by Michael Caruso

The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill will host its annual Festival of Music and the Arts over the first weekend of November. It opens Friday, Nov. 3, 6 to 9 p.m., with “Souls Shot: Portraits of Victims of Gun Violence” in the Church’s Widener Hall. The Festival continues Saturday, Nov. 4, with a reading of the play “26 Pebbles” by Eric Ulloa. There will be a reception and gallery viewing at 6 p.m. with the performance following at 7:30 p.m. in Widener Hall.

The Festival will conclude with a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem Mass, James MacMillan’s “A Child’s Prayer” and the world premiere of Lewis Spratlan’s commissioned “Unspoken Words” Sunday, Nov. 5, at 4 p.m. A reception and gallery viewing will follow the concert.

Speaking about the concert, church music director Dan Spratlan said, “The PCCH Gallery Choir and soloists plus members of the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra will be heard in performances of Mozart’s Requiem Mass. Also featured on this program will be ‘A Child’s Prayer’ by the Scottish composer James MacMillan and the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan’s ‘Unspoken Words’ set to a text by Paul Kane.” (Ed. Note: Lewis Spratlan is Dan Spratlan’s father.)

Spratlan explained that “A Child’s Prayer” was composed in response to Great Britain’s worst mass shooting in 1996. It left 16 students dead at a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland. “It is a haunting, passionate setting of a simple children’s prayer for two soprano soloists and unaccompanied choir.

“It captures the innocence of the victims and explodes into the word ‘Joy’ before coming to a final rest. ‘Unspoken Words’ is a raw, bold, impassioned response to the gun violence epidemic in our country. The text and music capture the violence, suddenness, permanence, grief and anger that permeate a shooting.”

PCCH Pastor Cindy Jarvis added, “Given the overarching themes of this Festival – lifting up those whose lives have been tragically marked by gun violence and raising awareness of the scourge of gun violence through art, drama and music – a Requiem was the obvious choice for our choral offering, especially since the Festival is being held on the weekend after All Saints’ Day. Mozart’s Requiem Mass was chosen in particular because it is beloved by singers, musicians and audiences.”

Mozart was composing his Requiem Mass in D minor in 1791, the year of his death. As it turned out, he died before completing it. That task fell to his student Franz Xaver Sussmayr, who did so the following year. The score attained and has retained legendary status ever since.

For information visit www.chestnuthillpres.org or call 215-247-8855.

FIVE FRIDAYS

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, launched its season of “Five Fridays” fundraising recitals Oct. 20 with performances of music by Beethoven, Franck, Moszkowski and Temkin given by violinists Nikki and Timothy Chooi and pianist Sejoon Park. All three musicians are promoted by Astral Artists, the local organization headed by Vera Wilson that helps young musicians make the transition from conservatory to concert career.

“Five Fridays,” now in its sixth season, raises money for Face to Face Germantown and the Interfaith Hospitality Network. Both organizations strive to provide funds and material help to those attempting to move from homelessness and joblessness to sustainable lives in contemporary American society. All the proceeds from the ticket sales go directly to both groups.

Friday evening’s program opened with Beethoven’s Sonata No. 3 for Violin & Piano in E-flat major. Its first half was filled out with Cesar Franck’s Sonata for Violin & Piano in A major. Prior to the scheduled Suite in G minor for Two Violins & Piano, by Moritz Moszkowski at the start of the second half, the Chooi brothers gave a pre-world premiere rendition of Daniel Temkin’s “Time Capsule.” Its “official” debut took place Sunday, Oct. 22, in the American Philosophical Society in Old City.

Nikki Chooi and Sejoon Park were the featured performers in the Beethoven. They offered a light classical sound in the first movement, reminding me that Beethoven had studied with Franz Joseph Haydn when he first arrived in Vienna. It was Haydn who virtually single-handedly “invented” the classical style of the second half of the 18th century and passed it on to Beethoven, who almost immediately set out to expand it into the romantic style of the 19th century.

Both musicians spanned a broad range of dynamics to delineate the first movement’s sonata-allegro structure, balancing themes and tonal centers one against the other. They caught the second movement’s serene mood without divesting it of rhythmic vitality, then projected the third movement’s ebullience with pinpoint stylistic integrity. At the start, Park struggled slightly with the inherently muffled tone of the church’s vintage Steinway & Sons grand piano, but by the score’s conclusion he was eliciting a varied orchestral palette of supportive tones and timbres.

Franck’s justly celebrated Violin & Piano Sonata channels the chromatic idiom and ongoing developmental techniques of Wagner into a concise four-movement piece of chamber music. Both the Peabody Conservatory- and Juilliard School-trained Park and the Curtis Institute- and Juilliard School-trained Nikki Chooi projected Franck’s harmonic ambiguity in the first movement, the emotional tumult of the second movement, the rhetorical declamations of the third movement and the sunny mood of the fourth. Chooi’s fleet passagework and purity of tuning at the highest registers were potently employed for heightened efficacy while Park surrounded Chooi’s playing with a myriad array of colors and textures.

The Polish-born Moszkowski, who lived from 1854 until 1925, was a near contemporary of pianist/composer Ignace Jan Paderewski, also Polish-born and independent Poland’s first president following World War I. Moszkowski’s music forges a bridge between the styles of the earlier Chopin and the later Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Shostakovich. Timothy Chooi joined his older brother Nikki and Park for a thrilling rendition of the Suite in G minor’s four movements, offering a reading that sparkled at the surface and touched a sentimental aesthetic beneath that silken skin.

Temkin’s “Time Capsule” makes appealing references to some of Aaron Copland’s chamber music in its openhearted expressivity. Nikki and Timothy Chooi gave it a persuasive interpretation.

The next “Five Fridays” is set for Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and will feature the Rolston String Quartet. Visit www.fivefridays.org for more information. Parish music director Zach Fritsch-Hemenway will conduct the Adult Choir of St. Paul’s Church in a performance of Maurice Durufle’s Requiem Mass as part of a Requiem Mass said for the Feast of All Souls in memory of all the faithful departed Sunday, Nov. 5, p.m. You can contact NOTEWORTHY at Michael-caruso@comcast.net.

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