The Taylor Music Group (TMG), a leading Charleston arts organization focused on the blending of classical and folk music, this week announced the American premiere of a choral work, Gefängnisgedicht (Prison Poems), in the concert “Una Sancta: Out of Many, One.” The concert will be held Sunday, February 2nd at 4 pm at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 405 King Street in Charleston.
‘Gefangisgedicht’ are the prison poems written during three imprisonments of German priest Fr Max Josef Metzger (1887-1944) which have been given a Song Cycle setting by Charleston resident Irish-American composer Cormac O’Duffy. In the spirit of ‘Una Sancta,’ the concert will begin with the motet Beatus Vir by Catholic composer Claudio Monteverdi and close with Singet Dem Herrn, the motet by Lutheran composer J.S. Bach. Tickets for the Charleston concert are $25 general admission, $35 preferred seating, and $10 students. Tickets can be purchased at www.tmgcharleston.com or at the concert venue one hour prior to the performance.
Following his experiences as an Army Chaplain in World War I, Fr Max Josef Metzger spent his life dedicated to the causes of world peace and Christian unity. He was constantly hounded by the Nazi authorities and finally was executed for his beliefs and ministry by the Gestapo in a prison in Berlin on April 17, 1944. Born in the small Black Forest town of Schopfheim, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1911 at the age of 24. Later, with two other priest friends, he decided to establish his own religious community as a Catholic type of Salvation Army dedicated to different types of social work. His community was based in the small town of Meitingen in Bavaria, just north of the City of Augsburg, and it was from this base he started his movement called Una Sancta, taking the title from the Latin words for ‘one and holy’ from the Nicene Creed. The aim of this movement was to bring together Catholics and Lutherans in Germany who had for over 400 years lived separately from each other in each of the German states. The King or Duke of each state had decided the religious confession of its citizens, in the spirit of ‘Cuius Regio, eius religio.’ At this time, Catholics viewed Luther as the worst of all heretics, whilst to Lutherans, Luther was often thought as the greatest Apostle since St. Paul.
During the early part of the 20th century, these caricatures were re-evaluated by various Catholic and Lutheran academics, and, in the light of this re-evaluation, Fr Metzger started his Una Sancta movement to help bring together these divided Christians of Germany as a ‘one holy’ Church. After his martyrdom on April 17, 1944 his movement was taken up by both Catholic and Lutheran churches, finally leading to the historic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This was signed by leaders of both churches in Augsburg in November 1999, the first such agreement since the time of the Reformation. In March 2014, the case for the canonization of Fr Max as a Catholic saint was submitted to the Vatican from his home Diocese at the Cathedral of Freiburg in Baden-Württemberg.
The Song Cycle 'Gefangisgedicht' was written in 2018-19 by Charleston resident Irish- American composer Cormac O’Duffy. When he discovered that 2019 was the 100th anniversary of the founding of Fr Max’s Institute in Meitingen, he explored the possibility of having its world premiere in Max’s hometown as a gift to his community. The premiere took place on November 3, 2019 when the Song Cycle was sung by a massed Choir of 90 singers from local Catholic and Lutheran churches in St. Wolfgang’s Parish, accompanied by musicians from the local community. Church bells were rung at the end of the performance in both the Catholic and Lutheran churches as a sign of respect for this martyr for faith.
The Taylor Festival Choir is a professional chamber choir based in Charleston, SC. Founded and conducted by Robert Taylor, the choir is inspired by the life and career of Bob Taylor, the conductor’s late father and a noted choral musician and pedagogue. Since its inception in 2001, the Taylor Festival Choir has toured and been heard in prestigious venues and festivals throughout the U.S., and has garnered a reputation of excellence among critics and choral specialists alike. TFC was one of only two American adult chamber choirs featured at the prestigious 2009 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Convention and 50th anniversary celebration, and they were again featured in the ACDA Southern Division Conference in February 2017, where they were selected to perform the prestigious Raymond W. Brock commissioned composition.
The Taylor Festival Choir has recorded on the Delos, Centaur, and MSR Classics labels. Their recent recording of BBC composer of the year James MacMillan’s Mass and Celtic Mass by Michael McGlynn received rave reviews throughout Europe. Their recording Sing We Now of Christmas, recorded with legendary guest artists including Liz Carroll, John Doyle and Kim Robertson, has been called “a choral feast that will linger long in your memory after you’ve heard it” (Audio Society of Atlanta). TFC serves as the professional choir-in-residence at the College of Charleston. It presents a full concert season in the Charleston area, and serves as the flagship ensemble for the Piccolo Spoleto Celtic Arts Series.
Personnel in the ensemble include conductors, educators, performers and professionals from throughout the United States. The Taylor Festival Choir performs the finest choral literature from all eras, with particular emphasis on new music and folk music from the Celtic nations. Dedicated to bringing the beauty and spiritual enrichment of choral music to as wide an audience as possible, the Taylor Festival Choir tours frequently, and performs outreach concerts in schools and churches throughout South Carolina and surrounding states. TFC toured Ireland with sister ensemble Na Fidleiri in 2013. A double DVD documentary chronicling that tour was recently released.
Composer Cormac Brian O'Duffy is an American Irishman. His father was a famous Irish tenor, and Cormac has spent most of his life in music, including a period as an accompanist for his father in a tour of Russia. Although writing songs and pieces from an early age, Cormac's classical compositions began after his college training in Dublin with 'A Dresden Requiem' a piece which described the destruction of Dresden in WW2. This was played in Dresden, Germany on the 40th anniversary of its destruction. Further pieces included the oratorio 'Hear! O Israel' which was performed in Jerusalem on Israel's 40th anniversary. This and other works have been performed in London's Westminster Hall and in churches and cathedrals in England and Ireland over many years. Cormac returned to the States in 2008 and since has had his later oratorios and a requiem performed in Florida and Tennessee and by Villanova University Choir at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. ‘Gefangisgedichte’, the Prison Poems of Fr Max Josef Metzger, received its world premiere in Meitingen in Germany on November 3, 2019.