St. Matthew's choirs sing of 'Majesty & Glory'

For the past few months, St. Matthew’s Boys and Girls, Youth, and Adult Choirs have been gearing up for their March 2 showcase entitled “Majesty & Glory: Songs of Transformation and Peace.” Designed and conducted by St. Matthew’s long-time music director Rodney Ayers, the performance will feature both classical pieces from renowned composers including Britten, Handel, Mendelssohn, Palestrina, and Parry as well as Broadway selections from the spiritual musical “Godspell” and the award-winning rock musical “Next to Normal.”

All of the pieces evoke the concert’s central themes of light, transformation, and the awesomeness of the divine according to Mr. Ayers, who began creating the program this past summer. “I started looking for a theme based on the time of year,” he said, “and the Sunday we’re performing we hear the Gospel story of the Transfiguration.” The transfiguration story relates a vivid scene of Jesus’ metamorphosis into a shining figure atop a mountain with three of his disciples watching, and God’s voice proclaiming him as his son. It is this spiritual transformation and connection between humanity and the divine characterizing this biblical tale that Mr. Ayers hopes to capture in his program.

However, Mr. Ayers also selected pieces that comment on the responsibilities of humankind.

“Many of the early songs have images of light — because that’s part of the story from the Bible — and express the awesomeness of the divine. But as the program progresses, the theme moves more into the idea that we have great responsibility to do good things in the world and transform the world, not just ourselves as individuals. So, it moves more into songs of peace in the world and taking care of our common humanity,” he said.

The performance will highlight a special soloist, Abigail Kempson, who grew up singing with the St. Matthew’s choirs and has gone on to pursue music at college with the hopes of embarking on a career as a professional singer. She will sing Handel’s renowned aria “Let the bright seraphim” from the oratorio Samson.

The church’s impressive Reuter pipe organ will also be featured.

“The organ was debuted here in 2010. It’s a very distinctive, fine instrument with over 3,000 pipes. This enormous tonal spectrum has opened up further possibilities for us in terms of other music we could now perform here,” Mr. Ayers said. “It will be the primary instrument accompanying the pieces in this concert.”

It was, in fact, his exposure to the organ that initially interested Mr. Ayers in church and choir music.

“As I got into my teenage years, I really became enamored with the organ and church music,” he said. “I had some opportunities in high school to actually play for churches and work with choirs and just sort of fell in love with that, and realized that was my calling. I’ve been at it for a long time now.”

Mr. Ayers has passed this dedication and passion on to the members of his choir, who have not only performed at regular church services and their own annual concerts but alongside other Arts at St. Matthew’s performers including Dave Brubeck, Paul Winter, Judy Collins, Maureen McGovern, and Stephen Schwartz.

A musically diverse, talented, and tightly knit group, the St. Matthew’s choirs look forward to offering their “Majesty & Glory” concert, a program of uplifting songs to brighten up the tail end of winter.

“It should be an inspirational afternoon and I think there will be something to appeal to everyone,” Mr. Ayers said, adding, “It might be a nice, refreshing time for people to take a few minutes out of their hectic schedules to come and enjoy some great music.”

The concert, at 4 on March 2, is free and all are welcome. St. Matthew’s is at 36 New Canaan Road.

Information: Lisa Furnivall at lwf193@optonline.net or go to artsatstmatthews.org.