Bach’s St. matthew passion

Presented by Harmonium Choral Society and Artistic Director Anne Matlack on April 7, 2019.


Sung in German with supertitles of the English translation.


Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience

Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is believed by many to be the most profound and dramatic of Bach’s works, if not the whole choral canon. I am thrilled that Harmonium’s board and fans have allowed us to mount a work that seldom sees local performances due to the complexity of forces and logistics – although the musicianship of my singers is certainly on top of it! It is a bucket list work for me, and I hope many listeners take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. -Dr. Anne J. Matlack

This gala production features the vibrant New York Times darlings The Sebastians as the double baroque orchestra, Grammy-winning Dann Coakwell as Evangelist, and members of the New Jersey Youth Chorus as the children’s choir. The performance also brings New York and New Jersey’s finest professional soloists to Morristown, including Grammy-nominated Stephen Sands (“a tenor with a focused, powerful tone” who sings with “subtlety” and “poignancy” – The New York Times); award-winning musical theater and classical artist Michael Maliakel (“a baritone so tender your eyes well” – San Francisco Chronicle); Elena Bird (“…her clear soprano soared through the night air” – NJ Arts Maven); alto Patricia Ruggles (“her warm, luscious mezzo…carried the emotion of the text” – Classical NJ); and baritone Malcolm Merriweather as Jesus (described as “gripping” and compelling by Opera News).

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Dann Coakwell - Grammy-winning Tenor as Evangelist

“His clear and effulgent vocal tone, his impeccable German diction, and his grasp of the emotional and dramatic elements of the Evangelist role were all superb.”

~North Carolina Classical Voice, March 29, 2015, Duke Chapel, Durham, NC

Dann Coakwell, tenor, has been praised as a “clear-voiced and eloquent … vivid storyteller” (The New York Times), with “a gorgeous lyric tenor that could threaten or caress on the turn of a dime" (The Dallas Morning News). He can be heard as a soloist on the Grammy-winning The Sacred Spirit of Russia (Harmonia Mundi, 2014), as well as the Grammy-nominated Considering Matthew Shepard (Harmonia Mundi, 2016) and Mohammed Fairouz: Zabur (Naxos, 2016). Coakwell has performed as a soloist internationally under acclaimed conductors such as Helmuth Rilling, Masaaki Suzuki, William Christie, Nicholas McGegan, Matthew Halls, and Craig Hella Johnson… Read More

The Sebastians - Orchestra

Hailed as “everywhere sharp-edged and engaging,” The Sebastians are known for their “energetic…youthful, vigorous performance style” and have been called New York’s “leading young early-music ensemble.”

~The New York Times

The Sebastians are a dynamic and vital musical ensemble specializing in music of the baroque and classical eras. Lauded as “everywhere sharp-edged and engaging” (The New York Times), the Sebastians have also been praised for their “well-thought-out articulation and phrasing” (Early Music Review) and “elegant string playing…immaculate in tuning and balance” (Early Music Today). The Sebastians’ 2018-2019 season features Venetian and Roman trio sonatas and concerti grossi… Read More

Photo Credit Molly Quinn

Malcolm J. Merriweather - Baritone as Jesus

“Baritone Malcolm J. Merriweather gave a gripping rendition…compelled the audience to share the experience with him through the force of his gravity and dignified expression.”

~Opera News, Joshua Rosenblum

Malcolm J. Merriweather is Music Director of New York City’s The Dessoff Choirs, known for their performances of great choral works from the pre-baroque era through the 21st century. He is an Assistant Professor, Director of Choral Studies and Voice Department Coordinator at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Artist in Residence at Union Theological Seminary, and the Artistic Director of “Voices of Haiti,” a 60-member children’s choir in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, operated by the Andrea Bocelli Foundation… Read More

Elena Bird - Soprano

“Her clear soprano soared through the night air.”

~NJ Arts Maven

With a rich timbre and effortless coloratura, soprano Elena Teresa Bird is a versatile, accomplished artist who brings vocal clarity and energetic character to the stage.  Equally comfortable in opera, concert, and musical theater repertoire, the Alaskan native overcame vast distances and icy roads to realize her goals as a singer. Elena recently returned to Alaska to sing the soprano solos in Handel's Messiah for Anchorage Community Chorus and Orchestra's 70th-anniversary season. Later that year, she brought opera to Alaska's Kenai Peninsula for the first time in three decades… Read More

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Patricia Ruggles - Alto

“Her warm, luscious mezzo, accurate intonation, superb diction and techniques carried the emotion of the text.”

~Classical NJ

Patricia Ruggles, mezzo-soprano, enjoys performing a wide range of repertoire in recital, oratorio, and opera. She is active as a creative collaborator with various artists including Gwen Toth, harpsichordist; John Schucker, pianist; Michael Caldwell, dancer; and Seth Hiler, painter. Pianist and composer Paul Zeigler has written several song cycles for Patricia, and their recording of Astonishing Light: Six Songs on Poems by Hafiz won second place in the National Association of Teachers of Singing composition competition. J.S. Bach is Patricia’s favorite composer, and she has performed alto solos in his St. John Passion, Magnificat, and Mass in B Minor. Of the latter performance, a music critic from the Star Ledger wrote, “Ruggles had a clear, penetrating mezzo-soprano and her flexibility and phrasing made for top-rate Bach.”

Stephen Sands - Tenor

“A tenor with a focused, powerful tone.”

~The New York Times

A Grammy-nominated “crystalline tenor” (Backstage) who was praised by The New York Times as singing with “subtlety” and “poignancy,” Stephen Sands is highly sought after as a soloist, conductor, music educator, and ensemble member by some of the most prestigious institutions and conductors in the United States. In addition to a successful career as a musician and conductor, Stephen is a respected music educator.  For 21 years he has taught choral music to thousands of students in grades 3-12 in the Somerset Hills School District… Read More

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Michael Maliakel - Baritone

“A baritone so tender that your eyes well.”

~San Francisco Chronicle

Michael Maliakel recently made his Off-Broadway debut in Anything Can Happen: The Songs of Maury Yeston alongside Broadway veterans Robert Cuccioli and Jill Paice. The review was produced by the multiple Tony Award-winning composer himself at the Triad Theatre. Michael also recently played the groom, Hemant, in the world premier of Mira Nair's musical stage adaptation of Monsoon Wedding in a box-office-record-breaking production at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre… Read More

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New Jersey Youth Chorus

Under the direction of Tara Postigo, Sola Voce ("one voice" - soh-lah voh-chay) is a choir for girls in grades 6-8.  Sola Voce choristers develop healthy, natural vocal technique while working toward a progressing level of musicianship.  It is the hope that in Sola Voce, girls develop self-efficacy and a lifelong love of choral singing and begin to build self-awareness through the use of their voice.  Sola Voce is more than a choir, it is a community; the many voices of Sola Voce join to become one through the power of music. Read More

Tara Postigo, director of Sola Voce, received her Bachelor of Music from The College of NJ and her Master of Arts in Music and Music Education from Teacher's College, Columbia University. At Teacher's College, Tara had the honor of working with Dino Anagnost, the conductor of NYC's Little Orchestra Society and Metropolitan Singers… Read More