On Sunday, March 2 the Chorale returns to The National Presbyterian Church to present “Perpetual Light,” a meditation on death and eternity. Thematically, all the works presented are connected by the comforting notion of a peaceable afterlife of eternal rest. Yet the music and texts can also be understood secularly as timeless connections between music and humanity. View program order and notes about the music »
Within the context of 20th century individualism and the search for a distinctive style, many composers sought inspiration in established, traditional forms. This is most famously demonstrated by Maurice Duruflé in his Requiem, one of the most celebrated choral works of the 20th century and the centerpiece of our concert. The elegance of the vocal line is a feature of the original Gregorian chant settings of the text, beautifully paired with an expansive organ part—the instrument on which Duruflé was most prolific and accomplished. To demonstrate the simple beauty of plainsong (Gregorian chant is but one form of this ancient liturgical style), the chorale opens the concert with the fourth century chant “In paradisum.” Organist Paul Skevington, will accompany the Duruflé and mezzo-soprano Melissa Kornacki will be the featured soloist.
Duruflé was not the only modern composer to seek inspiration from the past. The program also features Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Blazheni, yazhe izbral (“Blessed are they, whom thou hast chosen”), and the late John Tavener’s Funeral Ikos along with a setting of “Nunc dimittis” by Herbert Murrill—all musically connecting us to past peoples through contemporary reimaginings of antiquated styles of the Russian Orthodox and Anglican churches, respectively. Early American forms will also be represented as the chorale performs Kirke Mechem’s celebrated anthem “Blow Ye the Trumpet,” written in early-American hymnodic style, and two of Kevin Siegfried’s Shaker Songs: “Peace” and “Lay Me Low.”
It is fitting that this relationship between past and present is so present in music that offers a spiritual link between those who are living and those who have departed. Music, in its grace and power, nuance and inspiration, is itself a “perpetual light” joining the living and the dead with shared beauty and hope.
Meet the Guest Artists
Paul Skevington, organ and piano
Paul Skevington is the Minister of Music and Liturgy at Saint Luke Catholic Church in McLean, Va., and was very much involved in the project to secure the highly-acclaimed 61-rank Steiner-Reck mechanical-action pipe organ, installed in the church in 1998. In his 21st year at the church, he has developed a well-rounded sacred music program with the 35 voice Festival Choir at the center of the musical activities. In June of 2011, he led this choir in a pilgrimage to Italy, where they sang for masses at Saint Francis in Assisi and Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. They also sang for an audience with the pope and give a concert at Saint Ignatius in Rome. The Festival Choir will be traveling to Paris in June of 2014.
Under Mr. Skevington’s direction, Saint Luke has become renowned as a superior site for concerts, with the Saint Luke Music in McLean concert series hosting 18 musical events per year. The church has also served as a superior site for recordings with over 50 CDs recorded in this space.
Mr. Skevington is a sought after choral accompanist in the Washington, D.C. area, and has an active schedule as a solo performer. He can be heard on five compact disc recordings, including two with trumpeter Phil Snedecor. He is soloist on the internationally released Organ Concertos by Joseph Rheinberger on the Naxos label. He has been invited to play the Organ Postlude mini-recital at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on the new Casavant Organ on June 5, following the National Symphony Orchestra Concert.
Mr. Skevington holds degrees in organ performance from Indiana University and a Doctorate degree in Liturgical Music from The Catholic University of America. He is past dean of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and past chairperson for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians’ Section for Organists.
Barbara Brown, cello
A native Washingtonian, Barbara Brown received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the University of Maryland, where she studied with Evelyn Elsing, Oliver Edel and David Soyer. Barbara received a Guarneri String Quartet fellowship at the University of Maryland and studied with all the members of that distinguished quartet. After playing full time with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra for seven years, she went on to become principal cellist with the Baltimore Opera for five years. Barbara has also served as principal cellist in the National Gallery of Art Orchestra, where she played for 17 years, and also with Concert Artists of Baltimore. Currently she is the principal cellist of the Alexandria Symphony. Besides playing in many local professional orchestras Barbara plays in several chamber music groups, notably the Third Millennium Ensemble, which specializes in new music and the newly formed Washington Chamber Music Society performing more standard repertoire. Barbara can be found in many other local venues such as the Washington Cathedral, the Washington Concert Opera and Wolf Trap. She has a large teaching studio in Silver Spring, MD, and owns a company, Apprentice Music, which makes recordings and tools for student musicians.
Melissa Kornacki, contralto
A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Melissa Kornacki has performed widely across the United States and abroad. In 2007 Ms. Kornacki made her international debut in the United Arab Emirates performing the role of Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. She then participated in two world premieres; covering the role of Orfeo in a new adaptation by Five Words in a Line entitled, Orfeo, Eurydice and The Serpent in New York City, and sang the role of Sage 2/Dr. Greene in composer Kyle Gullings’s opera, Oblivion. In 2012, she participated in the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Emerging Artist Program with Opera New Jersey. In addition to her opera experience, she has been a soloist for several oratorios including Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Beethoven’s Mass in C Major, Bach’s Magnificat, Duruflé’s Requiem, Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony both at Avery Fischer Hall, New York and the Grand Auditorium in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Ms. Kornacki performs regularly with the Washington Concert Opera, The Lyric Opera of Baltimore, Baltimore Concert Opera, and the new Maryland Lyric Opera. She is also a 2013 graduate of the Edge Studio Voice Over program.
The National Presbyterian Church
4101 Nebraska Ave NW