The Masters at Work

The Masters at Work

Cedarville University presents their Masterworks concert

By Pat Suarez

On March 25, Cedarville University presents its annual Masterworks concert. Photo courtesy of Scott L. Huck/Cedarville University.

In the world of classical music, Germany had Bach and Beethoven, England had Elgar and Vaughan-Williams, France had Debussy and Ravel and the U.S. had Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. Even as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, there is still a segment of classical music patrons who still have their doubts about “American” classical music. In time, those doubts will vanish into willing acceptance with new generations of music lovers. For many current audiences and musicians, classical music written in and inspired by our nation is unique and second to none, and Aaron and Lenny, who were close friends, champions of each other’s work and who died within two months of one another in 1990, are America’s two most cherished icons.
Their music could not be more different. Every movie and TV soundtrack having anything remotely to do with the 19th century American west traces its origins back to Copland, ironic given Copland’s birthplace of Brooklyn. Copland’s music embodies a sense of adventure and heroism and rarely strays into the realm of traditional 19th century European classical music. Bernstein, from Massachusetts, explored jazz, the live stage, rock ‘n’ roll and his Jewish heritage. His need to find deeper meaning in traditional classical repertoire, a need based in his innate musical curiosity, caused not a little controversy.
It is Bernstein’s and Copland’s music that Cedarville’s Masterworks Concert will present on March 25 at the campus’ Jeremiah Chapel. The program will include Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and selections from Candide and Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait and the Fanfare for the Common Man. Carmon DeLeone, Music Director of the Cincinnati Ballet and other orchestras, will conduct.
The DCP spoke with Beth Cram Porter, chair of the University’s Music and Worship department and associate professor of voice, about the event.
How old is the Masterworks program?
We have been producing the Masterworks concert for the last 10 years. We feel it is our duty to provide our students with a variety of performance opportunities. Producing a large-scale concert of the great masterworks of choral and orchestral literature is one way we expose our students to great literature. Plus, we offer this program to our university family, in addition to the community at large, as a way to educate, inform and raise music scholarship dollars. [Beth Cram Porter]
What is the range of works that the program has presented?
Over the past 10 years, the Masterworks program has presented such works as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Haydn’s The Creation, Poulenc’s Gloria, Brahms’ A German Requiem and Mendelssohn’s Elijah. [BCP]
Bernstein and Copland were friends, and Bernstein championed Copland’s works. Both are closely associated with American 20th century classical music, but their musical styles differ. What was the process in selecting these two composers?
The music faculty wanted to do an all-American 20th century program. We all felt strongly about Bernstein and Copland – you could argue that they embody two very different spirits of America. Their music is challenging, but accessible to both performer and audience member.  [BCP]
How were the works to be presented selected?
Once we secured our guest conductor, we told him of our desire to do Bernstein and Copland. He was agreeable, suggested several programs and we ultimately settled on this one.  [BCP]
Copland’s Fanfare had its premier with the Cincinnati Orchestra in 1942 as a response to the U.S. entering WWII. Is this performance meant to honor our veterans currently serving in the Middle East?
While we have not said that specifically in any article, nor have we discussed this as a department, we are wildly patriotic and any time we can honor those who served and those who presently serve, we gladly do so. It is one of Copland’s pieces that almost everyone knows, one of his best known (and shortest) works. We had to program it. [BCP]
Chichester Psalms has a boy treble part. Will you use a boy treble or countertenor, something some performances employ?
We will use a current CU student, Nathan Price, countertenor. Nathan is not a music major, but is a fine musician. I believe he sang in the Kettering Children’s Chorus as a child. His voice is amazingly beautiful. People will be stunned.  [BCP]
Chichester Psalms uses a sampling of Psalms from the Hebrew Bible. What do the Psalms bring that lend them to music?
The Book of Psalms is the songbook of the Bible! Consisting of 150 Psalms, written by different authors, including King David, these served as the texts for worship and praise of God when they were written and still do. These ancient words have been sung for generations and continue to be sources of inspiration for composers of all flavors. The Book of Psalms is the longest book in the Bible.  [BCP]

For ticket information, visit www.cedarville.edu or call (937) 766-7728.

Reach DCP freelance writer Pat Suarez at PatSuarez@daytoncitypaper.com.

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