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Murrysville chorus marks 20 years with 'Elijah'

| Friday, Nov. 7, 2003

The Murrysville Festival Chorus will present Felix Mendelssohn's "Elijah," Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church, North Hills Road, Murrysville. The performance will mark the 20th season for the chorus, comprised of adult and young adult volunteers.

Under the direction of Lee S. Spear, of Jamestown, N.Y., more than 70 voices will come together for the concert. About 58 singers from the Murrysville chorus and 14 members of the Chautauqua Chamber Singers, of Jamestown, will be joined by internationally acclaimed vocal soloist Thomas W. Sherwood performing the role of Elijah. Also appearing with the chorus will be Roland E. Martin, of Buffalo, N.Y., who will accompany on the organ.

Majorie Nelson, of Murrysville, has been a member of the Festival Chorus for 14 years, but she said the upcoming concert is unlike anything she's done during her years performing with the group.

"It's all singing, but the choir interacts with the soloist performing the role of Elijah. So, the choir is like the Israelites and we kind of have this report back and forth. It's kind of like an opera," she said. "I've never done anything like this before, so I am really excited about it."

Sherwood, of Cincinnati, performed with the chorus during it's very first concert, which was also "Elijah," in 1983.

Considered as one of the nation's foremost interpreters of the role of Elijah, Sherwood has performed with the Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Atlanta Symphony. In addition to operating the Sherwood Song Studio, he teaches voice and sight-singing at Zavier University, in Cincinnati. Sherwood is an active recitalist, he cantors for Valley Temple, and is soloist at Wyoming (Ohio) Christian Science Church. In 1979, he co-founded Cincinnati's Vocal Arts Ensemble. He also operates NoteAble Study Tapes, a business that provides computer aided instructional tapes for choral singers.

Martin, who has provided accompaniment for many of the Festical Chorus concerts, will return after last performing with the group in 1995. He is a professor of Organ and Harpsichord and Coordinator of the Voice Area at the University at Buffalo, and is also director of music at St. Joseph's University Church, a conductor of Opera Sacra, and founder and director of the early music ensemble, Speculum Musicae. The Freudig Singers and the Chautauqua Chamber Singers are also under Martin's direction. Martin has performed as an accompanist throughout the Eastern United States, Canada and Bermuda, and has served as such for the Metropolitan Opera National Competition on several occasions.

He has more than 60 works in publication, primarily shorter coral or solo vocal works. He is the recipient of two Pennsylvania State Council of the Arts grants, two Meet The Composer grants, and two ALCOA Arts Endowment awards for commissioned compositions. A number of Martin's major works have been commissioned, mostly by colleges, universities and choral societies. His Medieval Triptych (1994) was heard on a national television holiday season special from Washington D.C. in 1998 and will be broadcast again this year on PBS.

The Murrysville Festival Chorus was founded by Spears and his father, Bob Spears, who was orignially from Murrysville, and will return to the area from his North Carolina home to perform in the concert, according to Nelson.

"Their idea was to reach out to the community and to have the community interact with classical music," Nelson said. "Our director really makes the choir. He is fantastic to work with. We learn a lot everytime we sing with him. His enthusiasm and knowledge and his way of conveying what he wants is phenominal," Nelson said. "It keeps people coming back. He really makes it come to life. Any of our chorus members will tell you the same thing."

Additional Information:

Show Info

'Elijah'

Who: Murrysville Festival Chorus, with members of the Chautauqua Chamber Singers, soloist Thomas W. Sherwood and organist Roland E. Martin

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: First Presbyterian Church, North Hills Road, Murrysville

Tickets: $10 adults, $8 students and senior citizens

Info: 724-327-7787

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