Though the Civil War ended nearly 150 years ago, it remains a continuing subject of fascination for historians and in pop culture, inspiring poems, songs, novels, films and more. Now the war’s divisive effects on the state of Missouri are the subject of a new oratorio by Stefan Freund, an associate professor of composition and music theory at the University of Missouri and co-artistic director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative.
The world premiere of “The War Amongst Families and Neighbors: The Civil War in Missouri” will be presented by the University of Missouri School of Music and the University Concert Series at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, April 24 in Jesse Auditorium on the campus of the University of Missouri.
The performance will feature the more than 200 voices of the MU Choral Union and University Singers, plus the Columbia Civic Orchestra and three guest singers: the acclaimed bass-baritone Timothy Jones as principal soloist; tenor Steven Tharp, an assistant professor of voice at Mizzou; and soprano Lindsey Lang, a Missouri native and Mizzou alumnae. R. Paul Crabb, professor and director of choral activities for the School of Music, will conduct the orchestra and combined chorus.
Drawing impetus from the impending 150th anniversary of the Centralia Massacre, Freund spent a year and a half working on the oratorio, first researching the course of the war in the region with the help of the State Historical Society of Missouri, and then composing the music.
The first part, “St. Louis to Pea Ridge (1861-1862),” tells the story of the political and military events that kept Missouri in the Union, while the second, “Guerrilla Warfare (1863-1865),” focuses on guerrilla activity in the later years of the war. In total, the completed oratorio includes four spoken texts; arrangements of five Civil War-era songs significant to Missouri; and 18 original compositions set to texts taken from source materials including letters, editorials, and battle reports.
The performance will be accompanied by projections of texts and art from the period provided by the State Historical Society of Missouri. In addition, students from Lee Elementary School in Columbia have created new artwork inspired by the project that will be exhibited in the lobby of Jesse Auditorium.
Tickets for “The War Amongst Families and Neighbors: The Civil War in Missouri” are $15 for general admission, $10 for Mizzou students, and may be purchased at the University Concert Series box office at the Missouri Theatre; by phone at 573-882-3781; or online at ticketmaster.com.
Two related events will offer additional opportunities for the community to get involved before the performance. On Friday, April 11, Freund and Ralph Kreigh of the Mid-Missouri Civil War Round Table will give a presentation to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at 1:30 p.m. at the Commerce Bank, 2000 Bernadette Dr.
On Thursday, April 24, a convocation with the composer, conductor, and soloists, moderated by Arthur Mehrhoff of Mizzou’s Museum of Art & Archaeology, will take place beginning at 3:00 p.m. at Whitmore Recital Hall on campus, with a reception to follow at the State Historical Society. Both events are free and open to the public.
“The War Amongst Families and Neighbors: The Civil War in Missouri” was composed and produced with funding from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, the MU Research Council, the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative, and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitors Program.
Organized in 1977, the 250-voice MU Choral Union is a non-auditioned chorus representing a “union” of choral singers from the student body, University faculty and staff, and community members from Columbia and mid-Missouri. The ensemble presents one major program each semester, combining with professional orchestras, performers, conductors and various University instrumental ensembles to present performances of significant choral/orchestral literature.
The Columbia Civic Orchestra is a volunteer group located in Columbia, Missouri, dedicated to providing enjoyment for its members and audiences with the presentation and preservation of high-quality symphonic music.
The Mizzou New Music Initiative is an array of programs intended to position the University of Missouri School of Music as a leading center in the areas of composition and new music. The Initiative is the direct result of the generous support of Dr. Jeanne and Mr. Rex Sinquefield and the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation.