The Arts at St. Matthew’s: Ricky Skaggs headlines new season

The Arts at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church revs up for its 16th season beginning this September, boasting an impressive line-up of highly lauded, new and returning performers.

Tony Award nominee and Army Wives actor Joshua Henry will kick start the 2013-2014 season on Sunday, Sept. 29, returning to the St. Matthew’s stage for the second time with original takes on Broadway and old-school songs. Other performers this season will include the Yale-based quintet, Brass!, 14-time Grammy winner Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, widely acclaimed pianist-raconteur Robert Wyatt, and St. Matthew’s own children, youth, and adult choirs led by long-time choir director Rodney Ayers.

St. Matthew’s arts program has become a central part of the church’s role in the Wilton community, inspired in part by the importance of music in the parish.

“Rodney has really made music a fundamental strength of our church,” said former Arts chair Lisa Furnivall of Mr. Ayers, who recently celebrated his 20th year at St. Matthew’s. “Our parish is very supportive of the music program and as a result, we felt there was a tremendous opportunity to share that with the community and go above and beyond just our church choirs,” she added.

Though the program primarily features vocal performances, including appearances by such noted singers  Liz Callaway and Maureen McGovern, the Arts offers a wide variety of other presentations as well — including jazz legend Dave Brubeck and Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz — bringing storytellers, art exhibitions, theater, and dance performances to town.

From spiritual-oriented choral performances to secular bluegrass, jazz, or lecture presentations, the Arts is an artistic melting pot of genres and styles.

“The Arts at St. Matthew’s was formed by Pete Balderston, our original chair and founder who has now returned to chair the group again, and he saw it as opening up the doors of St. Matthew’s Church,” said Mr. Ayers, who emphatically added, “It certainly is not just for people at St. Matthew’s but a way to welcome people from the Wilton community and even beyond Wilton to share the joy of music.”

All performances are held within the church itself, which features an impressive theater-like atmosphere. With graded pews set up in the round, Mrs. Furnivall said, “Our performances are always very intimate and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.”

In the past, many local people have even had the chance to work with Arts performers according to Mrs. Furnivall. “With some of these performers like Dave Brubeck and Judy Collins and Maureen McGovern, there have been kids as young as second grade singing with these artists. It’s really amazing when you think about it,” she said. “I think that the essence of the program came from that,” she added.

So as the 2013-2014 season fast approaches, the volunteers behind the Arts at St. Matthew’s program set out to bring the community and the arts together in a relaxed environment replete with artistic expression, learning, and some excellent shows.

For more information about season schedules or ticket sales, email Ms. Furnivall at or go to