BENNINGTON -- Organ and cello music of J.S. Bach, among others, will be filling historic Old First Church in Bennington, Vermont, on Sunday, May 26 at 4 p.m., as organist Charles Olegar and cellist Perri Morris are featured in a Musick and Song at Old First Church series event, open to all without charge (freewill donations encouraged).
The May 26 musicale is the third installment in Old First’s recently-launched community-outreach musicales, which Director of Music Olegar projects as an annual public series performed by local artists, comprising organ and instrumental recitals, along with other concerts, which over the past several months have included a March concert of Bach Cantatas and a Good Friday presentation of seasonal music from the French Baroque, and, toward the end of April, the launch of Old First’s new organ recital series with Olegar and his immediate predecessor at the jointly-held Old First and First Baptist churches, Scott Smedinghoff. Long noted for its outstanding beauty as a widely-renowned example of Colonial architecture, Old First Church also possesses exceptionally fine acoustics, providing an ideal venue for classical music.
Musical selections for the May 26 concert include Bach’s "Suite in G for Cello," unaccompanied, the "Prelude and Fugue in A" from the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier, performed on the piano, along with Bach’s organ, "Dorian" Toccata and Fugue and the Kyrie chorales from his German Organ Mass. Other composers represented on the concert are Bach predecessors Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Pachelbel, thorough the "Prelude," "Fugue," and "Chaconne in C" and "Chaconne in F Minor," respectively. Donations will be directed toward funding improvements to Old First’s 45-year-old pipe organ, along with operational costs of the church’s new "Musick and Song" series.
Since this past December, Charles Olegar has been heading the music ministries of Bennington’s First Baptist and Old First Congregational churches jointly, having come to the area from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where for the previous eight years he served St. James Episcopal Church as organist-choir director.
As a career church musician and concert performer, Olegar’s professional activities have centered in the Northeast, South, and Midwest, including cathedral and college positions, along with independent arts organizations. During the 1980s and 90s his work in the English choral tradition earned international recognition. More recently, Olegar’s "Bach and Beyond" organ recital series in Great Barrington drew a large following as it yielded three CD recordings, one of which was hailed by the prominent organist journal The American Organist for Olegar’s "poetry and passion." Earlier accolades include some half-dozen first prizes in international choral competitions and festivals, including two consecutive wins (1992, ‘94) in England’s Elgar Festival, and an honorary degree from England’s Sherbourne Theological College for his work promoting English church music in America. A native of Akron, Ohio, Charles Olegar’s initial professional church music training was at the University of Akron and Cleveland Institute of Music, with post-graduate study at England’s Royal School of Church Music.
Morris’ professional activity as a ‘cellist includes participation in music festivals at Tanglewood, Spoleto Festival of the Two Worlds, and The Waterloo Music Festival. Morris has been a member of the faculties at Mount Holyoke College, West Texas A&M, Keene State College and Westfield State College. A resident of Bennington, Vermont, she performs with the Vermont Symphony and the Burlington Chamber Orchestra, along with serving as assistant principal cellist for the Green Mountain Opera and the Middlebury Opera. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music and a Master’s degree in Music Performance from UMass Amherst, studying her instrument with Lawrence Lesser, Ronald Feldman, and Aldo Parisot.
Old First Church is located at 60 Monument Avenue and Main Street in Old Bennington, on the Public Square and adjacent to Old Bennington’s historic cemetery.