Down East Singers: resurrection, remembrance
Camden — Down East Singers and Mozart Mentors Orchestra will present Delmar Dustin Small's Easter oratorio “As it began to dawn …” Monday, May 26, at 5 p.m. at the Camden Opera House, 29 Elm St./Route 1.
Drawing on the Gospels, the 24-movement work tells the story of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter and his subsequent appearances to the disciples. Several soloists portray roles both historical and metaphorical. Tenor David Myers Jr. is Jesus; and sopranos Annie Brady, Leah Winchenbach and Emily Protheroe and altos Hannah Winchenbach and Kathryn Armstrong are “the Marys.” Alto Rachel Turner is Faith and Hope; Brady and fellow Camden Hills Regional High School student Nick Greer are Life and Death. Tenor Andrew Hirst as cantor and small choirs of Angels, Disciples and Apostles complete the cast of characters.
Small, a Litchfield native and resident, is the administrator of the Bowdoin College Music Department. He began “As it began to dawn …” in 1984, expecting it to be a brief cantata and his senior honors thesis at Bates College. Although he abandoned that goal, he did have the nucleus of a work that he kept adding to for more than 25 years. In 2011, he showed it to Anthony Antolini, his colleague in the music department at Bowdoin. Antolini, the director of both the Bowdoin Chorus and Down East Singers as well as Mozart Mentors Orchestra, responded enthusiastically. Small then took the work, about 90 percent complete, and started tweaking and finalizing. The Bowdoin Chorus and Mozart Mentors Orchestra premiered the oratorio last May.
Small studied organ and German at Bates; and he has performed as a conductor, organist and harpsichordist in New England, Great Britain, France and Germany. His Maine music credentials are extensive and include service as dean of the Portland Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and as a board member of the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ. For many years, he was musical director of the annual “Best of Broadway” at Portland's Merrill Auditorium, a fundraiser for the Children's Miracle Network. He has served as musical director for dozens of theatrical productions in central and southern Maine. His other compositions include a musical comedy adaptation of “Rapunzel” and several choral works.
Myers, a photographic engineer, leads the tenor section of Down East Singers and serves as the group's vice president. He was most recently the tenor soloist in “Black Nativity,” Down East's Christmas concert. He will perform this summer in Boothbay Harbor with the Lincoln Festival Chorus' production of Carl Orff's “Carmina Burana.” The other featured soloist will be soprano Suzanne Nance, former classical music host on MPBN.
Mozart Mentors Orchestra includes professional musicians and teachers playing with their most promising students. Antolini and New England Suzuki Institute colleague Clorinda Noyes conceived the idea a few years ago, and the orchestra is now in its fourth concert season.
The annual Memorial Day concert of Down East Singers has a long tradition, and for several years Bob Rheault, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and peace advocate, offered inspirational words at the beginning of the concert. Rheault died in 2013 but spoke to Antolini before his death about the message he would like offered at the 2014 Memorial Day concert. Rheault's widow, Susan St. John, will share that message, which will be followed by the singing of Igor Stravinsky's arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Tickets are $20, free to students younger than 18. They are available at Highlands Coffee House, Thomaston; Grasshopper Shop, Rockland; Owl and Turtle Bookshop, Camden; and Left Bank Books, Belfast. They also are available from members of Down East Singers; by calling 619-0413; or online at downeastsingers.org. If tickets remain, they will be available at the box office beginning at 4 p.m. the day of the concert.
Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or firstname.lastname@example.org.