by Michael Caruso
Although many institutions and organizations — churches included — continue cutting back on their activities due to the slow pace of the nation and region’s economic recovery, the music program at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill continues to grow. Zach Hemenway, St. Paul’s music director, pointed to its “Five Fridays” series of intimate recitals, its season of seven Sunday afternoon Choral Evensong services plus an additional two Carols & Lessons services during Advent and Holy Week, and the impressive growth and development in its choral programs, especially the children’s choir.
Speaking of the 25 young choristers last Friday afternoon, Hemenway exclaimed, “They’re awesome. They’ve developed so well. They’re now able to produce a big cathedral choir sound — nothing thin and feeble — and they’re singing serious music and having a fun time doing it.”
Hemenway emphasized that young people may join the choir at any time, that no prior musical training or experience is required or expected, and that there are no expenses or fees. The choir is open to parishioners and non-parishioners and Episcopalians and non-Episcopalians alike.
Hemenway was quick to offer equal praise for his adult choir of 45 singers. “We’re able to draw the finest volunteers to sing in our choir because, once again, we sing great music that features sound theology in its texts. If you wish to establish and maintain a high musical standard, you’ve got to offer your singers the highest quality of music.”
Especially dear to Hemenway’s heart is the “Five Fridays” series of recitals, all of which are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and are approximately an hour in length without intermission. The first is scheduled for Oct. 26 and features pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine in music by Beethoven, Liszt and Scriabin.
“The proceeds go to ‘Face to Face Germantown’ and the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Northwest Philadelphia,” Hemenway explained. The former provides services for the homeless while the latter helps the homeless transition from temporary to permanent housing.
St. Paul’s first Choral Evensong is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30. The choir will sing music by Herbert Howells, Michael Sitton and Percy Whitlock. Visit www.stpaulschestnuthill.org for more information.
OCP’S “LA BOHEME”
The Opera Company of Philadelphia will open its 1012-13 season with that perennial favorite, “La Boheme,” by Giocomo Puccini, with five performances in the Academy of Music and an extra outdoor performance on Independence Mall.
“La Boheme,” an opera in four acts, was composed by Puccini to a libretto written by Giuseppe Giacose and Luigi Illica after Henry Murger’s novel, “Scenes de la vie de boheme” (Scenes from the Life of the Bohemians). “Boheme” joins “Tosca” and “Madame Butterfly” as the three most popular of Puccini’s operas, and it has remained one of the pillars of the Italian operatic repertoire. Only Puccini’s illustrious predecessor, Giuseppe Verdi, composed more operas that continue to hold their place in the Italian standard repertoire.
OCP’s production will mark the return of two locally trained singers in the cast. Tenor Bryan Hymel will sing the part of Rodolfo, and bass Jeremy Miller will essay the role of Colline. Both Hymel and Miller are recent graduates of the Academy of Vocal Arts. The production will feature projections of French masterpieces from the Barnes Foundation and Philadelphia Museum of Art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in keeping with Puccini’s setting of the opera.
Performances in the Academy of Music are at 8 p.m. Fridays, Sept. 28 and Oct. 5, 2:30 p.m.; Sundays, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7; 2:30 p.m.; and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3. The Independence Mall performance is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6. For more information, visit www.operaphila.org.