Clarksville, TN – The city of Clarksville is deceptively large. Sure, there’s the small town charm of Franklin Street and the local university, but spread over about 95 square miles, more than 130,000 people call the city home. For a couple of faculty members in the Austin Peay State University music department, that makes Clarksville large enough to need certain cosmopolitan attractions.
“We feel Clarksville should have an orchestra of its own, and there should be a choral component to go along with that,” Dr. Gregory Wolynec, APSU associate professor of music, said.The Grammy-nominated Gateway Chamber Orchestra, made up of APSU music faculty and other professional musicians from the area, has for the last three years fulfilled the need for a local orchestra. Now, at 4:00pm on February 26th, they’ll host a special concert to give Clarksvillians a taste of what it would be like to have a semi-professional choir in the city.
Dr. Douglas Rose, chair of the APSU music department and interim director for the Nashville Symphony Choir, will lead this new Gateway Chamber Choir. For this inaugural performance, the choir and soloists will consist of APSU faculty members and Nashville singers. But Rose hopes talented local singers will want to soon join the ranks of the choir.
“It’s going to be a selective group,” Rose said. “Singers for this ensemble will have strong sight-singing skills and have the ability to give a polished performance with only two or three rehearsals. In other words, the singers will need to come to the first rehearsal with notes learned. All singers who feel qualified for this new choir should contact me.”
To showcase the potential of this new choir, the singers will perform with selected members of the Gateway Chamber Orchestra on a program that includes pieces by the English composer Herbert Howells and Clarksville’s own Dr. George Mabry, emeritus professor of music at APSU. The centerpiece of the evening will be the performance of an early Bach cantata, BWV 4, “Christ lag in Todes Banden.”
“Christ lag” is one of the most popular of all of Bach’s sacred cantatas. Written in Mühlhausen in 1707-08, it is thought by some to be the earliest surviving vocal composition by Bach. It is an excellent example of a chorale cantata, meaning that all movements, including the opening sinfonia, make use of the chorale (hymn) tune and/or text in some form. The chorale was written by Martin Luther, and is based on the Catholic chant Victimae paschali laudes.
Rose explains, “Cantatas of this sort were originally written for Lutheran church services — kind of a musical sermon.”
It is perhaps fitting that the February 26th concert will be held at the Grace Lutheran Church, on Madison Street. Tickets are $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for students.
The soloists for the evening’s concert will be APSU professor of music Dr. Gail Robinson-Oturu, soprano; APSU adjunct instructor Rachel Hansbury, mezzo-soprano; APSU choral conducting master’s student Andrew Smith, tenor; and APSU director of choral activities, Dr. Korre Foster and APSU assistant professor of music, Dr. Mingzhe Wang, will sing in the bass section of the choir.