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By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

From Bach to Britten, organ to orchestra, choral to jazz, Pasadena Presbyterian’s Friends of Music Concert season offers an eclectic mix in its nine concerts, which begin September 29 with a performance featuring two youthful works by English composer Benjamin Britten.

(Full disclosure: I’m a member at PPC and am involved in the music program, so — as the late, great Molly Ivins was often wont to say — you can take this post with a grain of salt or a pound of salt, if you’re so inclined. On the other hand as you can see from the title, this is one in an ongoing series of season previews of the many offerings in our area this season. More are to come.)

In addition to the broad mixture of genres, the church’s FOM season is notable for the fact that all concerts are free of admission charges (although voluntary offerings are taken; it is a church, after all). There’s also free parking available in the church’s lots. All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. (some, offer preconcert lectures at 7 p.m. — I’m doing one on Sept. 29). The church is located at 585 E. Colorado Blvd. (at Madison Ave.) in the Playhouse District of downtown Pasadena.

The opening concert focuses on the upcoming centennial of Britten’s birth (Nov. 22, 2013) as Timothy Howard conducts the Friends of Music Orchestra in the composer’s Simple Symphony and then leads the Kirk Choir, two soloists, two narrators, organ and orchestra in The Company of Heaven, a cantata on the subject of angels. Britten composed TCOH for a BBC radio broadcast on Sept. 29, 1937, which means that the church’s concert is on the 75th anniversary to the day of that inaugural performance.

Other concerts on the FOM schedule are:

• Nov. 3 — Daryl Robinson organist@
Last July, Robinson won First Prize and the Audience Prize at the American Guild of Organists’ National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance, one of the world’s most prestigious organ-playing competitions (PPC has a tradition of presenting the NYACOP winner in the season after his or her victory). Robinson is organist at Grace Presbyterian Church, Houston.

• Dec. 8 — 68th annual Candlelight and Carols program
This Pasadena tradition features all of the church’s choirs, an instrumental ensemble and organ in a varied program of sacred and secular music that also includes audience caroling.

• Dec. 29 — Schubert’s Winterreise
Tenor Micheal Smith and pianist Mark Robson combine on this magnificent song cycle.

• Jan. 26 — The Modern Brass Quintet
This noted local brass group, which serves as PPC’s “Ensemble-in-Residence,” performs a concert in honor of its 20th anniversary. The group’s members have recorded all over the world as soloists, chamber musicians and orchestral players.

• Feb. 23 — Meaghan King, organist
PPC’s new assistant organist performs her first recital on the church’s massive Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ.

• March 29 — Good Friday Devotional Concert
The 16th edition of this traditional event will feature Timothy Howard conducting the Kirk Choir, community singers, soloist and Friends of Music Orchestra in Duruflé’s Requiem and other music appropriate for Holy Week.

• May 11 — Timothy Howard, organist
PPC’s Organist/Music Director plays his annual recital.

• June 1 — Jazz for the City
This has become the series’ traditional close.

In addition to the nine FOM concerts, the church also sponsors its weekly “Music at Noon” series of free recitals from 12:10 to 12:40 p.m. on Wednesdays. These programs spotlight local, national and international artists in a myriad variety of genres.

Information: www.ppcmusic.org

Other season previews:
• Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra HERE
• The Colburn Orchestra HERE
• Pacific Symphony HERE
• Pasadena Master Chorale HERE


(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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