Walter Bitner

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Christmas Oratorio at West End United Methodist

West End Chancel Choir and Orchestra, Matthew Phelps, conductor, perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Part 1, BWV 248 ~ December 3, 2017, West End United Methodist Church, Nashville (click images to enlarge)


When I first met Dr. Matthew Phelps nearly two years ago, one of the first things he shared with me was his desire to present Sebastian’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 at West End during the advent season. I was excited to hear this, since the Christmas Oratorio is rarely performed compared to Sebastian’s other large scale choral works like the Passions and the B minor Mass, and I had never heard it performed live before. So when I found out earlier this fall that it was happening this year, I marked my calendar and made sure I could be there. (more…)

Felix Wang and the Nashville Concerto Orchestra Perform Michael Rose’s Cello Concerto

Michael Rose and Felix Wang

Michael Rose and Felix Wang

On Wednesday, October 19 at 12 pm, the Nashville Concerto Orchestra will give the first and second performances of Michael Rose‘s concerto for cello and orchestra Sedentary Dances in its full orchestration. Felix Wang – who premiered the concerto in January 2013 in its initial version with Michael playing a reduction of the orchestration at the piano – will again perform the cello solo, and the orchestra will be conducted by Joseph Lee. The concert will take place in the sanctuary of West End United Methodist Church, Nashville.

Last week I spoke with Michael and Felix, and with Roger Wiesmeyer, who is the founder and inspirer for the Nashville Concerto Orchestra – and is so often found at the heart of classical music happenings in Music City.


Elgar, Poulenc, & Lauridsen at West End United Methodist

the combined Chancel & Sanctuary choirs of West End United Methodist Church perform Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna under the direction of Matther Phelps ~ March 6, 2016, Nashville

the combined Chancel & Sanctuary choirs of West End United Methodist Church perform Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna under the direction of Matthew Phelps ~ March 6, 2016, Nashville

The last week has been a flurry of music and activity – the symphony was in the hall rehearsing Rossini, Brahms, and Strauss on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for three performances: our annual High School Young People’s Concert on Friday morning, and Classical Series concerts on Friday and Saturday night. Also on Saturday, we held the first round of our annual Curb Concerto Competition – sixteen teenage instrumentalists competed for cash prizes and the chance to perform a concerto movement with the Nashville Symphony on the stage of Laura Turner Hall! – and on Sunday afternoon we held the competition’s finals. This coming Saturday is our first ever auditions for our new program Accelerando. It’s been a very busy time of year for the Education staff at the Nashville Symphony!

After the final round of the competition was over on Sunday, after photos had been taken and I said goodbye to the finalists and their families, I dashed off a quick email to the symphony’s publicist with details for the press release and then made my way across town to West End United Methodist Church for a special late afternoon concert.


Brahms Requiem at West End UMC


Brahms Requiem at West End United Methodist Church, April 19, 2015

This weekend I was reminded of the embarrassment of riches we have in Music City.  The symphony presented fabulous concerts on Friday and Saturday, featuring two works by American composer Michael Daugherty, both recent and one (Tales of Hemingway for Cello and Orchestra with the incomparable Zuill Bailey) a world premiere, alongside standard repertoire by Beethoven and Stravinsky.  On Sunday, Music City Baroque presented their 10th Anniversary Season Finale with a performance of the Vivaldi Gloria at St. George’s Episcopal Church, and West End United Methodist Church presented a performance of A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms featuring their Chancel Choir under the direction of Matthew Phelps, with Margy Bredemann, soprano, and Jonathan Carle, baritone.  Both of Sunday’s concerts were free.