The Washington National Cathedral Choir will have its world premiere at Bridgewater College
Cathedra will perform at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 25 in the Carter Center for Worship and Music Concert Hall on the College campus.
The program, “Miserere meiPsalm 51″, will have five settings of “Miserere mei, Deusby various composers, including a world premiere of “Wash Me Thoroughly,” a new work commissioned by composer and music teacher Dr. Trevor Weston. The concert, made possible by a generous donation, is free and open to the public.
Specializing in Renaissance and Baroque music while championing the modern day composer, Cathedra, a highly skilled ensemble of professional singers residing at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., under the artistic direction of Canon Michael McCarthy, is dedicated to sublimating musical expression through the ages. Exploring new frontiers of repertoire and presentation, Cathedra adapts its programming to offer authenticity and originality that are both unique and compelling.
In addition to performing, members of the Bridgewater College Concert Choir will have the opportunity to work alongside professionals while on campus. McCarthy, the Cathedral’s Director of Music, will lead a workshop for students in which he will offer insight and feedback on the choir’s current repertoire, followed by concert choir section work with Cathedra members.
“It will be a choral experience that students will reflect on for many years after leaving Bridgewater College. The opportunity to work with professional musicians and ensembles outside of Bridgewater adds a delicate degree of depth of musical experience and nuance that will enhance each student’s view of what it means to be a serious choral musician,” says Dr Ryan Keebaugh, Assistant Professor of Music and Choral Director at Bridgewater College.
Music has always occupied an important place in the life of the benefactor. “Seeing professional musicians like the National Cathedral Choir, who have performed for the Queen of England and the Dalai Lama, is so inspiring,” says the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous. “You always look to the best and try to learn from them. This partnership between the National Cathedral Choir and the students of Bridgewater College is important because if the students are able to engage with such tremendous talent, their talent will improve.
This donation also covers the opportunity for Bridgewater’s Concert Choir to travel to the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, to participate in the Choral Evensong program on May 1. This service will begin at 4 p.m. and is also free and open to the public.
Cathedra’s performance on March 25 centers on settings to Psalm 51, which is one of the penitential psalms in the Old Testament Book of Psalms. In the text, King David of Israel confesses his sins to God and asks for forgiveness. The psalm is considered a model of repentance in Christianity and Judaism.
The concert includes a Renaissance-era setting of Miserere mei, Deus by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri, a staging by contemporary Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt, the staging by French composer Josquin Des Prez created in 1504 and a staging by contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan.
The program will also include a world premiere of Weston’s production of Miserere mei, Deus, “Wash me thoroughly.” Weston, currently a professor of music at Drew University in Madison, NJ, and a teacher in the MAP/Pre-College programs at the Juilliard School, first heard Allegri’s words. Miserere mei, Deus during his first visit to St. Thomas Church, New York, NY, where he would later sing as a boy chorister.
“I think that’s what God is,” Weston says of his reaction to the work.
Weston centers his staging on the motif of purification, beginning with the verse “Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness” – a verse that appears at the beginning of King David’s prayer – and links it to the call to ” make me a pure heart, O God.”
“Using the ‘power of the psalm’ – a genre that is central to the cultural heritage of the British West Indies, his family’s homeland – to ‘reflect the way humans experience things’, Weston connects us to tradition while defending a vision of the world freed from its constraints,” explains Beatrice Dalov, concert and operations manager at the Washington National Cathedral. “Its setting redefines the historical and liturgical associations of the psalm, recontextualizing its emotional conflicts in a quintessentially American aesthetic evoking the nation’s traditions, cultures, and political discords.”
“Everything needs beauty and pain. Something really beautiful is also a little painful,” says Weston.
The Detroit Free Press describes Weston’s music as a “gently syncopated marriage of intellect and feeling that hypnotizes and captivates its listeners by creating a sense of suspended reality”. Many ensembles have performed his compositions, which incorporate a variety of musical styles: gospel, jazz, blues, ragtime, minimalism, avant-garde and African-American vernacular.
Weston’s honors include the George Ladd Prize in Paris from the University of California at Berkeley, the Arts and Letters Award in Music and a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as residencies from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, MacDowell Colony and Castle of Our Skins at the Longy School of Music. He also won the first Emerging Black Composers Project sponsored by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the San Francisco Symphony.