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Art inspires art in Bach Choir season opener

| Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008

Thomas Wesley Douglas' love of a classic silent film is leading the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh into a form of soundtrack work.

The choir will open its season Saturday at the Regent Square Theater in Edgewood at a screening of "The Passion of Joan of Arc" by performing a work inspired by it.

The classic Carl Dreyer film from 1928 is being featured by the Pittsburgh Filmmakers as part of its Three Rivers Film Festival.

The composition is "Voices of Light," which premiered in 1994 after contemporary composer Richard Einhorn was moved by the film and its message of dedication to a mission.

He wrote the work to be "staged" with the film, he says in notes for this program.

Douglas says he saw the film as part of his seventh-grade French class, long before the score was written. When he watched it again two years ago, there was a moment of inspiration similar to Einhorn's.

"Something reminded me of the film about two years ago," he says, "and I bought a copy of it. When I heard the composition, I immediately was impressed with the choral nature of the piece and decided we should do it."

Tom Slater, a tenor in the choir and a teacher of film at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, had another form of inspiration. As the choir started work on the score, he thought he could help by talking a little to them about Dreyer's film. Slater, from Penn Hills, gave his talk at a pre-rehearsal get-together after the choir had watched the film. He says he tried to offer observations that would allow the singers to relate better to the music in the drama.

Slater compares "Voices of Light" to a cantata in form and thinks the score stands on its own as a work of art.

"It is almost like two parallel artistic events happening at the same time," he says.

Additional Information:

'Voices of Light'

Who: The Bach Choir of Pittsburgh

When: 2 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Nov. 21

Admission: $25

Where: Regent Square Theater, 1035 S. Braddock Ave., Edgewood

Details: 412-394-3353

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