Westminster composer gets 4-city concert tour Community college colleagues to help perform song, guitar works by Baxter


A Westminster composer will have an entire concert of his work performed by colleagues who are joining him for a four-city tour beginning Sunday at Gettysburg College.

Garth Baxter, a classical composer primarily for voice and guitar, has had his work performed by such musicians and singers as Baltimore mezzo-soprano Margaret Guchemand and guitarist Julian Gray.

"This is the first time I've had a concert of just my music, so this is a real honor for me," he said.

The first concert will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Gettysburg College. The group will also play in Winchester, Va., and at Towson before the final concert at 3 p.m. Nov. 7 at Carroll Community College in Westminster.

The concerts are free.

Mr. Baxter is a music instructor at CCC, Western Maryland College and Gettysburg College. Other Carroll Community College faculty members who will join him as performers include tenor Evan Paul Walker, soprano Robin Bourguignon and pianist Rebecca Jones Long.

The medium Mr. Baxter prefers is the "art song." His compositions are settings for poems by authors such as Sara Teasdale and Thomas Hardy.

Sunday's concert will open with a series of songs based on poems of Teasdale and two other American women -- Willa Cather and Susan Laura Lugo, all sung by soprano Paula FitzGerald and played by Mr. Baxter on guitar.

The concert will end with "Battle Cry (A Tragedy)," Mr. Baxter's title for his arrangement for five Thomas Hardy poems that will be sung by the Carroll Chamber Singers. Mr. Baxter and Ms. Long will perform on guitar and piano except for two songs sung a cappella.

"I selected the poems to tell a very anti-war message," Mr. Baxter, 47, said. "I'm a pacifist."

He wasn't always a pacifist. He spent four years in the U.S. Air Force, most of that in intelligence work.

"When I went into the Air Force, I was right wing, gung-ho, America's best," he said. "When I left, I was just the opposite.

"I'm very concerned about what's going on around the world -- Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Georgia."

The poems he chose for "Battle Cry" begin with "My Love's Gone A'fightin' ," about a country girl whose lover has gone to war. Others show the human losses in war.

The last, "Coda," is a religious call for peace, Mr. Baxter said.

The concert also includes a setting for William Blake's "A Cradle Song."

Much of the music for guitar will sound like folk music to listeners, he said.

"A lot of the songs are just your typical love songs," Mr. Baxter said. "I try to stress melody in my writing."

The Winchester concert will begin at 3 p.m. Nov. 6 at Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music. The Towson concert will be at 8:15 p.m. Nov. 6 at Towson State University.

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