Washington County arts choir, jazz guitarist team up

Matthew Santoni
| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

The Washington County Arts Choir will accompany Pittsburgh jazz guitarist Joe Negri in the first performance of his new composition, “Magnificat,” this weekend in Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair.

Based on Mary's adoration of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, the choir will perform the piece in concert with Negri's earlier composition, the “Mass of Hope.”

“It's got such a beautiful text, that's what attracted me to it,” said Negri, 86, of Scott, who began writing his version of the Magnificat two years ago. The text has also been made into music by composers that include Johann Sebastian Bach, Monteverdi and Vivaldi, he said.

In Luke Chapter 1 verses 46-55, the Virgin Mary is speaking to her cousin Elizabeth — mother to John the Baptist — about her faith.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

“For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name,” she sings.

Negri, who attended St. Justin Roman Catholic Church in Mt. Washington, began writing the Mass of Hope in the late 1990s. He started with a few small parts of the Catholic Mass, written to be sung by a soloist and accompanied by piano, guitar, bass and drums.

Working with choirs at Duquesne and Chatham universities, he eventually expanded it to encompass most parts of the Mass not spoken directly by the priest.

The Mass of Hope can be used in a liturgy and can also be performed as a concert, as it will be Saturday at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Negri said.

He will be accompanied by vocal soloists Maureen Budway and Thomas Douglas; Max Leake on keyboards; Paul Thompson on bass and Tom Wendt on drums.

“We're really looking forward to it,” said Cindy Taylor, vice president of the choir and organizer for much of the concert.

“It's just a real honor to have (Negri) there, to have his input on the ‘Magnificat.'”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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