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  • Few people have ever heard a live performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio “St. Paul, Op. 36.”

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  • Few people have ever heard a live performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio “St. Paul, Op. 36.”
    That can change at 3 p.m. Sunday in the First United Methodist Church when members and guests of the Pittsburg State University choral program and the Southeast Kansas Symphony perform the work under the direction of Susan Marchant.
    Tickets will be $7 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students from the PSU Ticket Office, 235-4796 or www.pittstate.edu/office/tickets/. Tickets will also be available at the door one hour before the concert.
    She said that “St. Paul” was the composer’s most popular work during his lifetime, but was subsequently overshadowed by his later oratorio, “Elijah.”
    “There are a couple of well-known solos that have been extracted from this work and performed, but I haven’t talked with anyone who’s seen a full production of it,” said Marchant, PSU music professor. “This piece really should be performed more than it is.”
    Stella Hastings, SEK Symphony artistic director and conductor, said that she totally agrees.
    “Some movements are breathtaking,” she said. “You sit back and listen, and the beauty continues and continues. There will be movements when the audience will say, ‘I didn’t know that came from ‘St. Paul’.”
    Marchant said the oratorio was selected in part because they wanted to get it out into the community.
    “However, the two major factors were that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn, and we’re also nearing the end of the Year of St. Paul, a special jubilee declared by Pope Benedict XVI in honor of St. Paul the Apostle. Communities around the world have focused on the life and teaching of this important figure, and it’s our great privilege to contribute to the celebration by performing this work of such brilliance and beauty.”
    The composer received a commission to write the oratorio from Johann Nikolaus Schelble, director of the Cacilienverin, a choir in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1831, but didn’t start composing the music in earnest until 1834, largely because he first devoted so much attention to the libretto, which is primarily attributed to Pastor Julius Schubring, an old family friend.
    Mendelssohn often played troublesome passages to his beloved father, Abraham Mendelssohn, a banker with no technical musical training but a keen musical instinct. The composer was devastated after his father’s unexpected death in 1835, and the oratorio became an unofficial tribute to him.
    “St. Paul” was first performed on May 22, 1836, at the Lower Rhine Music Festival in Dusseldorf, Germany, where it was a great success. However, there was some criticism as well, some of it because of the way the voice of God was depicted.
    Page 2 of 3 - “The voice of God is a soprano — which is how it should be,” Hastings said.
    “Instead of using a quartet of soloists, we’ve all the solo material and divided it among 10 soloists,” Marchant said. “This gives many more people the opportunity to take part in solos, and enhances the text as well.”
    Soloists will be Patrick Howle, baritone, singing Saul/ Paul; Kathryn Park, soprano recitative; William Vance, tenor recitative; Angela Stansberry, soprano arias and the voice of God; Kelly Samarzea, alto aria; Patrick O’Halloran, tenor aria and Stephen; Sean parks, Barnabas; Bryan Ganer, Ananias; Brandon Wade and Derek Dixon, false witnesses; and the PSU Women’s Choir, the voice of Jesus.
    The oratorio will be the fourth and final concert of the SEK Symphony series.
    “By making it part of our regular season, that allows for more rehearsal time,” Hastings said. “It works out to the symphony and the choir collaborating just about every other year. I get to put the symphony in Susan’s capable hands, step back and sing in the choir. I’m up for this as long as they’ll have me.”
    Marchant is very happy about the collaboration between the choir and orchestra.
    “We’re also deeply grateful to the folks of the First United Methodist Church for allowing us to convert their sanctuary into a concert hall,” she said. “It’s a great room for this kind of project.”
    The choir will be composed of Lauren Bailey, Briana Baker, Jessica Baker, Stephen Baldwin, Caroline Barto, A.J. Beu, Marilyn Brock, Molly Burke, John Burrows, Jayson Canton, Carolyn Conway, Richard Cook, Erin Cooley, Erin Crist, Daniel Cunningham, Rebekah Dallman, Louise Delaney, Derek Dixon, Kevin Dixon, Joshua Donaldson, Joyce Elliott, William Elliott, Charlotte Evans, Linda Evans, Matthew Faucett, Mariah Feist, Amanda Fenech, Karrie Fenech, Lori Fleming, Tracy Fogliasso, Cheri Forman, Hannah Galyon, Bryan Ganer, Jennifer Ganer, John Gladson, Ashley Goff, Joseph Gregory, Kathy Hall, Seth Harley, Richard Harper, Mary Jo Harper, Stella Hastings, Danielle Hays, Caleb Hayse, Timothy Helms, Kate Hockman, lee Ann Hockman, Heather Hopkins, Megan Howerton, Nicholas Hoyt, Cheng-chih Hsieh, Natalee Hulstine, Joshua Johnson, Kondja Kamatuka, Jessica Kesler, Sarah Knox, Christopher Korbe, Susan Laushman, Sonya Lawson, Joanne Kit Yee Lee, Matthew, Lewis, Aaron Loehr, Jeff Luton, Monique Mack, Julia Madison, Kally McDaniel, Brandon Mills, Sarah Mills, Brianne Mueller, Jennifer Nichols, Patrick O’Halloran, Sean Parks, Julia Penner, Lauren Perkins, Brittany Pittman, Salvador Prado, Tiffany Raftopoulos, Ashley Reavis, Robert Reno, Misty Ristau, Allison Rodriguez, Karen Shepherd, Karen Slater, Tyler Smith, Jonathan Sperry, David Staton, Ross Stone, Anne Stuhlsatz, Doralee Stuhlsatz, Paresa Tafreshi, Kristen Taylor, Ashton Titus, John Tripp, Daniel Troop, Patrick Tyler, Justin Ulmer, Trent Vallier, Amanda Vitt, Brandon Wade, Tammy Warford, Rebekah Wells, Jordan White, Robert Wilson, Hana Withington, John Womeldorff, Megan Wood, Shanhe Xu, Marti York, Chelsea Young and Laura Youngers.
    Page 3 of 3 - Playing in the orchestra will be Gustavo Aquino Navarro, Kathy DeGrave, Patty Condiff, Ann Knipschild, David Hurley, A.J. Metzger, James Ryals, Shawn Shipley, Christine Lovell, Russell Jones, Danica Gibson, Susan Laushman, Carol Deats, Jean Klassen, Sarah Arnold, Dalton Williams, Amanda Damewood, Josh Tidd, Ashley Hirt, Zach Trosper, Rebecca Cutler, Aysegul Giray, Erika Zelada, Linda Vollen, Joanna Coleman, Marilyn Layden, Ramiro Miranda, Stephen Gedert, Miranda Grimmer, Zach Benson, Adam Bentley, Christy Higginson Paxton, Eren Tuncer, Luis Reyes, Gloria Britez Scolari, Gene Vollen, Jeremy Smith, Richard Samford, Sallie Lupis, Irene Diaz Gill, Carson Felt, Martha Baxter, Jessica Bjorgaard, Ruth Finnigan and Paul Smith.

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