Chorale presents ‘Leaves of Bluegrass’
CHESTERTOWN — The Chester River Chorale’s 19th annual spring concert will include a celebration of American music and American poets in two 7:30 p.m. performances at the Chestertown Baptist Church on Morgnec Road on Thursday, April 12, and Friday, April 13.
Chorale Artistic Director Douglas D. Cox has put together a program titled it “Leaves of Bluegrass: American Music — American Poets.” The title heralds the content.
Along with songs using lyrics by such poets as Walt Whitman, who compiled and refined his work in the ever-changing “Leaves of Grass” from the end of the Civil War to the end of the 19th century, and Langston Hughes, a leading voice in the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, the chorale will present the Eastern Shore premiere of a unique new work named “Mortals and Angels” which sets the ancient hymn of praise to God, the “Te Deum,” to a bluegrass score.
Only one of the dozen parts of “Mortals and Angels” will be in the traditional Latin, but all will be backed by the High and Wides bluegrass string band, which takes its name from the special railroad shipments of monster cargo, such as huge electrical generators, on tracks that snake through the Appalachian Mountains where bluegrass music was born.
That means that instead of a chord from a mighty organ, the piece will begin with notes plucked from a single banjo.
In “Mortals and Angels,” the band and a male quartet represent the mortals while the chorale represent angels as the two vie musically as to who can praise God with the most passion. The children, drawn from the Chester River Youth Choir, are sometimes mortals and sometimes angels and provide a third voice in the contest.
Chorale accompanist Sammy Marshall will back the chorale singers in the other pieces, which include the poems set to music, and will end the concert with a rousing gospel piece, a folk American cousin of bluegrass.
The Chester Chamber Singers, the auditioned component of the Chorale, will sing a trilogy of pieces based on Whitman’s poems before the full chorale launches into “Mortals and Angels.”
Cox said his inspiration for the program came first from Whitman’s work where the poet “trumpets the equality and interconnectivity of all,” adding that Langston Hughes’s calls for equality and peace for all mankind “shares Whitman’s penchant for big thoughts.”
Adult tickets are $15. Students with IDs and children under 12 are free. Tickets may be bought in advance with PayPal on the chorale home page at www.chesterriverchorale.org or at the door.
For more information, visit www.chesterriverchorale. org or call 410–928-5566.
The Chester River Chorale will sing “The Leaves of Bluegrass” for its spring concert Thursday, April 12, and Friday, April 13, both at 7:30 p.m. at the Chestertown Baptist Church.