Market Street Music will present a memorable musical experience on Saturday, March 22, juxtaposing the organ works of J. S. Bach with Negro Spirituals in The Spiritual Bach: A Connection Across Space and Time, a concert celebrating Bach’s 329 birthday. Organist Marvin Mills and soprano Marlissa Hudson perform this distinctive program. The 7:30 pm concert will be held at First & Central Church in downtown Wilmington. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Students are $10 each.
Philadelphia native Mills (who performs nationally and is Director of Music at All Souls Church in Washington, DC), was inspired by a friend who had studied in Vienna and was introduced to a spiritual connection between the two genres by legendary organist/composer Anton Heiler.
Mills groups the music in pairs, alternating organ works of Bach with vocal arrangements of Negro Spirituals that share a common mood, tempo, even textual reference. Most of the organ pieces are based on Lutheran hymns. The spirituals are arrangements by noted composers of the genre. Mills carefully considered which spirituals to include, since they are played on organ rather than piano. But both fit together surprisingly well. “Each genre has common elements distilled to an essence,” says Mills. “On one hand is a master musician with a great intellect at work; on the other, a people achieving a similar fruit through the oral tradition. Both exhibit aspects of simple, unassuming faith and a sense of hope.”
Mills’ counterpart, soprano Marlissa Hudson, is thrilled to perform such a unique program. “I love the versatility and the mixing of genres,” she says. “This concert definitely gives me room to stretch as an artist.” She notes that a few of the pieces have moved her to tears, which is rare. “I’ll be interested to hear what affected the audience in the most powerful way,” she says.
Says Mills, “While the music represents different views of the world, at the root is a deep faith in something larger. Music can express universal emotions: If someone should experience a moment of peace, joy or even a forgotten sadness while listening, that would be quite special.”
Both artists have not only have a deep connection to the music, but also to each other. “Marvin is my musical soulmate,” Hudson says. “We often make beautiful moments happen with the greatest of ease; however, working through pain with the same ease is what frequently takes my breath away. I wouldn’t be anywhere near the artist I am today without his presence in my life.” Mills agrees. “I certainly couldn’t make this work without Marlissa,” he says. “We inspire and challenge each other.”
First & Central Presbyterian Church is located at 1100 N. Market Street in Wilmington.