Great Music at St. Bart’s Presents Two February Events Showcasing the St. Bart’s Organ, the Largest Pipe Organ in New York City

• JOHN ZORN: CANDLEMAS EVE AND THE HERMETIC ORGAN, FEBRUARY 1, 2017

• JASON ROBERTS: LIVE IMPROVISED ORGAN ACCOMPANIMENT TO BUSTER KEATON’S THE GENERAL, FEBRUARY 17, 2017

To jolt New Yorkers out of their winter doldrums, the Great Music at St. Bart’s concert series presents two events in February showcasing the famed St. Bart’s pipe organ, the largest in New York City, that will literally shake the rafters. On February 1, in St. Bartholomew’s magnificent Romanesque-style church, iconic New York composer John Zorn performs The Hermetic Organ Office Nr. 15 (2017), a new chapter in his epic organ improvisation, praised by Lou Reed as one of “culmination and conquest,” and his new work Candlemas Eve. And on February 17, St. Bart’s presents the third annual screening of a silent film classic to live organ accompaniment by St. Bart’s Associate Organist Jason Roberts – this year, The General, the comedy masterpiece by Buster Keaton.

WATCH: A video about the St. Bart’s organ on Vimeo.

Tickets may be purchased online at this website, by phone by calling 212-378-0248, or in person at St. Bart’s in Midtown Manhattan, 325 Park Avenue at 51st Street.

The 2016-17 season of Great Music at St. Bart’s continues the new programmatic focus initiated last year by MMPAF Artistic Director William K. Trafka (Director of Music and Organist of St. Bart’s): to embrace a wider range of music in programs that shine in St. Bart’s spaces. The spring 2017 season also features programs of chamber music in the Chapel that showcase modern and new repertoire, performed by acclaimed ensembles ECCO East Coast Chamber Orchestra (A Thousand Cranes by Christopher Theofanidis, NY premiere), and Apple Hill String Quartet (Presences by John Harbison, world premiere). Among the programs presented in the magnificent sanctuary are two vastly different interpretations of the St. John Passion: Bach’s, performed by The English Concert Players and the Choir of New College, Oxford, conducted by Robert Quinney, and Arvo Pärt’s, performed by Trafka leading the St. Bartholomew’s Choir; and Orff’s Carmina Burana performed by the Dalton Chorale.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017, at 8:30 pm in the Church
JOHN ZORN: CANDLEMAS EVE AND THE HERMETIC ORGAN

Barry Crawford, flute
Isabel Gleicher, flute
Al Lipowski, vibraharp
Sae Hashimoto, vibraharp assistant
John Zorn, organ

Modern music icon John Zorn returns to St. Bart’s with a performance of The Hermetic Organ Office Nr. 15 (2017), a new chapter in his epic organ improvisation, praised by Lou Reed as one of “culmination and conquest.” His 2016 work Candlemas Eve for two flutes and vibraharp will be offered on the eve of the church’s feast day of Candlemas.

John Zorn performed The Hermetic Organ Office Nr. 14 last year at St. Bart’s and has released a recording of that performance on his Tzadik website, www.tzadik.com (Cat. #8340): “Recorded at midnight on the eve of Halloween on the largest organ in New York City, Zorn approaches this performance as ritual, creating a mysterious mood of contrasts, colors, bells, drones, counterpoint and simultaneity.”

“The one word virtually everyone can agree on in any discussion of the work of composer John Zorn is ‘prolific,’ in the strictest sense of the definition,” says Thom Jurek in allmusic.com. “Though he didn’t begin making records until 1980, the recordings under his own name number well over 100, and the sheer number of works he has performed on, composed, or produced easily doubles that number. Though now an internationally renowned musician and the founder and owner of the wildly successful and equally prolific Tzadik imprint, Zorn is a cornerstone of New York’s fabled and influential downtown scene. In addition, he has played with musicians of every stripe. He is … a quintessential mirror of 21st century culture.”

WATCH: John Zorn’s talks about his approach to The Hermetic Organ on YouTube
Tickets: $25, $15 for Students and Seniors


Friday, February 17, 2017, at 7:30 pm in the Church
JASON ROBERTS ACCOMPANIES THE GENERAL

Jason Roberts, organ

St. Bart’s Associate Director of Music and Organist Jason Roberts improvises organ accompaniment to The General, the great 1927 action-packed comedy adventure from Buster Keaton inspired by the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.

As Gary Giddins wrote in Slate.com, “The General belongs to at least three movie genres: comedy, historical, and chase. Most of it is constructed around a pursuit as relentless as any Bourne blowout, involving a Confederate locomotive, called the General, hijacked by Union spies. … Keaton’s authenticity and comedic understatement make The General a surprisingly modern experience. The storytelling and the gags are free of sentimentality and knockabout clichés. The four-minute battle scene is simply one of the most gripping, and occasionally hilarious, ever filmed.”

Over the past two years, Jason Roberts has improvised the organ accompaniment to St. Bart’s screenings of The Wind starring Lillian Gish and the Buster Keaton classic Steamboat Bill, Jr. St. Bart’s Associate Director of Music, Organist, and the Director of the Boy and Girl Choristers since 2014, Jason is a sought-after recitalist in the U.S. and an avid improviser. He won first prize at the AGO National Competition in Organ Improvisation in 2008 and was a finalist at the St. Alban’s International Organ Competition in 2011 (Improvisation). He holds degrees from Rice University, Yale University and the Manhattan School of Music.

READ: Critic Roger Ebert’s review of “Great Movie” The General
Tickets: $20, $10 for Students and Seniors


Tickets may be purchased online at this website, by phone by calling 212-378-0248, or in person at St. Bart’s in Midtown Manhattan, 325 Park Avenue at 51st Street.

Great Music at St. Bart’s, the concert series produced by the Mid-Manhattan Performing Arts Foundation, for the past six years has presented music in St. Bartholomew’s Church, a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of New York located in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The magnificent 1918 Romanesque-style church features a portal designed by Stanford White and a grand Byzantine-style interior – and two of New York’s unlikely but outstanding concert spaces: the 150-seat chapel, an intimate and acoustically brilliant space that is perfectly suited for contemporary chamber music, and the majestic 1,000-seat sanctuary – outfitted with comfortable chairs enabling flexible seating – whose Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ is the largest in New York City and one of the finest examples of the American Classic Organ in the U.S.

Welcome to Our 2016 – 2017 Season

The new season for 2016-2017 has just been announced, and we’ve got quite an exciting line up as well as a new, updated look for the website.   To explore the concerts and events, click here.

To read the press release for this season, click here.

Great Music at St. Bart’s Presents – The Apple Hill String Quartet

Sunday, March 13, 2016, at 2:30 pm in the Chapel
THE APPLE HILL STRING QUARTET – Music of Purcell, Glass, Haas

Apple Hill String Quartet (Elise Kruder, Colleen Jennings, violin; Mike Kelley, viola; Rupert Thompson, cello)

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The Apple Hill String Quartet performs its sixth annual performance on the Great Music at St. Bart’s series, a program in the intimate St. Bart’s Chapel: an arrangement of Purcell’s Three Fantasias (1680); Philip Glass’s String Quartet #4 “Buczak,” written in 1987 in remembrance of the artist Brian Buczak; and Pavel Haas’s String Quartet No. 2, “From the Monkey Mountains,” Op. 7 – a 1925 work that continues the Czech heritage of Haas’s teachers Dvořák and Janáček and evokes the Moravian highlands of its subtitle, with four movements titled “Landscape,” “Coach, Coachman and Horse,” “The Moon and I,” and “Wild Night.”

Since its founding in 2007 at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in Nelson, New Hampshire, the quartet has earned praise around the world for its performances of traditional and new repertoire. Central to the mission of Apple Hill is “Playing for Peace,” an innovative outreach program that focuses on social change and conflict resolution through music. As resident musicians at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, the Quartet is featured in the summer concert series held every Tuesday night at the Center in Nelson, N.H. These concerts attract hundreds of visitors and have become a mainstay of the Monadnock area summer music offerings. Watch the quartet perform a segment from Geoffrey Hudson’s The Quartet Project in a video clip on the St. Bart’s event page.

Click here for full press release on these concerts.

Press Contact:
Jennifer Wada Communications
718-855-7101
jennifer@wadacommunications.com

Great Music at St. Bart’s – Apple Hill String Quartet, March 13, 2016.
Click here to learn more.

Tickets: $25, $15 for Students and Seniors
Tickets may be purchased online at www.mmpaf.org, by phone by calling 212-378-0248, or in person at St. Bart’s in Midtown Manhattan, 325 Park Avenue at 51st Street.

Great Music at St. Bart’s is produced by the Mid-Manhattan Performing Arts Foundation, an independent 501(c)(3) corporation established to cultivate, promote, sponsor and develop the understanding and love of the performing arts as presented at St. Bartholomew’s Church, a treasured masterpiece of architecture on the east side of Manhattan’s midtown. The corporation sponsors performances of music, dance, drama, and other performing arts as well as the exhibition of works in the film and fine arts genres.

A Joyous Christmas Concert Artwork by Steve Ross

Title: Theotokos (Mary and Baby) Medium: Watercolor Artist: Steve Ross

Title: Theotokos (Mary and Baby); Medium: Watercolor; Artist: Steve Ross

Of all the players during Advent, I believe the season really belongs to Mary. She said ‘Yes’ to God, with no guarantee as to how it would pan out, so I wanted to pay tribute to her courage and generosity with this painting. Many artistic interpretations of Mary render her in a submissive and passive role, with eyes downcast or meekly looking at her baby. My interpretation affords Mary much more agency and thus I have her break from demure tradition and engage the viewer boldly and directly. I also have her holding her baby in such a way as to acknowledge that the child is not just hers, but that she is consciously “offering” the child to us, the viewer.

Artist Bio:
Steve Ross is an illustrator and artist living in New York City. His work is in many private collections and his illustrations have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist and many other magazines and publications. He is the author of two graphic novels; “Marked” based on the Gospel of Mark, and “Blinded,” based on the adventures of St. Paul of Tarsus. More of his work can be seen at www.StevenTracyRoss.com.

New York Classical Review: Austere and Timeless, MacMillan Premiere Proves Compelling at St. Bart’s

Article on New York Classical Review

James MacMillan’s “Since it Was the Day of Preparation …” received its New York premiere as an MMPAF concert event was reviewed on the website New York Classical Review.  The article is reprinted below, or click here to view it on the NYCR website.
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Austere and Timeless, MacMillan Premiere Proves Compelling at St. Bart’s

By George Grella
May 05, 2014 at 1:05 pm
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New liturgical works like James MacMillan’s “Since it Was the Day of Preparation …”, which had its New York premiere Sunday afternoon at St. Bart’s Church, are important reminders of both the foundations of the Western classical tradition and how what amounts to two handfuls of notes continues to be an enduring source of invention for thousands of years.
MacMillan’s piece was commissioned by Soli Deo Gloria, an organization dedicated to funding the composition of sacred “choral-orchestral” work from leading contemporary composers (this is the third MacMillan piece they have contributed to). The Scottish composer sets the Gospel of John from a point after Christ’s death to the Resurrection and Christ’s three appearances. At about eighty minutes in duration, it uses the compact forces of a small chorus—whose members double as solo narrators, the disciples, and Mary Magdalene—and a quintet with the unusual instrumentation of clarinet, horn, cello, harp and theorbo.
This is a well made, involving composition, given a performance, conducted by William K. Trafka, that matched the quality of the music: refined, assured, controlled and focused, with the sensation of indescribable expressive intensity and depth just contained under the surface of the notes. The music sounds familiar, in that it is clear and easy to follow, and yet also new. There are unexpected details and an inventive use of traditional ideas that surprise and construct a rigorous internal logic.
One thing that is so refreshing about “Since it Was the Day of Preparation …”, and MacMillan’s work in general, is how his sensibility goes against the grain of contemporary Western thinking about sacred music. He is the foremost composer within the Catholic liturgical tradition (though not confined to that). He does not indulge in easy comfort and blandishments, he expresses both the difficulty and solace of faith, and while he works in tonal harmony, he challenges listeners as often as he soothes them. 
His writing is immediately captivating. The piece starts, unusually enough, with a theorbo solo (played elegantly by David Walker), but rather than make a neo-Renaissance pastiche, MacMillan creates a compelling mix of melodic phrases, harmonics, and dense, strummed chords, and traverses the instrument’s range. The effect is stimulating and grounding, hinting at the contemporary context for the work while setting it deep within the classical tradition.
After the theorbo, the first voice heard was the clear tenor of Christopher Carter, picking up the Gospel at the first sentence after, in the composer’s words, “Jesus gives up his spirit”—thus the title of the piece. The narrative switches between other singers, all of whom sang with an affecting clarity of tone and expression: bass James Whitfield, sopranos Amanda Sidebottom and Martha Sullivan, altos Eliza Bagg and Elizabeth Merrill, and tenor Christopher Ellman.
Structurally, there are solo interludes for each instrument throughout the piece, and three sections where the quintet plays as a whole and accompanies the voices. The interludes alternate with the mostly a cappella sections.
The music also alternates stylistically between austere vocals and the sensual instrumental music—particularly a dazzling clarinet solo played by Benjamin Fingland, the kind of expressive writing that has one envisioning the composer’s hand moving freely across the expanse of the blank page. In contrast, the vocal lines are disciplined and ordered by the requirements of the words.
MacMillan uses the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition of the Bible. He sets the text with a sophisticated sense of harmony, mixing together modes and triads, allowing the voices to wander expressively around a central pitch while also using dissonance to produce acute moments of tension and deeply satisfying release—all in a single line.
Another simple and powerful device MacMillan uses is to have the chorus members play hand-bells in free rhythm whenever Christ, the dignified, subtle bass-baritone Jeff Morrissey, sings. The sonic color is gorgeous, and the bells connect the music to the rituals of the Catholic Mass. The balance between the ringing metal of the bells (and the brightness of the instruments) and the woody purity of the voices works subliminally as an intellectual and spiritual argument for the sacrifices of glories of Christ and those who follow him.
There is a single moment in the piece that encapsulates the musical means, the meaning, and the sheer pleasure of the music’s sound: as Whitfield finished singing about Jesus’ burial, the quintet entered under his last syllable, first sustained on G then lowered to F. The voice and instruments came together on a ninth-chord that, in the cavernous space (unfortunately only half full), rang, briefly but intensely, with a bracing brilliance. It felt like the illumination of the sun after a long period of darkness, just as painful to the eyes, just as warm to the body.
Want to Know More?  Click Here!

MMPAF’s New Partnership: Japan Society

Announcement

MMPAF, located at the crossroads of America’s most vibrant metropolis, is pleased to announce its partnership with the Japan Society.Founded in 1907, Japan Society (333 East 47th Street NY, NY) is the leading U.S. organization committed to deepening mutual understanding between the United States and Japan in a global context. Now in its second century, the Society serves audiences across the United States and abroad through innovative programs in arts and culture, public policy, business, language and education. Japan Society serves as a catalyst for the intellectual and cultural exchange that nurtures and sustains a healthy and productive relationship between the United States and Japan. Its Performing Arts Program is the leading showcase in the United States for contemporary and traditional Japanese dance, music and theater.

Since the inception of the Performing Arts Program in 1953, Japan Society has introduced more than 600 performing arts programs from Japan to an extensive American audience. In addition to its annual season of five to ten full-evening programs, ranging from the traditional arts of noh, kyogen, bunraku, and kabuki, to cutting-edge theater, dance and music, plus educational workshops, lectures and demonstrations, the Society has also been a pioneer in presenting works that are products of collaborations between Japanese and American/international artists. The Society presents established and emerging performers whose artistry strongly communicates an expression of Japanese tradition, art forms, or style. The Society also commissions new works to non-Japanese artists, produces national tours, organizes residency programs for American and Japanese artists and develops and presents educational programs.

Want to Know More? Click Here!

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The Seven Spaces of Mozart’s Requiem

UPCOMING CONCERT:
Saturday, October 27th at 7:30 PM

THE SEVEN SPACES OF MOZART’S REQUIEM

argento-Oct-2012The Argento Chamber Ensemble, under the baton of conductor Michel Galante, will perform all fragments of Mozart’s unfinished Requiem K. 626 along with composer Georg Friedrich Haas’s Seven Soundspaces (Sieben Klangraume), which link together the fragments of Mozart’s masterwork. To open the program, acclaimed flutist Paula Robison will perform Mozart’s Andante K.315 for flute and orchestra. The featured choir for the program is The College of New Jersey Chorale with vocal soloists soprano, Tharanga Goonetilleke; alto, Silvie Jensen; tenor, Steven Wilson and bass Peter Stewart.

Bach Tour 2012: Follow J.S. Bach’s Footsteps Through Germany

Bach Tour  Date  |  October 23 – 31, 2012

Follow J.S. Bach’s Footsteps through Germany

bach_sunglassesDid you know that Bach spent a month in jail during his tenure as Court Organist and Concertmaster to the Duke of Weimar. Turns out that, in 1717, Bach was offered and accepted a new position as Kappelmeister at the court of Cöthen. Bach appealed to the Duke for his release from the Weimar position, however the Duke refused and threw him in jail instead of allowing him to leave. Bach, of course, used this time productively and composed the “Orgelbüchlein,” a cycle of organ chorale preludes for the entire church year. The Duke finally came to his senses and Bach was allowed to take on his new position.

Join William Trafka, St. Bart’s Director of Music and Organist and the Artistic Director of MMPAF, as he leads a tour of the towns and cities where Bach thrived as a performer and composer. Hear the great organ works of Bach in the very buildings for which they were composed. Marvel at the charming towns such as Eisenach, Arnstadt and Mühlhausen in the luscious Thüringen region of Germany. Join, Co-Tour Director and German scholar, William Fulton as he brings puts these historic places into perspective with 18th century German culture. Discover the rich and varied life of one of history’s greatest composers as you walk in The Footsteps of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Photo Album |  Bach Tour
Photo Credits: Tim Martin

Conducting Bach in a 21st Century Urban Environment: A Case for Retreat

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It was the end of March and the Great Music series concert featuring Bach’s Magnificat and Easter Oratorio was just a few weeks down the road. My hope and dream for this concert was to capture the spirit and eloquence of this extraordinary music in a way that honors its historic importance but also resonates for the modern listener. But, I was concerned how I would properly prepare myself to conduct these works from a different era in a busy, noisy, distracting and at times overwhelming environment.

My first thought was that music never occurs in a vacuum; to try to remove oneself from the present in order to represent art from an earlier time is folly and essentially impossible. The first steps toward an historically informed performance had already been taken by inviting singers and instrumentalists who know, love and understand this style to participate in the performance. Also, the instruments to be used were copies of Baroque instruments which play at A=415 hz., exactly one-half step lower than A=440hz, the pitch used by modern orchestras.

I decided that I needed solitude and quiet to study and to open up myself to the musical possibilities of these two masterpieces. Through a friend, for three days I was given permission to use the choir room at St. Peter’s Methodist Church in Ocean City, NJ, a bustling summer resort on the Jersey shore but a very quiet place during early April. It was there that I discovered the wealth of musical imagery and nuance that Bach used in these works and how each movement becomes a separate painting in an art gallery depicting rich landscapes. I worked hard to hear individual lines and how they might be sung or played in a way to be clearly heard and shaped but fitting into the entire canvas. Most of all, I rediscovered the indisputable genius of Bach with his lucid sense of structure, unparalleled musical invention and heartfelt expressivity. I came away with a deeper sense of his great role in the history of Western civilization.

Did my stay by the ocean in this peaceful place affect the actual outcome of the performance? It certainly opened my mind and heart to the infinite ways of interpreting what Bach has written and allowed me time and focus to explore its many possibilities. I wouldn’t have spent those three days in any other way.