Various Genres: Classical to Jazz and New Music
Now in its sixth season, The Arts at Grace offers high quality professional concerts to the community, in genres ranging from classical to jazz, from well known masterpieces such as Handel's Messiah to world premieres of new works by established contemporary composers. Concerts usually are held in the sanctuary of Grace Episcopal Church, 13 Court Street, in Cortland, and generally begin at 3 PM on Sunday afternoons. The church offers not only a beautiful space for these concerts, but also splendid acoustics. Receptions follow each concert in the recently renovated parish hall where the members of the audience are able to meet and converse with the musicians.
All Arts at Grace events are open to the entire community. Concerts are funded through donations from individuals, businesses, and grants, and there is no charge for admission. Voluntary contributions at concerts are always appreciated. It is a part of the mission of the series that the experience of listening to great music should be available to everyone without regard of any individual's economic situation.
The series generally features performers who live in or are natives of Central New York. Many of our artists are in the midst of their careers and have performed at major national and international venues. Among those who have appeared on the series are soprano Linda Larson who has sung leading roles in operas all over the country; mezzo-soprano Ivy Gaibel who made her debut at the Spoleto Festival in June, 2007; and tenor Todd Geer of Binghamton who has performed in the country's leading opera houses. Baritone Steven Stull sings a wide range of repertoire including opera, operetta, musical theatre, oratorio, chamber music and song. Other leading artists have included baritone Timothy Lefebvre, tenor Gerald Grahame, pianists Xak Bjerken, Miri Yampolsky, Blaise Bryski, and Sar-Shalom Strong, violinists Ariadne Daskalakis, Kia-Hui Tan, Jeremy Mastrangelo, and William Hurley, and cellists David LeDoux and Heidi Hoffman. Jazz artists have included the Peter Chwazik Jazz Quartet and Johnny Russo's Jazz Sextet. All of these distinguished artists have performed at major national and international venues.
The Arts at Grace is committed to building bridges and collaborating with other organizations. Members of various choirs in the community, as well as unaffiliated singers, are invited to sing as part of The Arts at Grace Community Choir in choral works such as Handel's Messiah and Bach's Magnificat, and this spring's performance of the St. Matthew Passion. The select Arts at Grace Chamber Choir, under the direction of Marion Giambattista, performs at some concerts. The series also provides opportunities for local visual artists to display their works at post-concert receptions. The Arts at Grace also seeks to support young and aspiring artists. The annual Young Artists Concert is designed to nurture young artists from local high schools and colleges.
David Neal, Artistic Director of The Arts at Grace, is an Associate Professor and Chair of Performing Arts at SUNY Cortland, where he teaches voice. A bass-baritone, he has performed internationally and is an active participant in many artistic activities in the greater Cortland area. Neal began discussing his idea for The Arts at Grace a few months after becoming music director at the church in 2003. Members of the congregation continue to support the initiative that has resulted in The Arts at Grace being recognized as a venue for fine performances.
Initial funding for the series came from a New York State Council for the Arts Decentralization grant. Other major supporters have been The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, charitable foundations, banks, businesses, and individuals from the extended Cortland community. "These local, grassroots contributions are the key to our success in securing further funding," Neal states. Collaborative grant funding from the New York State Music Fund, established by the New York Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, allowed The Arts at Grace to expand its offerings to new levels, including the commissions of new works by composers Lowell Liebermann and Robert Paterson, which were premiered in the spring of 2008.
The 2009-2010 season brings another remarkable new venture, J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion, a collaborative effort between The Arts at Grace and SUNY Cortland's Performing Arts Department. The Choral Union and The Arts at Grace Community Choir will join forces with a children's chorus, a select chorus, a professional orchestra, and six soloists to perform this entire monumental work in English on Good Friday, April 2, 2010. The concert will take place at the historic McNeil Building on the corner of Church Street and Central Avenue.
This year's concerts will conclude with a performance by Syracuse Opera's Resident Artists on April 11, and a terrific jazz performance by the John Stetch Trio on May 30.