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Musica Viva will premiere work by local composer

By Josette Keelor - jkeelor@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Music will fill the sanctuary at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church this weekend when the Winchester Musica Viva choir premieres "... the last words," a seven-movement piece for choir, violin and piano by local musician Ryan Keebaugh.

Keebaugh, of Stephens City, says that the work incorporates the last words Jesus spoke before being crucified -- "Into thy hands I commend my spirit."

Keebaugh, who received a degree in composition from Shenandoah University and a doctorate from Catholic University in Washington, wrote the composition a few years ago for Grace United Methodist Church sanctuary choir in Middletown as something special for Holy Week, particularly Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The work offers a more humanistic approach to the history of Holy Week -- the week leading up to Easter -- and the events remembered on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Now in its 29th season, Winchester Musica Viva will present the program as part of the Lenten season, which began with Ash Wednesday, on Feb. 17, and leads up to Easter on April 4.

Keebaugh says that many other composers take a more romantic approach to their music about Holy Week.

When writing the music he thought more about the suffering of the Crucifixion and the nature behind Jesus' words.

"What would it have been like if we had been there?" he says.

He says the audience can expect powerful, emotional music.

"At times it's really quite scary and daunting," Keebaugh says.

Musica Viva music director Ken Nafziger organized the concert repertoire around Keebaugh's composition.

"I chose music that would balance it," he says.

The full choir will also perform music from the Russian Orthodox Easter Vespers Service and a series of African-American spirituals for the season, according to the Web site www.winchestermusicaviva.org. The concerts will feature Joan Griffing, chair of the music department at Eastern Mennonite University, on violin, and Winchester Musica Viva pianist Peter Uhlir.

Though fitting for Lent any year, the chosen music suits this year better than most.

This year's Easter celebration is particularly unique because the date is the same in the Western (Catholic and Protestant) and Eastern (Eastern Orthodox) calendars, according to Winchester Musica Viva's Web site. This happens only a few times each century.

Winchester Musica Viva's Holy Week concerts will take place at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church at 26 W. Boscawen St. in Winchester on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Advance tickets are $12 for adults and $9 for seniors; at the door, tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors. Students pay $5, and children under 10 get in free. For more information, call 409-1862 or go online to www.winchestermusicaviva.org.


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