By Claudia Mathis
On Feb. 17, the first Sunday of Lent, St. Matthew’s Church in East Syracuse will host a magnificent music concert at 4 p.m. in the west galley.
The concert will feature some of Central New York’s finest liturgical musicians and orchestral instrumentalists.
The rich and diverse program will include organ music from Johann Sebastian Bach, Herbert Howells and Josef Rheinberger.
Pro Musica Divina, a non-profit foundation that restores the classical sacred music of the church and promotes music and art in the community, is sponsoring the concert.
Jared Shepard, St. Matthew’s Music Director and Organist, co-founded Pro Musica Divina with St. Matthew’s pastor Father Joseph Clemente for the purpose of supporting great sacred music in their liturgy and edifying cultural experiences in their community and those nearby.
“Historically, the role of the church has always been one of patronage in its relationship to art and music,” said Shepard. “Great sacred music in the liturgy is of primary importance, but the natural extension then, is to continue this support of art, music and beauty in the community and outside of the liturgy. In our concert you will hear a sacred cantata of J.S. Bach, a Psalm-Prelude of Herbert Howells — but even the secular music — the Bach Fuge, the Rheinberger Concerto, exhibit the historical extension of this patronage.”
Julie Grindle, Director of Music Ministries at St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baldwinsville, will open the program by playing works that span the early Baroque era to the 20th century on the church’s Wilhelm Zimmer tracker-action organ. Built in 1989 in the German Baroque style, the pipe organ renders the works of J.S. Bach and his contemporaries flawlessly. A re-voicing of the organ completed in 2009 by Tomasz Lewtak of Lewtak Pipe Organ Builders added a tonal depth that enhances music from the romantic era.
Shepard is excited that the organ will be utilized during the concert. “It has never been used outside of the liturgy,” said Shepard. “It’s long overdue.”
Shepard is looking forward to hearing Grindle play the pipe organ. “Julie is a world-class organist in anyone’s company and has studied with the finest organists in the world,” said Shepard. “Julie’s playing stuns me nearly every time I hear her. The clarity of expression and control of phrasing that she possesses is both an inspiration and devastating to me as an organist; it seems so easy for her!”
Grindle is a lifelong church musician and has served as an organist, choir director and music clinician. She studied organ and church music at Valparaiso and Indiana Universities. She has served parishes in Virginia Beach, Atlanta, Ga. and Bloomington, Ind. She was the chapel organist and an instructor at Valparaiso University before coming to Baldwinsville in 2010. She served as organist at First Presbyterian Church in that town before serving at St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Grindle volunteers for the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, currently serving as the Conference Chair for the 2013 ALCM Biennial National Conference, “God Is Here: Worship in a Wireless World.” She has also presented at ALCM conferences and is on the Advisory Board for the Institute of Liturgical Studies, based at Valparaiso University. She is an active vocalist in the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble, and lives in Baldwinsville with her husband, David, and children Will and Tom.
In the second half of the program, soprano Rebecca Leistikow will sing a Bach cantata. Leistikow has sung early and baroque music in the New England area, appearing on Maine Public Radio’s “Live at Eleven Series” and at the 2007 Boston Early Music Festival.
Leistikow studied voice at SUNY Geneseo, and acquired a master’s degree in Early Music from the Longy School of Music at Bard College in Boston.
In Ithaca, Leistikow performed Bach’s “Coffee Cantata” with Music’s Recreation, “Music from Shakespeare’s Time” with Elizabethan Conversation, Max Buckholtz’s “Cyrus the Fleabag” with The Onondaga Orchestra, and the role of Gretel in Humperdinck’s “Hansel an Gretel” at the CRS Barn Studio. She directs Broadway Bootcamp, a musical theater program for teens during the summer.
A chamber orchestra, under the direction of Erik Kibelsbeck, will support Leistikow’s performance of the cantata. Kibelsbeck will direct this cantata from the organ. “Erik Kibelsbeck is a terrific musician as director of the Onondaga Civic Symphony Orchestra as well as a dedicated church musician in the great Lutheran tradition,” commented Shepard.
Kibelsbeck has been the music director of the Onondaga Civic Symphony Orchestra since 2001. He also serves as music director/organist at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Ithaca. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music with studies in bassoon and music education, he later completed his master’s degree in orchestral conducting at Ithaca College. Kibelsbeck is the Manager of Concerts and Facilities for the Ithaca College School of Music.
Josef Rheinberger’s Organ Concerto No. 2 will be performed during the concert’s finale.
The idea of producing the concert came about in 2011 when Kibelsbeck proposed the idea of bringing together a 25-member orchestra with an organ soloist to produce a concert to Shepard.
Shepard, as Artistic Director of the Pro Musica Divina foundation, thought it would fulfill the organization’s desire to bring concerts of high artistic merit to the community.
Admission to the concert is free. A goodwill donation will be gratefully accepted.