crossing and Piffaro, the Renaissance Band. The program will present Kile Smith’s “Epiphany Vespers,” which will be performed for only the second time since its premiere in 2009. The Crossing and Piffaro commissioned the score, which was conducted at its premiere by the choir’s founder and director, Donald Nally.
Currently the interim music director of Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church and a resident of West Mt. Airy, Nally collaborated with Piffaro’s directors, Joan Kimball and Robert Wiemken, to ask local composer Kile Smith to write a modern version of the kind of Vespers Service celebrated by the German Lutheran Churches of the 17th and 18th centuries. This was the time when Johann Sebastian Bach was cantor (music director) of St. Thomas’ Church in the northern German city of Leipzig.
Smith is the curator of the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia, one of whose branches is located in Chestnut Hill. He is also the host of “Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection,” heard on Saturday afternoons on Temple University’s classical and jazz radio station, WRTI/FM. Smith has composed “Where Flames a Word” for The Crossing and “The Waking Sun” for The Crossing and Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra. The Crossing, Piffaro and Tempesta di Mare all regularly perform at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church. Smith’s “Epiphany Vespers” can be heard on compact disc from Navona Records.
For ticket information, call 215-235-8469 or visit www.piffaro.com.
The historic Mary Louise Curtis Branch of Settlement Music School, located in the Queen Village section of South Philadelphia, is welcoming 2012 with its new branch director securely settling into his post. Kristopher Rudzinski of Plymouth Meeting succeeded Glenside’s Eric Anderson at the start of the academic year after a decade as a percussion instructor and jazz ensemble coach. His primary site of instruction was the Germantown Branch, where Anderson is now branch director.
Rudzinski’s father was a saxophonist in the Langley Air Force Band and subsequently the Band of Europe. Following his discharge, he continued to play on a semiprofessional basis in bands that often performed at weddings. His mother is a nurse who both plays the piano and sings. Rudzinski began playing the drums when he was six years old.
The year Rudzinski auditioned and was accepted at the college of his choice, it was called Glassboro State College. By the time he began classes the following fall, its name had been changed to Rowan College, subsequently Rowan University. Rudzinski took two years off after receiving his bachelor’s degree to travel, and then did graduate work at Miami University of Ohio outside Cincinnati.
“It was an excellent music program,” Rudzinski remembered. He studied and also worked as a graduate assistant, receiving his master’s degree in 2001. “The program was particularly strong in world music, so I had the chance to learn about and play all kinds of percussion instruments from all over the world, more than just classical and jazz. It really expanded my musical horizons.
“It was also a ‘baptism by fire’ in regard to my learning how to teach,” he continued. “I was just thrown into teaching undergraduates and non-major percussionists, and that was a great experience for me because I had no choice but to develop and refine my teaching technique. By the time I graduated I really felt that I was prepared to teach percussion even though I had never previously thought of myself as a teacher. But the experience of teaching as a graduate assistant really changed my attitude. I ended up wanting to teach.”
Describing his new job as far more intense than teaching his own students had been, Rudzinski added, “Every day I learn something new about Settlement Music School even though I thought I already knew lots about it. For me, that’s great because I view life as one big learning experience that hopefully never ends.”
In the interest of full disclosure, Michael Caruso is a longtime member of Settlement Music School’s piano faculty.