Michigan Festival of Sacred Music

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Flutist Melissa Ngan, a member of the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble, tells Cara Lieurance about the innovative directions this modern chamber group has taken to give audiences visceral experiences with live music. Fifth House Ensemble will perform a program called "Degenerate Art" at the Connecting Chords Music Festival on Sunday at 7:30 pm, in the Dalton Theater of the Light Fine Arts Center at Kalamazoo College.

Delving into music that was censored, banned, and propagandized as “degenerate,” Fifth House Ensemble will shed new light on works by artists facing oppression under three different oppressive regimes: Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and the dark days of McCarthyism right here in the United States where individuals, ideas, and art were deemed un-American. Ngan discusses works of Schulhoff and Messiaen, Shostakovich, and Harold Arlen.


Rose Ensemble

Jordan Sramek, artistic director of the acclaimed vocal group The Rose Ensemble, talks to Cara Lieurance about the new music that was composed in the wake of Martin Luther's founding of Protestantism in Wittenburg in 1517. The Rose Ensemble partnered with the Renaissance band Piffaro to create a program that spans the 100 years following the Reformation, called Welcome the People: The Musical Legacy of the Reformation.  Highlights include Luther's own hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and a Te Deum by Michael Pratorious, which Sramek calls a "barn burner." The concert, co-presented by the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music and the Kalamazoo Bach Festival Society, takes place at 7 pm in Chenery Auditorium on Wednesday, November 15.


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Kevin Vaughn, a recent graduate from the University of Notre Dame, speaks with Cara Lieurance about his upcoming Michigan Festival of Sacred Music organ recital that features an organ mass composed for All Saints' Day by French composer Gaston Litaize. It uses Gregorian chant as source material, and the male ensemble of Early Music Michigan will be on hand to sing the original chants during the performance. Vaughan will also perform a variety of other works on the free program, which begins at 7 pm on Friday, November 3 at the Cathedral of St. Augustine.


Michael Palmer

The Messiah Sing, a community sing-along of highlights from Handel's oratorio, has been an annual event in Kalamazoo for over 20 years. First Congregational Church music director Michael Palmer is leading the sing for the third time. Each year, he re-thinks which portions to sing, and how. For example, this year he's decided to turn over some of the most famous solo songs into unison section singing.

One of Michigan's most experienced early music performers, Eric Strand, will return as harpsichordist. He says  it was the Americans, and not the British, who came up with the sing-along tradition of performing the Messiah. Palmer, Strand, and new section leader for the altos, Tami Snyder-Knutson talk with Cara Lieurance about what makes singing Handel's Messiah such a rewarding experience.


In a preview of the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music, executive director Elizabeth Start explains the reasons behind turning the festival into an annual event, and previews the eleven performances scheduled between October 29 and Nov 3. They include appearances by a gamelan orchestra, a trio of Syrian musicians, a Jewish-bluegrass fusion band, and the choral group The Rose Ensemble


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