Soloists in “Heavenly Harmony”

A quartet of local talent will be featured as soloists in the Monmouth Civic Chorus concert entitled Heavenly Harmony on Friday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 255 Harding Road (Tower Hill), Red Bank, New Jersey. Led by Artistic Director Dr. Ryan James Brandau, the music includes the visionary Five Mystical Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, G. F. Handel’s triumphant Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, Robert Pearsall’s tender Lay a Garland, and the buoyant Choral Dances from Gloriana by Benjamin Britten. Tickets are $30 adult, $27 senior, $25 group, $5 student. Tickets and information are available at (732) 933-9333 or monmouthcivicchorus.org.
WarrenMoeTenor Warren Moe began singing in his church choir in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin at the age of six, and hasn’t stopped yet. Warren has been a member of the Monmouth Civic Chorus since 1987 and has sung in virtually every concert and stage production since then. Behind the scenes, Warren is the Tenor Section Leader, serves on the Scholarship Committee, and is the coordinator of the MCC Christmas Carolers. Outside MCC, Warren sings in the Sanctuary Choir at the United Methodist Church of Red Bank, performs with The Watchmen male quartet, and is a soloist in a variety of styles and venues. He studied at the Monmouth Conservatory of Music with the late Felix Molzer. Warren lives in Navesink and is an engineer with AT&T.
JamesScavoneTenor James Scavone has been a Monmouth Civic Chorus member since 2003 and served on the Board as Music Committee Chair, Vice President, and President. He has a bachelor’s degree in Music Theory and served 10 years as Director of Music and Liturgy in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is the Executive Director of Red Bank River Center, a non-profit formed in 1991 to manage Red Bank’s Special Improvement District. Jim is a published composer and national speaker on music and liturgy in Catholic worship. He lives in Red Bank with his husband, Paul Chalifour.
GeraldMetz_headshot_bBaritone Gerald Metz has been a Monmouth Civic Chorus member since 1979 and served as Chorus President from 1996-2002. He is the Bass Section Leader and has been a frequent soloist in concert and stage performances. He is also a member of Princeton Pro Musica, conducted by Ryan Brandau, and a past member of Cantori New York, conducted by Mark Shapiro. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Westminster Choir College and taught choral music, mathematics and computer science in the Middletown Township public schools. As a member of the Westminster Choir, he toured the United States and Puerto Rico and participated in choral performances with professional orchestras under Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, William Steinberg, Robert Shaw, Seiji Ozawa, and other distinguished conductors. He lives in Freehold with his wife, Susan, also a Monmouth Civic Chorus member.
KennethWasserBaritone Kenneth Wasser has been a member of the Monmouth Civic Chorus for over 40 years. He has performed leading roles in local productions of Sondheim on Sondheim, Ragtime, South Pacific, Titanic, Damn Yankees, Man of La Mancha (NJ ACT PERRY award for outstanding lead actor in a musical), Fiddler on the Roof, The Secret Garden, Follies, The Magic Flute, The Most Happy Fella, New Moon, Oklahoma!, Carousel, The Merry Widow, Brigadoon, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Kismet, and many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Ken is also a featured vocalist with The Garden State Symphonic Band in Middlesex County and an active participant in Cabaret For Life fundraisers. In his spare time, Ken provides the entertainment for various organizations with his one-man show, The Three Baritones. On June 30, he will be performing in a new CFL show, Two of a Kind at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park. He lives in West Long Branch with his wife, Linda, also a Monmouth Civic Chorus member.
The Monmouth Civic Chorus has been called “near-flawless” (Asbury Park Press), “alive and evocative” (The Star-Ledger) and “superior” (Red Bank Green). The Chorus is the proud recipient of the 2008 ASCAP/Chorus America Alice Parker Award, and the 2010 Spinnaker Award for Arts and Culture from the Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce.

Organist Eric Plutz

Eric PlutzEricPlutz, our guest accompanist for Heavenly Harmony on May 13, is University Organist at Princeton University where his responsibilities include playing for weekly services at the Chapel, Academic Ceremonies, solo concerts and accompanying the Chapel Choir in services and concerts. He also coordinates the weekly After Noon Concert Series at the University Chapel. In addition, Mr. Plutz is rehearsal accompanist for the Westminster Symphonic Choir at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, NJ, as well as Princeton Pro Musica.

Mr. Plutz, who “performs with gusto, flair, clarity, and strong yet pliant rhythmic control (James Hildreth, The American Organist),” has two solo recordings to his credit, both on the Pro Organo label: Music Héroïque and Carnival. Two future recordings are planned as well. As an organ concert soloist, Mr. Plutz has concertized across the United States and abroad, including Salzburg, Austria (Franziskanerkirche), Philadelphia (Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s, Center City), New York City (Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Cathedral of St. John the Divine), Washington, DC (Washington National Cathedral), and West Point, NY (Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy). He has been a featured artist at two Regional Conventions of the American Guild of Organists (Region III in 2007, Regions I & II in 2011), and was a featured performer for the 2007 American Handel Society Conference. At the 2010 National AGO Convention in Washington, DC Mr. Plutz performed twice, in collaboration with two local groups.

Recent performances include two tape-delay solo concerts and a live broadcast of an all-Bach concert on WWFM, and a Verizon Hall appearance under the baton of Helmuth Rilling. In addition, his playing has been broadcast on WRTI’s Wanamaker Organ Hour and NPR’s “Pipedreams.”

Words of Wisdom from A Musician

Pablo Casals (1876-1973) was a world-famous cellist, composer, conductor, and human rights activist. He organized many concerts to benefit the oppressed, and he refused to perform in countries whose governments mistreated their people, such as the Soviet Union, Germany under Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, and his home country, Spain under Franco. At every concert he gave, Casals played “Song of the Birds,” a Catalonian folk song, to protest the continued dictatorship in Spain.

For Casals, there was no disparity between his roles as a musician and an activist, because they came from the same place within him. “I am every day more convinced that the mainspring of any human enterprise must be moral strength and generosity,” he said. He knew that music was not mere entertainment; in the face of war and cruelty, music was his way of making the world a better place.

Even if we’re not famous artists, every one of us can find a way to make a difference in the world around us. Here’s how Casals put it: “Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again…. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work to make the world worthy of its children.”

The Monmouth Civic Chorus will perform music by Casals and other composers in a concert entitled “Passions” on Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, 101 Chelsea Avenue, Long Branch. Tickets are $30 adult, $27 senior, $25 group, $5 student. Tickets and information are available at monmouthcivicchorus.org or (732) 933-9333. Tickets will be available at the door.

Caroling, Caroling

Monmouth Civic Chorus (MCC) is well-known for its classical concerts in locations such as Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Long Branch and the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. But the choir also enjoys participating in more intimate community engagements. Every holiday season, for example, MCC performs at Christmas caroling events throughout Monmouth County.

Music Heals the Soul

Many cancer survivors like me have found comfort in music. While sitting in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan Kettering before my latest checkup, I came across a couple of articles about Rising Voices, a cancer survivors’ chorus.

The Magic of Music

By now it’s common knowledge, especially in developed countries, that music is powerful and has many benefits. There is a correlation between music and mathematical aptitude, creativity, health, and coordination and teamwork in certain cases. The magic of music can perhaps best be seen by the impact on society overall, most notably in the sense of community and connection.