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Historic Recital Connects Bach and Negro Spirituals

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A program connecting the organ works of Johan Sebastian Bach and the vocal arrangements of Negro spirituals will create “a spiritual connection spanning the genres,” March 21, at 7 p.m., in Trinity Episcopal Church, Staunton, Va.

The program will feature organist, Marvin Mills, and American soprano, Marlissa Hudson. The duo will alternate between solo organ works and additional works that combine their talents.

“Their collaboration on this theme, the spiritual connections, seemed to be a logical and interesting concept for our concert,” said Mary Kay Adams, executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival.

Kenneth J. Nafziger, Bach Festival artistic director and conductor, will provide commentary.

“Because this is the twentieth anniversary of the Bach Festival, we are doing many unique and exciting events in celebration of this milestone,” Adams said.

“The choice of dates was intentional, selected because it is Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday, March 21, 1685,” Adams said. “Not only will we celebrate the festival’s twentieth anniversary this season, but this concert is in celebration of Bach’s birthday. Both are important to us.”

The 2012 Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival dates are June 10-17.

About the performers

At home both on the operatic and concert stage, American Soprano Marlissa Hudson made her professional debut while a student, performing “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess with the Baltimore Symphony Pops Orchestra. Her other acclaimed role is Zerbinetta in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, which she performed with The Summer Opera Theatre Company. Her performances earned glowing reviews in both the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun, which described her as “an endearing Zerbinetta … [who] nailed the pyrotechnic aria, “Grossmachtige Prinzessin,” in bright, sure tones.”

Recently, Hudson completed her debut CD, “Libera,” published through African Musical Arts, Inc. and available through iTunes and Amazon.com. Sarah Bryan Miller of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that “Hudson sings (them) all in a rich, expressive voice that doesn’t stint on high notes, with clear diction and true feeling.” Mark Hayes, noted classical music composer, commented that “I love how Marlissa has interpreted my arrangements. She sings them like she has lived them…her pitch is impeccable and her voice shows amazing flexibility and control.”

Marvin Mills, a native of Philadelphia, is organist at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Kensington, Maryland. He has been music director of the acclaimed National Spiritual Ensemble, and guest artist with the Ritz Chamber Players, based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Mills has performed for numerous chapters of The American Guild of Organists and been a featured recitalist at several of its national conventions. Presented in recital by the Washington National Cathedral in observance of Black History Month, he was invited back for its 1995 and 2002 Summer Festival Series.

He has performed throughout the United States, including The Academy of Music, Philadelphia; The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and The Barns-Wolf Trap Farm Park in addition to colleges and universities. He has also been a featured artist at the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival as keyboard artist (harpsichord/piano/organ), chamber musician and choral conductor – preparing the Festival Chorus for major works such as: Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Handel’s Samson and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem and many Bach cantatas.

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