Cho­rale presents ‘Leaves of Blue­grass’

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Bay Views -

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.chester­river­ 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.

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