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Subject: Church of the Transfiguration Presents Modern Masterpieces
From: Judy Pantano <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Judy Pantano <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 24 Jun 2017 00:03:50 -0400

text/plain (131 lines)

Church of the Transfiguration Presents Modern Masterpieces 
An Arnold Schwartz Memorial Concert

A review by Nino Pantano

On the evening of Friday, June 9th at the Church of the Transfiguration (also known as The 
Little Church Around the Corner) on 29th Street in New York City, there was a 
performance of Modern Masterpieces, a memorial concert to Arnold Schwartz (1905-
1979), patron and benefactor. Schwartz was born in Brooklyn and together with his wife 
Marie were acclaimed for their generous donations to the arts. The magnificent church 
organ was donated by his wife and named in his memory.

Dr. Claudia Dumschat, organist and music director of the Church of the Transfiguration, 
planned a most ambitious and enlightening program for this concert, which included the 
Transfiguration Choir of Men and Boys, Girls Choir and Camerata plus the The 
Transfiguration excellent Instrumental Ensemble, consisting of Joy Plaisted on the harp, 
James Kennerley at the organ and Jared Soldiviero on the timpani. The great conductor 
composer Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) worked with the Transfiguration Boys Choir in 
1961. At that time, the choir sang and traveled extensively with some of the musical 
giants of that era.

Opening remarks were made by the newly appointed and youthful Rev. Father John David 
van Dooren. Father van Dooren, a man who cherishes the importance of music and 
culture in our lives, cordially welcomed one and all to this musical celebration. The 
program opened with "Rejoice in the Lamb" by British composer Benjamin Britten (1913-
1976) is based on the poem "Jubilate Agno" by Christopher Smart, who was a mad poet 
often institutionalized. This poem is about cat and mouse. "My Cat Jeoffry" - a precursor 
to "Cats"? The libretto rejoices in the beauty of his cat Jeoffry and his female mouse and 
all of creation. "Rejoice in the lamb" was sung by Enlun Yin soprano, Joe Redd alto, Ben 
Thomas tenor and Alan Henriquez baritone, accompanied by the Transfiguration Choir of 
Men and Boys, and made for a delightful treat to Britten's haunting, unique and flowing 

Three Ave Maria settings followed. Everyone is familiar with Ave Maria by Franz Schubert 
or the Bach-Gounod transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski, but there are many others. 
Enrico Caruso recorded an Ave Maria by Percy Kahn in 1913 with Mischa Elman on the 
violin. Giuseppe Verdi composed a beautiful Ave Maria for Desdemona in his late 
masterpiece "Otello" (1887).
Vladimir Vavilov, using notes supposedly from Giulio Caccini (1551-1616), wrote an Ave 
Maria in 1970 of poignant tranquility. Composer Bill Heigen, who sang with the Choir 
years ago, wrote an Ave Maria. The Transfiguration Girls Choir sang this with great 
reverence. The soft singing made one look at the beautiful grotto in the church devoted to 
Mary. Heigen dedicated this piece to the choir. The Ave Maria by Franz Beibl rounded out 
this trio, sung a capella by the gentlemen of the choir in a robust, solemn and 
praiseworthy manner, evoking the a capella group "All The Kings Men". Ms.Claudia 
Dumschat led these ascending prayers with a steady hand. The harp of Joy Plaisted made 
the earthbound audience become heaven bound and on the side of the angels.

The second part of the program began with soprano Sara Paar accompanied on the piano 
by Anabelinda de Castro in a series of Leonard Bernstein songs entitled "I Hate Music!". In 
"My Name is Barbara," a little girl seeks recognition despite her young age, saucily and 
defiantly sung in a strong soubrette soprano. "Jupiter Has Seven Moons," "I Hate Music" 
and "I'm a Person Too" are some of the sprightly tunes that evoked the insouciance of "I 
Feel Pretty " from Bernstein's masterpiece West Side Story. Ms. Paar, will be without peer 
in such roles as Nannetta in Verdi's Falstaff and other roles in the lyric repertory. Ms. 
Paar is both beguiling and enchanting! Anabelinda de Castro was her sprightly and 
dexterous accompanist.

Joe Redd, alto, sang "A Simple Song" from Bernstein's "Mass" which was written to honor 
the slain President John F. Kennedy, whose birth centenary we celebrate this year. Mr. 
Redd has a warm amber quality to his flexible voice and he negotiated the vocal terrain 

In early December 1963, Leonard Bernstein received a letter from the Very Reverend 
Walter H. Hussey, Dean of the Cathedral if Chichester in Sussex, England requesting a 
composition for the Cathedral's 1965 music festival involving the setting of Psalm Two, 
answering the question "why do the nations rage?" From the time of Chichester Psalms 
sold out world premiere at Philharmonic Hall in London on July 15th 1965, it was apparent 
that Bernstein had created a magically unique blend of biblical Hebrew verse and 
Christian choral tradition - a musical depiction of the composer's hope for brotherhood 
and peace. From "Make a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord" to "The Lord is My Shepard," this 
piece, both jazzy and traditional, has old fashioned sweetness and more than a touch of 

Chichester Psalms is more akin to Carl Orff's Carmina Burana than to Verdi's Requiem, 
yet like a pigeon and a dinosaur, they are part of the evolution of musical sound. The 
singers were Luciano Pantano treble, Christina Kay soprano, Tessoro Estrella soprano, Joe 
Redd alto, Ben Thomas tenor and Alan Henriquez baritone. All of them worked so hard to 
make it look easy. My grandson Luciano Pantano used his boy treble fearlessly and his 
voice rang out loud and clear in his solo as he sang in Hebrew in Chichester Psalms - 
Movement 11 (Psalm 23 and 2:1-4). We are very proud of him and his sister Leeza, who 
sings in the Girls Choir also as a treble.

Dr. Claudia Dumschat was truly the Maestro Supreme, conjuring up all the power and 
majesty of this great work. The superb organist James Kennerley made his instrument 
sing and soar! I thought of the great Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) playing his organ 
in the jungles of Lambaréné in Gabon, Africa on his mission to humanity. Joy Plaisted on 
the heavenly harp brought back memories of our mutual friend the late beloved harp 
master Dulcie Barlow.

Chichester Psalms is a work of gentle fierceness and a plea for peace. It combines the old 
testament of righteousness and the new, of mercy.

Leonard Bernstein is buried not far from our home in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. It 
is said that when Bernstein's funeral procession arrived for the burial, the working crews 
in the streets of Brooklyn applauded in tribute.The S.R.O audience also applauded this 
work from the master.

The reception afterwards in the courtyard ensured us of good conversation, food and 
libation. We were happy to "meet and greet" Claudia Dumschat, Rev. Father John David 
van Dooren, who expressed his enthusiasm for such evenings as this, Stage Director 
(Amahl) Richard Olson, the singers, musicians and all. Our son Marcello, his wife Tatyana, 
her parents from Omsk, Russia, Nikolay and Lubov Klitsenko were all there to listen and 
reap praise. Nikolay is a bayan (Russian accordion) master, Lubov, a choral director at 
their school in Russia, and their daughter Tatyana was also a chorus conductor. Our son 
Marcello plays the drums, my wife Judy sang in school choirs and I was "The Boy Caruso 
of Brooklyn"- is it any wonder there's a song in our hearts?

On the grave of the great English American Maestro Leopold Stokowski, a Bach expert 
and pioneer of American music (1882-1977) (Fantasia), is the inscription "Music is the 
Voice of the All." Some thought this might have been a misprint but Maestro Stokowski, 
whose long career began at St. Bartholomew Church as an organist and choirmaster in 
New York, is correct.  It was something he would have thought universal and proper.

We all applaud Maestro Dr. Claudia Dumschat, music director and organist, for this 
special splendid evening on a warm, balmy June night and thank her for reminding us so 
magnificently that "Music IS the Voice of the All"!

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