Two celebrated works by Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini will highlight the University of Findlay’s spring Concert-Chorale extravaganza set for Sunday, April 10 at 3 p.m. at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts’ Thomas, Kathleen and William Donnell Theater.
Showcasing almost 90 soaring voices and a 44-piece orchestra conducted by music professor and Director of Choral Activities Micheal F. Anders, Ph.D., the event will present the “Messa di Gloria” and “Mottetto per San Paulino.”
Featured soloists will be soprano Angie Gwinn, tenor JR Fralick, baritone Lance Ashmore, and bass John Hines.
Reserved tickets are free to the public. They may be reserved at the Marathon Center box office, which can be accessed online at www.marathoncenterarts.org, by calling (419) 423-2787, or by stopping by the box office at 200 W. Main Cross St. from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, or from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
This special performance will be the final UF choir concert led by Anders, who has conducted the University’s Concert-Chorale for 35 years and is retiring. It will also be the first concert by a UF ensemble at Findlay’s new Marathon Center for the Performing Arts.
Although Puccini is known and admired today exclusively as a composer of some of the most popular operas in the world, such as “Tosca” and “Madam Butterfly,” initially he was designated to become a local church musician like his forefathers, who had been city music directors and cathedral organists in Lucca for four generations. As a young composer, the “Messa di Gloria” and the “Mottetto per San Paolino” functioned as young Giacomo’s certificate of apprenticeship. They were meant to demonstrate that he was a worthy heir.
Both compositions were first performed in 1880, when Puccini was 22. Like most Italian church music of the 19th century, both tend toward a secular and operatic style. Additionally, even though they are separate compositions, their combined performance presents the full-blown framework for a single work.
Gwinn is a Charlotte, North Carolina resident who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in vocal performance from the Julliard School. An award-winning artist, she has impressive operative credits, including roles with such organizations as the San Francisco Opera, Merola Opera Center, San Francisco’s Western Opera Theatre and New York City Opera’s National Company. Some of her repertoire includes the title role in Puccini’s “Suor Angelica” and Marguerite in Gounod’s “Faust.”
Fralick is professor of voice in the Music Conservatory of Baldwin-Wallace College. His post-graduate work has included a vocology certificatin with the National Center for Voice and the University of Iowa. He is an active member of National Association of Teachers of Singing and has been heard worldwide. In May and June he will tour with the Music Inspire Africa orchestra as tenor soloist in “Messiah.” He has appeared as soloist in more than a dozen symphonic works such as Jan Radzynski’s “Shirat Ma’ayan” with the Jerusalem Symphony and Britten’s “Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings” with the Kansas City Symphony.
Ashmore is a member of the voice faculties at UF, Bowling Green State University and Ohio Northern University. His performing career has been centered in the Midwest, especially in Ohio and Michigan, where he has performed with the Cleveland Opera, Toledo Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Piccolo Opera and Lyric Opera Cleveland. His repertoire includes leading roles in opera and operetta such as “Carmen” and “The Marriage of Figaro.” Most recently Ashmore was seen as Captian Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” at Heritage Music Theatre in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Hines is internationally acclaimed and has been heard from the concert and opera stages of Italy, Austria, Russia and the United States. With a symphonic, oratorio and operatic repertory comprising nearly 75 works, his most frequent and notable oratorio and symphonic performances include Handel’s “Messiah,” the requiem masses of Verdi and Mozart, Beethoven’s “Piano Fantasy” and “9th Symphony” and Haydn’s “Creation,” the latter of which he performed with the UF Concert-Chorale in 2015.
Anders will continue to work with the musical theatre program and Donnell Broadway Concert Series, but has said this event will mark his last in choral direction. Over the years, he has been awarded the UF Founders’ Academic Excellence Award for Teaching, the Elizabeth Gupta Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Fine Arts, and the UF Alumni Association’s Arch Award. He has also been honored with two endowed UF vocal music and musical theatre scholarships named for him. Anders has conducted numerous large choral works, including three performances of Haydn’s “Creation,” “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace” by Karl Jenkins, Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” three versions of Handel’s “Messiah,” and more. He has also lead semi-staged versions of works such as Gershwin’s “Of Three I Sing” and Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta.” He also reconstructed and produced, in conjunction with the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, the world premiere revival of the “unknown” 1976 Richard Rodgers/Sheldon Harnick musical, “REX.”
University of Findlay students and the community at large have greatly benefited from Anders’ expertise, enthusiasm and passion for the musical crafts. His choral direction will be greatly missed, but it is with optimism and gratitude that the University looks forward to his continued teaching and direction.
An in-depth article on Anders will appear in the spring issue of FindlayMag.