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Music at St. David's fills the gap left by ciclovias [Roland Park]

In a neighborhood that is almost 125 years old, having something new and of quality enriches community life. When open to the public, that something new also adds to the life of the city.

Such was the case in Roland Park with the ciclovias. Part of Roland Avenue was closed to vehicular traffic one Sunday in spring and fall, so walkers and cyclists could take to the street. That new tradition has been temporarily suspended because of the poor road surface. Hopefully, by this time next year the surface will be pristine and we can ride on.

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Until then, a local church that was impacted by the street closing every time there was a ciclovia now is offering the community something new of a different sort. As the days grow shorter and everyone needs a lift, St. David's, an Episcopal church at 4700 Roland Ave., is holding an exciting new music series.

I don't know what it is about music, but as the hours of darkness increase, I find myself listening to much more music at home. Now I will be able to walk two blocks to hear a variety of live music. In spite of the amazing quality of recorded music, nothing takes the place of experiencing live music. We are fortunate in Baltimore to have so many good musicians.

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Quite an assortment of outstanding performers will come together in Roland Park this year, thanks to St. David's new music director, Douglas Buchanan. Long known for its fine organ, its organists, choirs, liturgical music and its yearly Bach marathon, St. David's is launching a series of non-liturgical music, starting Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m., and continuing on the first Friday of each month through May, with the exception of Jan. 2.

Kicking off the season is the LUNAR ensemble, a contemporary music ensemble dedicated to promoting and cultivating living composers. LUNAR will be the ensemble-in-residence at St. David's for the 2014-2015 season. Like Buchanan, all LUNAR musicians are graduates of the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, in Mount Vernon,, as is conductor Gemma New, who is also guest cover conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The first program will feature a piece by the late 20th century French composer Maurice Ravel and "Voice of a Whale" by contemporary composer George Crumb..A new work composed by Buchanan will also be performed.

Buchanan says it was Crumb's piece that made him want to be a composer.

St. David's also continues its longstanding monthly Choral Evensong service on Sundays, Nov. 23 at 4:30 p.m. Soprano Danielle Buonaiuto will be joined by pianist Bethany Pietroniro in a recital of works from their new CD, "Songs of Innocence and Experience."

Music at St. David's continues in December with Maryland's premiere all-female choral ensemble, The Canticle Singers, on December 5; a Service of Lessons and Carols on Dec. 21; and Sacred Jazz with John and Eartha Lamkin on Jan. 18, 2015, 18 to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.

The LUNAR ensemble again performs in February and April, with the series concluding on May 8 with a performance by Buchanan of his new cycle for organ, "Welkinharmonie."

Other Evensong performers include pianist Ta-Wei Tsai on Feb. 15 and Baltimore's vivacious early music trio, S'Amusant, on May 17.

No season of music at St. David's, however, would be complete without its acclaimed Bach marathon. This year, Buchanan is moving it from snowy February to March 22, the Sunday closest to Bach's 330th birthday. He is also increasing the participants from just keyboard performers to other instrumentalists and singers, a nod to the fact that Bach composed well over 1,000 pieces that were not all for organ and keyboard.

A blending of old and new excites Buchanan, a Texan who came to Baltimore for graduate work at the Peabody Institute, then married a fellow choral singer. He and his wife continue to sing together with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society and to work at Peabody, she in the Friedheim Music Library and he as an adjunct professor of music theory and history.

What Buchanan says he likes most about Baltimore is its mix of traditional cultural events and innovation, especially in terms of new music, a mix he is bringing to St. David's.

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