Guest post by composer Pepper Choplinintroducing his new cantata, Once upon a Morning: From Resurrection to Pentecost. Choplin is known as one of the most creative writers in church music today. With a diverse musical background, Choplin incorporates varied styles such as folk, Gospel, classical, and jazz. His published works include over 300 anthems for church and school choir with 20 church cantatas and two books of piano arrangements, and over 120 groups have commissioned him to write original works for them. Since 1991, his choral music has sold several million copies. Choplin has conducted eight New York concerts of his music at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center with 250 voices and full orchestra. In his hometown of Raleigh, he has conducted eight mass performances of his cantatas at Meymandi Auditorium (home to the NC Symphony) with over two hundred voices and orchestra. In 2019, he conducted Handel’s Messiah (Christmas portion) with the 150-voice Cary Community Choir with orchestra. He also visits many schools, churches and conferences to conduct and to entertain.
I always wanted to write this cantata. Then a church in Pennsylvania commissioned me to write a spring cantata outside of the typical Easter work. For a year, I surveyed directors and singers about different potential subjects. This idea got them most excited.
I loved writing this cantata. These wonderful stories don’t receive much attention in church music. Yet, they contain so much drama and passion.
Iconic imagery of the Easter story is paired with a beautiful melodic figure that weaves throughout the entire work to help present and guide the audience through this work. The music by Pepper Choplin, accompanied by Michael Lawrence’s stunning orchestration, powerfully represents the high and low moments of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Additional choruses and hymns illumine the journey, including the haunting “Go to Dark Gethsemane,” the spine-tingling “Judas,” the mournful “Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs,” the transportive “You Will Be with Me in Paradise,” and the majestically triumphant “Every Knee Should Bow.”
1. The Easter Story by Thomas Fettke & Thomas Grassi SATB Performance Time: 35 minutes
The Easter Story combines a profound narrative by Ken Bible with musical selections from Tom Fettke and Thomas Grassi. Fettke and Grassi have drawn upon several folk music sources, including hymns from The Sacred Harp and The Columbian Harmony, and spirituals, carols and songs from English, Irish and Hebrew traditions. The narrative is steeped in scripture, helping to relive the events in Jerusalem leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection.