Music at St. Mark's

Churches have always been popular places to perform acoustic instrumental and vocal music. There's something about the acoustics and the ambience. So it was not surprising when St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Medford began to host musical concerts back in the 1990s. The idea caught on and Music at St. Mark's has been thriving ever since.

Pianist Joanna Trzeciak will perform the next concert in this year's line up. Trzeciak's concert will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 15, at St. Mark's, 426 W. Sixth St., Medford. The program will include the Five Polonaises by Chopin and 5 Etudes-tableaux by Rachmaninov. And like all programs in the Music at St. Mark's series, the concert is free.

Trzeciak was born in Kraków, Poland, where she started her musical education when she was 7 years old. After studying in her native city, she obtained her diploma at the Warsaw Conservatoire. During her studies she won a scholarship from the Chopin Foundation. In 1978, she was selected by the Polish Ministry of Culture to specialize further at the Moscow Conservatoire.

In 1980, she won the Festival of Polish Pianists in Slupsk. After that, she embarked on an international career. In 1987, Trzeciak made her entry in the "South Bank" in London and in 1988 she played her first series of concerts in the United States. Since then she has continued to return to the U.S. on a regular basis, not only for concerts but also to give master classes at Arizona State University. Her favorite subject is the complete piano works by Szymanowski.

Trzeciak has performed in nearly all of the European countries as well as in Canada, Argentina, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Kazakhstan and Israel.

She has been invited to perform as a soloist by many orchestras internationally and she has given recitals at major international festivals.

After recording LPs in Poland, Germany and Belgium, Trzeciak released her first CD in 1990 under the Pavane label with music by Szymanowski. A new edition followed in 1993 with the first Sonata and 4 Rondos by Chopin. During the last few years, she discovered the music of Johann Nepomuk Hummel. As a result, she has recorded 2 CDs with the "world first recording" program.

In December 2006, she recorded the recital for KNS Classical with Chopin's 5 Polonaises and Rachmaninov's 5 Etudes-tableaux op. 39, which she will be performing at St. Mark's.

Margaret Evans has been music director of Music at St. Mark's since 1991. She recalled when a concert was held in 1992 to dedicate the church's Richard Bond mechanical action pipe organ. Concerts followed for several traditional Episcopal services such as Advent Lessons and Carols.

"It simply evolved," Evans said. "The first year that we had a season brochure was 1996. At that point, we also wanted to offer something which would bring the greater Medford community to the church."

Since that time, the concerts have developed a large following from Ashland and Medford, as well as Northern California and Grants Pass. Attendance is at least 100 people and there are no reserved seats.

"For the New Year's Eve concert there's always a line." said Lana McGraw Boldt, who is a member of the church choir and serves as a publicity liaison for the music program. "The sad thing is when you have to turn people away."

All the concerts are free as a gift to the community. The performers are paid by money that is raised for that purpose, largely through the St. Cecilia Society. Low-income families, seniors, neighbors and others also are among those who attend. "It reminds us what the whole intent of this was in the first place," said McGraw Boldt.

Evans tries to schedule concerts that are a little different and that will work well in the space.

Performers have included the Terra Nova Consort (twice); the Westminster Choir College Handbell Choir (twice); SONOS (a professional handbell choir from the San Francisco Bay area); the National Cathedral Men and Boys Choir from Washington, D.C.; a male sopranist; Affabre Concinui (six Polish men who sang a cappella); and a variety of local people (one year it was the "Three Sopranos" Ellie Murray, Pauline Sullivan, and Fredna Grimland). Some artists come to Evans and ask if they might perform; others she invites.

"The performers love the space," Evans said. She has been able to incrementally expand the program's horizons, but feels the church has reached the maximum number of concerts it is able to offer in a season.

The next concerts of the 2008-09 season will be the Worcester Cathedral Choir from England, at 8 p.m. Friday, April 3, and the Fong-Rands-Stubson Trio performing chamber music for violin, cello and piano by Haydn, Chopin and Fauré at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 17.

For more about Music at St. Mark's, call 858-8037.

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