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 'Requiem for Mr. Rogers' World Premiere to Feature SRU Choir, Orchestra 

 

SPOTLIGHT

January 19, 2003

CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine (724) 738-4854; e-mail: gordon.ovenshine@sru.edu

 ‘REQUIEM FOR MR. ROGERS’ WORLD PREMIERE SCHEDULED FOR FEB. 29

IN MOUNT WASHINGTON, ONE YEAR AFTER DEATH OF FRED ROGERS

--SLIPPERY ROCK UNIVERSITY CHOIR AND ORCHESTRA TAPPED TO PERFORM DEBUT

           SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University’s orchestra and choir have been given the honor of performing the world premiere of “In Memoriam: A Requiem for Mr. Rogers.” Ninety students, along with  former cast members of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” will debut the Fred Rogers tribute composition  7 p.m. Feb. 29 at historic St. Justin Church in Mount Washington. The public is invited.

           Rogers, who gently taught millions of children to love themselves and each other for more than 30 years,  died a year ago Feb. 27. The concert is billed as a celebration of his life and legacy.

            The requiem will be repeated 7 p.m. March 2 at Butler County Community College. Tickets for either show are $8 for adults, $5 for students of all ages. Call SRU’s music department at 724-738-2063.

The composer

           Luke Mayernik, music director at St. Justin, composed the one-hour piece. The choir-orchestra composition, based on a traditional Latin requiem, includes singing, poetry, Hebrew, a cappella and string music.  It also incorporates dramatic readings, ethnic drumming, and, what Mayernik calls "cool, haunting effects" done by the choir.

           Mayernik said Maggie Stewart, known as “Mayor Maggie” on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, asked him to compose the piece. Mayerkik attends church with SRU music major Mike Sypien, a friendship that led to the alliance between the university and composer.

           “It’s not only a big deal for me, it’s a big deal for the university,” Mayernik said. “This has turned into a group project. We’re all trying to come together as one. Think of every emotion imaginable, put them all together, and that’s the way you feel as we prepare for the performance.”

           “It is certainly a great honor for Slippery Rock University's choir and orchestra to perform the premiere of Mr. Mayernik's composition,” said Dr. William McKinney, dean of SRU’s College of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts.  “I am proud that SRU's music department was chosen to honor Mr. Rogers, who is not only a significant western Pennsylvanian, but an international icon as well.”

           SRU’s choir includes 65 students, the orchestra 25, said Kevin Smith, assistant professor of music. “To work with a composer and composition of this complexity is a fabulous opportunity for our students,” said Smith, who will conduct. “Our musicians will gain a deeper sense and connection with the music.”

           SRU offers majors in music, music education, music performance instrument, music performance vocal and music therapy. It is a pioneer in music therapy, having launched its program 25 years ago.

             Editor’s note: St. Justin Church is at 539 Boggs Ave., Mount Washington. Telephone: 412-381-9878.

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