The Peninsula Singers

The Peninsula Singers

WEEKEND IN THE PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Voices, instrumentalists to perform ‘The Redeemer’ in Port Angeles, Sequim

There are passions for a lot of things in life. And then there is the Passion.

And on this Lenten weekend, the Peninsula Singers will lift their voices in the latter: the Passion story told in “The Redeemer,” a one-hour oratorio that first aired on London’s BBC radio in 1945.

Dewey Ehling, conductor of the Peninsula Singers, will lead the 38-voice choir — alongside a 10-piece orchestra — in three performances.

The first starts at 7:30 tonight at the Independent Bible Church Worship Center, 116 E. Ahlvers Road in Port Angeles; then come a 7:30 p.m. performance Saturday and finally a 2 p.m. concert Sunday, both at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., Sequim.

“The Redeemer,” Ehling said, is one of the most moving works he has conducted in his nearly seven-decade musical career.

The oratorio offers the Passion story through composer Martin Shaw’s music and through poetry chosen by Shaw’s wife, Joan Cobbold, who selected words from scripture and from poems by George Herbert, Francis Quarles, Christina Rossetti, Bishop Coxe and other writers.

These words are “marvelous, descriptive poetry,” Ehling said.

“The Redeemer,” considering its subject, is a relatively short piece. This is because, Ehling added, it was written to fit the BBC’s one-hour time slot.

And Ehling elected to have the work stand on its own, instead of adding another piece for a longer concert; he feels “The Redeemer” is ample nourishment — musically and spiritually.

The oratorio is divided into three parts: the Conflict of Good and Evil; the Agony and the Betrayal and the Crucifixion.

The story is told by the choir, with recitations by tenors Brian Doig and Trent Pomeroy, while baritone Joel Yelland portrays Jesus.

And in an interpretation Ehling believes transcends gender, additional soloists lay out Jesus’ journey. These include Marilyn Sterbick, Elizabeth Perez, Linda Grubb, Karen Pritchard, Vicki Helwick, Karla Messerschmidt Morgan, Glenn Wiggins and Jack Anderson.

Ehling, who arranged “The Redeemer” for organ and string orchestra, has been preparing since last summer.

He needed 65 copies of the work — and found that the going rate was $50 each. So Ehling — who conducted the Anchorage Community Chorus for many years before retiring here, phoned the University of Alaska library to see whether he could borrow those copies.

“Fortunately, they remembered who I was. The librarian up there took a personal interest,” Ehling said.

“He made contact with the North Olympic Library System,” with its main library in Port Angeles, and arranged a loan of 65 copies.

“It was just a godsend,” Ehling said.

Before each performance, the conductor will give a brief talk on “The Redeemer’s” symbolism, and on how moved he is by it.

For example, Shaw chose to have women and men sing Jesus’ words; to Ehling that means Christ’s identity goes beyond gender. Also, at one point when Jesus walks into the Garden of Gethsemane, Shaw uses the entire chorus to sing his words.

“I love the inclusiveness of it,” Ehling said.

“I don’t consider myself religious, but I am very spiritual … I love this story. And the music is so compelling.”

Contralto Linda Grubb, who has performed with the Peninsula Singers for eight years, likewise believes “The Redeemer” has the power to move every listener.

“It’s uplifting,” she said. “It’s just so worthwhile.”

Ehling noted too that this weekend’s concerts are dedicated to the late teacher and Peninsula Singers member Denise Graham. The Sequim resident lost her fight with cancer last December at age 44.

“Denise was a wonderful so-prano who contributed so much to the quality of the chorus,” he said.

“We miss her presence. This is the opportunity for all of us to say goodbye.”

Tickets to “The Redeemer” are $15 for general admission or $12 for students and seniors; children 12 and younger come free. Outlets include the Itty Bitty Buzz, 110 E. First St., Port Angeles, and The Buzz, 128 N. Sequim Ave., Sequim.

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