Bennington County Choral Society bids farewell to director with spring concert


BENNINGTON -- The Bennington County Choral Society (BCCS), under Music Director Edwin Lawrence, presents its spring concert program, "Masses from Two Different Worlds." Performances are Saturday, April 26, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 27, at 3 p.m., at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington. A reception follows the Sunday concert, bidding farewell to longtime director Lawrence.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door, in advance from choristers or at the Bennington Bookshop. The Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Churchis handicapped accessible.

"Masses from Two Different Worlds" is sponsored by Church Insurance Company of Vermont. BCCS is honored to have Church Insurance Company of Vermont participate in its new Corporate Sponsorship program.

"Masses from Two Different Worlds" reflects the need for church music to communicate eternal truths, while also responding to the spirit of the time -- as illustrated by a program of works from 19th-century Viennese composer Franz Schubert, 20th-century Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez and 21st-century Vermont composer Edwin Lawrence.

Throughout music history, musicians have found ways to reach the faithful of their time and place with new sounds. In early 19th-century Vienna, for example, a young Franz Schubert -- not yet 20 years old and nearly overwhelmed by his job as a schoolmaster -- composed his first mass for the parish church at Liechtenthal in 1814. His second composition, "Mass in G," came in the next year. This Mass, performed by the BCCS, is lovely, simple and direct. The music moves easily in balanced phrases and with a readily accessible harmonic palette, and -- as with many of Schubert’s finest "lieder" (or art songs) -- is reminiscent of the folk music of his day.

Among the many changes the Second Vatican Council elicited between 1962 and 1965 was a modernization of the liturgy. New permissions allowed the Mass to be spoken or sung in the vernacular, rather than in Latin, and aesthetic changes encouraged the use of modern liturgical music. Thus, in 1963, Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez created his "Misa Criolla," based on South American folk music.

Rounding out the spring concert program is "Psalm Cycle," a composition by Bennington County Choral Society Music Director Edwin Lawrence. "Psalm Cycle" was written for, and premiered by, the Choral Society in 1986. It was inspired by the modern-sounding language of a new translation of the Psalms. Building on the work of Joseph Gelineau for the Jerusalem Bible, a team of English translators worked from the original Hebrew text to produce "The Psalms: A New Translation" (also known as the "Grail Psalms") in 1963. Their intent was to capture the rhythmic patterns of the original Hebrew, so as to inspire a more singable psalmody.

Lawrence’s "Psalm Cycle" moves from a formal invocation in Psalm 67 ("O God be gracious and bless us") to a stance of awe at the wonders of creation in Psalm 8 ("How great is your name"). Following the desperate longing of Psalm 13 ("How long, O Lord, will you forget me?") to the resignation of Psalm 32 ("Happy the man whose offense is forgiven").

Following the Sunday afternoon performance, please join the Bennington County Choral Society for a small reception honoring, and bidding farewell to, director Edwin "Ed" Lawrence.

Lawrence’s 38 years as director of the BCCS began in 1976; he has since led the group in performances of works from the 9th to the 21st centuries. Lawrence is an accomplished composer and a founding member of the Consortium of Vermont Composers, an associate artist and instructor in music at Williams College, and the Minster of Music for the First Congregational Church in Williamstown, Mass.

Lawrence has been as a guest conductor of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, taught on the faculty of Bennington College, served as music director for Oldcastle Theatre Company, and was a producer for Dorian Records.

In 1990, he received a Citation of Merit from the Vermont Council of the Arts for his contributions to the vitality of the arts in the Green Mountain State.


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