Tompkins musicians will join forces April 8 - Catholic Courier

Tompkins musicians will join forces April 8

Taking to heart the expression, "We could make beautiful music together," choirs and instrumentalists from Tompkins County parishes are teaming up once more for an inspiring presentation.

The groups are currently preparing for "The Lenten Sketches." Their one-hour performance will take place Friday, April 8, at 7 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church in Ithaca. Featuring a choir of approximately 50 and an orchestra of about 15, the event will be free and open to the public.

"The Lenten Sketches" is a cantata that pays homage to the final days of Christ’s earthly ministry, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the scene at the garden of Gethsemane and Christ’s crucifixion. Music for "The Lenten Sketches" was originated by Joseph Martin, a resident of Austin, Texas, who is nationally renowned for his many choral compositions both sacred and secular.

"It features music and narration that will touch your soul," said Gary Vrabel, Immaculate Conception’s music director, adding that he "fell in love with its wonderful music and powerful message" when he came across "The Lenten Sketches" last year.

"Since the music follows the last few days of Jesus’ life, we thought it perfect to be done as a kind of musical Stations of the Cross during Lent," Vrabel added. Indeed, the performance will take place on a Lenten Friday evening, the general time period for Stations of the Cross.

Vrabel said he opted to pursue "The Lenten Sketches" based on the success of "The Weeping Tree" that the Ithaca parishes presented two years ago. That composition, also conceived by Martin, solemnly depicts Jesus’ journey to the cross. The 2009 event "went better than we thought possible and was very well attended," Vrabel recalled.

In addition to Immaculate Conception, participating parishes for "The Lenten Sketches" are All Saints, Lansing; St. Catherine of Siena, Ithaca; St. Anthony, Groton; and Holy Cross, Dryden. Vrabel further noted that some singers come from other faith communities and are both Catholic and non-Catholic. Doreen Alsen will serve as conductor for "The Lenten Sketches." She and Vrabel, along with Sherry Scanza and Barbara Ivers, are the music directors leading this effort.

"Our parishes are very close in working with each other on many endeavors," Vrabel said, noting that in the last few years regional ensembles have joined forces not only at Lent, but also for confirmation as well as a Mass for Peace celebrated by Bishop Matthew H. Clark in September 2009. These gatherings typically attract several hundred people.

Vrabel remarked that the Tompkins-area music directors are open to any way they can find "to bring us together, to support each other, and make these services more powerful."

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