First Baptist Church at 401 Gateway Ave. will host a program of choral and organ works by local composer Ethan McGrath on Sunday at 5 p.m. The concert, entitled The Spirit and the Bride, will consist of music geared toward cathedral services, reflecting the inspiration of a years’ study at the University of Cambridge, during which time some of Mr. McGrath’s works were sung in the college chapels in Cambridge and in nearby Ely Cathedral.
"I’ve always been intrigued by large, reverberant spaces,” Mr. McGrath says, “and when I became a composer I realized that I wanted my music to be heard in such spaces, with no amplification or unnatural alterations to the sound. And when that space is a gothic church or cathedral, there is an element of awe and wonder that you just don’t get anywhere else.” Though the venue of choice for this event is neither gothic nor a cathedral, its reverberant acoustic and Aeolian-Skinner organ make it one of the region’s best venues for this type of music, said officials.
Mr. McGrath has assembled a choir of singers from the Chattanooga area, many of them former colleagues from his undergraduate years at Southern Adventist University and UTC. The concert will feature the world premiere of Mr. McGrath’s anthem, The Water of Life, as well as the Chattanooga premiere of his Te Deum, which was commissioned for the 2018 southern conference of the American Choral Directors Association.
In addition to the choir, which Mr. McGrath will conduct himself, the concert will feature organist Joshua Knight and vocal soloists Sarah Tullock, Naomi Jackson, Esther Myers, and Jeffrey Dean. Admission will be $10 at the door or online at www.ethanmcgrath.com.
This event is one of several important musical happenings in the young composer’s life this summer. He recently returned from Washington, DC, where the 18th Street Singers premiered one of his works—his setting of the poem “Peace” by Sara Teasdale was the runner up in the choir’s composition competition. Mr. McGrath will travel to Europe on July 4, where he will give an organ recital in La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, before traveling to Cologne, Germany, where the Trinity College Choir (Cambridge) and conductor Stephen Layton will premiere two of his works: a Nunc Dimittis and a Sanctus, which both won prizes in this years’ Musica Sacra Nova Composers Competition in Gdansk, Poland.