The Unity Choir plans to present Stabat Mater by Antonin Dvorak on Palm Sunday afternoon, April 9, at 4 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Newton. The 45 voice Unity Choir is comprised of singers from over 25 churches in Sussex, Morris, and Warren counties in New Jersey and also from Pike County in Pennsylvania.
The concert will be directed by Henry Repp who will also accompany on the three-manual Peragallo pipe organ. Returning soloists will include soprano Cassandra Lambros, mezzo-soprano Erica Finnie, tenor Tom Carle, and bass David Young.
Stabat Mater is a reflection on the sorrows of Mary as her son was crucified on the cross. It is a poem set to music and was written by a Franciscan monk in the thirteenth century. Stabat Mater was Dvorak’s first religious work. The premiere took place in Prague in 1880, and three years later received overwhelming response in London.
Dvorak created his Stabat Mater following the death of his daughter Josefa who was only two days old. Dvorak was a deeply religious man and composing this piece helped him to cope with his grief. It might sound like a gloomy work, but in actuality this Stabat Mater is highly uplifting. The mood shifts from despair to hope throughout the entire cantata.
In Aug. of 1877 there was another tragedy in the family. Dvorak’s daughter Ruzena accidentally drank a phosphorus solution and died. Less than a month later, his three-year-old son Otakar died of smallpox. Two months later, the Stabat Mater was complete.
All are invited to attend and listen to this beautiful yet rarely heard Stabat Mater. It is a most fitting beginning to Holy Week. There will be a free-will offering. There is ample parking and the church is handicapped accessible. A reception will follow the concert.