It’s springtime in Buffalo and it doesn’t get much better than strolling in the Elmwood Village taking in the gardens coming to life, unless you slip into a beautiful building for an amazing concert. Then the experience becomes sublime.
On Sunday, April 23rd at 10:30 a.m., the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo presents the Spring Music Sunday Service concert called “Verdant Song”; the event is free and open to the public. At the corner of Elmwood and West Ferry, in the sanctuary of the beautiful English gothic and arts and crafts-style church, visitors and congregants can experience the Unitarian Universalist Church choir and guest instrumentalists perform masterpieces by six different composers.
Director and Choirmaster, Daniel Bassin, speaks from experience when he says the UUCB choir can go toe to toe with any choir in the area. “Each of the works on our ‘Verdant Song’ program make intense musical demands on the performers, but they’ve also been selected for the powerful impact this music can have on an audience,” says Dr. Bassin. The feature piece of the program will be acapella, but the others feature accompaniment by a sextet of professional musicians including the Unitarian Universalist Church’s organist, Su Lee. Without instrumental accompaniment, Aaron Copland’s choral masterwork, “In the Beginning” showcases the musicianship of the Unitarian Universalist Church’s choir (a weekly treat for congregants).
Both Copland and another composer in this program, Julius Eastman, had Buffalo connections. I just learned that Copland was a visiting professor at the University of Buffalo and a decade later, Julius Eastman worked there as a Creative Associate. A rarely performed piece by the talented and controversial Eastman will be performed. The piece “Our Father” for male voices is likely the composer’s final completed work.
There are three women composers in the program: Hildegard von Bingen, Lili Boulanger, and Florence Price. The piece by medieval abbess von Bingen, called “O Virdissima Virga” will resonate in the acoustically sound sanctuary. Lili Boulanger’s piece, “Hymn to the Sun” was accomplished in her brief life span; Boulanger died at 24 years of age. “Adoration”, an organ piece composed by the first African American symphonist, Florence Price, will be performed in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo’s event. Bassin will lead the long-delayed New York premiere of her “Third Symphony” on May 3rd at Buffalo State College.
What ties this program together? There is the Bach prelude and Postlude for one. In addition, although the composers range from the 12th to the 20th century their compositions have a common element, a timeless and human one. It’s the element of breath; the concert is a celebration of the great exhalation that is Spring! Come to celebrate the season with music and fellow music-lovers, then walk along the garden path by the church’s flower beds to see what’s coming up.