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FirstARTS Concert Series to begin with Boston ensemble

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — This year’s FirstARTS Concert Series kicks off with a Boston music ensemble who will feature music of the 17th and 18th centuries. The concert series began as an outreach for the Salisbury community in 2008 and has continued since that time to host artists and ensembles from across the United States.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary for FirstARTS Concert Series founder and artistic director Matthew Brown, who is also the music director of First United Methodist Church of Salisbury and oversees the Stanback Department of Sacred Music.

The concert series is free to the public. The concerts funded by the church patrons, many of whom are supporters of music and the fine arts. The concert series also includes an annual concert for community collaboration, which raises awareness of a local nonprofit organization through a community-wide appeal.

The concert series has been a way to bridge the gap between the church and the Salisbury community through music, Brown said.

“When I came, there was no outreach to the Salisbury community,” Brown said.

He begins planning a year in advance and is sometime contacted by musicians, many of whom he’s crossed paths with during his time in New York.

“Salisbury is so blessed with so many different performing arts. It’s something beneficial to just sit and enjoy a beautiful concert,” he said.

Another way Brown has built bridges between the church and community is his annual invitation for representatives from various non-profit organizations in the Salisbury community to read one of the nine lessons each year.

“It is a complete joy to bring together many in our community who do valiant work to make Salisbury a better place during this meaningful time of the year,” Brown said.

The following are the concerts for the 2017 season:

Friday, Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m.

Ensemble Chaconne, an early music ensemble from Boston, Mass. The performance will feature music of the 17th and 18th centuries performed on period instruments.

Brown hopes this concert will be of interest to those visiting for Historic Salisbury Foundation’s annual OctoberTour weekend. “Hearing this beautiful music performed as it would have been in the 1800s is quite a unique experience.”

Sunday, Nov. 5, 4 p.m.

A performance of John Rutter’s beautiful Requiem with the choir of First Church, accompanied by full orchestra. Joining the choir will be guest artist, internationally acclaimed soprano, Jennifer Rowley. Rowley has made multiple appearances at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and recently starred in productions at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden, Opéra de Lille in France, and Semperoper in Dresden.

Rowley and Brown frequently collaborated together in New York before he came to Salisbury.

“This was the first major choral work I conducted with the choir at First Church in a benefit concert for the Glenn Kiser Hospice House, so it seems appropriate to offer it again during this anniversary year,” Brown said.

Fridays@First: An Advent Series

Each Friday during the season of Advent, FirstARTS sponsors a mini-series of 30-minute concerts at noon. The series places emphasis on great artists throughout North Carolina and begins Friday, Dec. 1 with a concert featuring music of composers who died from AIDS in remembrance of World AIDS Day. Other performers in the series include Salisbury native Teresa Moore-Mitchell joined by Brown at the piano for a concert of carols and spirituals. The series concludes with a concert of chamber music for viola and piano by renowned Charlotte pianist, Dr. Gregory Thompson and violist Christina Placilla.

Sunday, Dec. 17, 5 p.m.

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has become an annual tradition for the greater Salisbury community. The choirs are joined by guests from various nonprofit organizations in the Salisbury community who read one of the nine lessons each year. This even is another way Brown has worked to build bridges between the church and the community.

Other concerts in the series include a performance by concert organist Colin Lynch from Boston’s Trinity Church Copley Square on Friday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. and a performance of Bob Chilcott’s St. John Passion as a Lenten choral offering on Sunday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m.

As part of its ongoing mission, FirstARTS also includes an annual Concert for Community Collaboration which raises awareness of a local non-profit organization through a community-wide appeal. In celebration of his 10th anniversary as director of music and organist at First United Methodist Church, Brown selected Rowan Helping Ministries as this year’s beneficiary.

This concert, scheduled for Sunday, May 20 at 5 p.m., will feature Brown in concert with members of the North Carolina Symphony.

“Salisbury is one of the most generous places I have ever known, and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate 10 years than to offer a concert in honor of this heroic organization. My goal is to raise $10,000 in support of their mission,” he said.

Previous concerts have benefited Glenn Kiser Hospice House, Food for Thought, Inc., Rowan Care Alliance (AIDS Care Service), Family Crisis Council, and Rowan County’s One Church One Child. The annual event has collectively raised over $100,000 for these important causes.

The series concludes as it has for the past 10 years with a service of Choral Evensong offered by the adult choir of First United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 3 at 4 p.m. A reception will follow in the Parker Courtyard.

For more information, contact the Music Office of First United Methodist Church at 704-636-3121, ext. 104 or Matthew Michael Brown at matthew@fumscalisbury.org.

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