by Michael Caruso
The Germantown Branch of Settlement Music School, 6128 Germantown Ave., will host “Rock Away Your Winter Blues” Saturday, Feb. 21, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, free parking is provided onsite, and the event will feature performances by student and adult student rock and jazz ensembles.
Branch director Eric Anderson of Glenside pointed out that two of the performers — Chestnut Hill business owner Baird Standish and Wyndmoor resident Robert Goldberg — are members of the branch’s board of directors.
Goldberg explained, “I took my son to the Germantown Branch for saxophone lessons in the early 1990s, but my most recent connection began a few years ago when I joined the board at the invitation of Ken Weiner, its president. Ken and I are neighbors and take the same 7 a.m. train from Wyndmoor to center city and are out walking to Chestnut Hill several times a week.
“I have had a lifelong interest in music,” he continued, “and believe strongly in the great value of providing an opportunity to learn music in a child’s life. I studied classical guitar as a child, but it never really ‘took.’ What did really grab my interest as a teenager in the 1960s was folk music and old-time Appalachian mountain music and Bluegrass. I taught myself 5-string banjo and mandolin and have been playing this kind of music off and on ever since.
“After retiring several years ago, I have been able to revive my interest and practice and return to a level I can really enjoy. I have also built instruments and have returned to that interest, as well. In the last decade, I have made four 5-string necks for banjos, built a guitar from a Martin kit and built a mandolin through Roger Siminoff’s Luthierie shop in California. At the ‘Winter Blues’ event, I will be playing banjo joined by three members of the Bluegrass group, Boulevard Express.”
Standish, who owns Facility Specialists, LLC, and provides services for clients such as The Four Seasons Hotel, The Racquet Club of Philadelphia and The Union League, mainly plays guitar and mandolin. He has been involved at Settlement since 2003. “I had music education as a student since I was very young,” he said, “and it has opened me up to a whole other world that would not have been available to me without the training I received when I was young.”
For more information about “Rock Away Your Winter Blues,” call 215-320-2610.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Feb. 8 Choral Evensong at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, was the quality of both the music and the singing of what is often the “throwaway” opening number, the Introit – in this case, Josef Rheinberger’s “Bide with us, for evening shadows darken.” Most of the time, the Introit is a simple English-language version of a Gregorian chant melody that sets the proper text for the day, here the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.
Rheinberger’s “Bide with us” is no such thing. It’s a fully contrapuntal anthem that would be the most technically difficult and spiritually moving choral piece sung during a service for the most solemn of holy days. Its harmonies are the result of romantic counterpoint making use of elegant motifs that beautifully set its German text.
But not at St. Paul’s Church. Here it was the first piece sung (unaccompanied at the back of the church) by the choir under Zach Hemenway’s direction. It was followed later in the service by the “Magnificat” and the “Nunc Dimittis” from the “Collegium Regale” of Herbert Howells – like Rheinberger, another master of sacred choral music.
Despite its being the opening number, “Bide with us” was sung with a glowing, sweet tone, a broad span of dynamics and an immaculate blend that made all the sopranos, altos, tenors and basses sound like one multi-faceted vocal quartet.
As a point of comparison as well as the chance to hear Chestnut Hill soprano Rebecca Hoke in a much smaller choir, I attended Solemn Evensong & Benediction at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Locust Street, on Feb. 1, the Eve of the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, known as “Candlemas.” Guest conductor for the service was Barry Rose, master of music at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, at the time of the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, to Lady Diana. Hoke is a regular member of the choir at St. Paul’s Church and was singing as a guest at St. Mark’s at the request of its organist and choirmaster, Matthew Glandorf.
Interestingly enough, Rose chose to lead St. Mark’s choir of about a dozen in the same Howells settings of the “Magnificat” and the “Nunc Dimittis” from the “Collegium Regale.” Rose conducted the choir with a delicate touch, eliciting singing of transparent textures and pastel hues. I must confess, however, to preferring the more robust approach Hemenway took with the Howells.