“Behold how good, and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” These iconic words, from Psalm 133:1, convey the universal message of Leonard Bernstein’s musically cross- cultural Chichester Psalms. On Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 7pm, music lovers in the tri-state area are invited to hear the Psalms, composed in Hebrew in three movements, when the Friends of Music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church present their 26th Annual Spring Concert in Westfield. Charles M. Banks, St. Paul’s Sacred Choral Music Conductor and Organist, will also lead the Parish Choir and members of the Grammy-award-winning New Jersey Symphony in a concert version of Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)/Adagio for Strings, Opus. 11, in B flat minor.

Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms is a compilation of Psalms 2, 23, 100, 108, 131 and 133 written for choir, soloists and an orchestra comprised of 3 trumpets in B flat, 3 trombones, timpani, percussion, strings and spotlighting intricate musical lines for two harps. The Psalms were commissioned for the 1965 Music Festival at Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England, an annual summer event that joins the choral forces of three Anglican Cathedrals: Chichester, Winchester and Salisbury. On July 15, 1965, however, the Psalms’ world premier took place at NY Philharmonic Hall in Manhattan, with Bernstein himself conducting--two weeks prior to the Psalms’ first performance at Chichester
on July 31st of that year.
In his Psalms, Bernstein (1918-1990) creates a vigorous, exhilarating, and often contrapuntal choral sound. In their finality, however, the Psalms are tonal, reassuring and serene. Their affirmative tone is counterbalanced by Barber’s hauntingly beautiful Agnus Dei/Adagio. First arranged for string orchestra in 1936, the Adagio was based on the second movement of Barber’s String Quartet, Opus 11. In 1938, Arturo Toscanini conducted Adagio’s first performance in a radio broadcast from a studio in Rockefeller Center. In 1967, Barber (1910-1981) made the choral arrangement that concert attendees will hear on May 6 in Westfield. No doubt, they will be familiar with the soulful Adagio, having heard it as the sound track in past years behind various TV presentations and films, including Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning film Platoon.
Guest concert organist Andrew E. Henderson will begin the program on May 6 with a rare performance of the “Concert Piece in C minor, Opus 130, for Organ and Orchestra” (1908) by Italian composer and organ virtuoso Marco Enrico Bossi (1861-1925). Henderson is the principal organist at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Bossi was a prolific composer who acknowledged his debt to Brahms and the German symphonic tradition, to Cesar Franck, and to Claude Debussy. This particular Concert Piece is energized by a single theme, an idée fixe, presented to the listener in ever-changing forms and variegated textures. Bossi also intends to spark the listener’s interest and attention with what is described as his “rich, thoroughly chromatic harmony.”
St. Paul's is located at 414 East Broad Street near Euclid Avenue in Westfield. Parking in the area is free and concert attendees are invited to a gala reception in the Parish Hall following the event. For more information, contact Charles M. Banks at (908) 232-8506 ext.17 or visit cbanks@stpaulswestfield.org on the Web. A donation of $15 at the door is suggested.