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The Fredonia Masterworks Chorus and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to perform ‘St. Matthew Passion’ on March 9
Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Fredonia Masterworks Chorus and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to perform ‘St. Matthew Passion’ on March 9

The Fredonia School of Music joins forces with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to present J.S. Bach’s masterwork, “St. Matthew Passion,” featuring the Fredonia Masterworks Chorus, the Chautauqua Youth Senior Chorus and the Chancel Choir of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Buffalo.

     Dr. Gerald Gray
    William Hite
     Aaron Engebreth

The performance is slated for Wednesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. in King Concert Hall. A second performance will take place at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at 1080 Main St., Buffalo, on Friday, March 11.

Bach's grandest and, arguably, greatest work, “St. Matthew Passion,” will be performed in its original language of German with supertitles.

"This collaborative project has been more than a year in the making," said Mel Unger, director of the School of Music. "We are thrilled to collaborate with the Buffalo Philharmonic and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Buffalo. It allows us to bring one of the monuments of Western music to a wider audience, while also providing our students an opportunity to present a major masterwork alongside professional musicians."

The all-star cast is highlighted by guest soloists, William Hite, tenor, and Aaron Engebreth, baritone, whom have performed at some of the world’s most prestigious venues, with Fredonia faculty soloists Dr. Angela Haas, Joe Dan Harper, Daniel Ihasz, Julie Newell and Laurie Tramuta. Fredonia's Sean Duggan will be featured on continuo organ, joined by guest Baroque specialists Michael Beattie, Patricia Halverson and Christopher Haritatos.

"The St. Matthew Passion is a highly dramatic work that presents a poignant story with universal themes of betrayal, murder and redemption that can be felt and embraced by a diverse audience," commented Gerald Gray, Fredonia voice professor and conductor/artistic director for the project. "I wish to engage the audience in an emotional dialog, with Bach the dramatist, that is transformative. This collaboration brings together four leading musical institutions in the Western New York to present the St. Matthew Passion with uncompromising artistic and vocal depth."

In addition to the 78 Fredonia students singing in the Masterworks Chorus, current Fredonia students Michael J. Hawk, Nicole Moy, William Steadman, Lucille Horn, Michelle Cope, and Lucia Helgren, with music alumni Kyle Botsford, '10, Timothy Flynn, '04, Roger VanDette, '78, and Michael Manganiello, '12, will appear in lead and supporting roles. The Fredonia Masterworks Chorus will be joined by the 35-member Chancel Choir of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and the 20-member Chautauqua Youth Senior Chorus.

"For the double-chorus," explained Dr. Gray, "we combine the excellent singers of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Chancel Choir, under the direction of their organist/choirmaster James Bigham, with select voices from the choirs of the School of Music at Fredonia, to form a superb choral instrument. The Chautauqua Youth Senior Chorus, under the direction of Marjorie Bohn, brings a lovely youthful tone that will delight the audience."

Gray noted that while Bach had a very specific purpose in mind when composing this work - to present the story of the Crucifixion in music at Good Friday vesper services - Bach's Passion continues to move audiences nearly three centuries after it was first heard in St. Thomas's Church in Leipzig, Germany. Standing as one of the pillars of Western sacred music, it is at once monumental and intimate, deeply sorrowful and powerful.

"The great works of antiquity, such as the sculptures of Michelangelo or the tragedies of Shakespeare, continue to live as each new generation has their own dialog with these creations," said Gray. "Such is the case with the St. Matthew Passion. When we engage with these works, we are ennobled. It has been over 20 years since this masterwork has been performed in Western New York. Now is our time to share the St. Matthew Passion with a new generation."

Tickets are available now by calling (716) 673-3501, online at, or in person at the Fredonia Ticket Office. General tickets are $25 and student/child tickets are $10.

The event is supported by School of Music, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and the Williams Visiting Professorship endowment through the Fredonia College Foundation.

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