December 4, 2021

Arts at Grace amping up music

Dec. 5 concert has sacred & fun music

Conductor David Neal

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

David Neal conducts the Choral Union Nov. 19, 2019, at SUNY Cortland. He is also founding artistic director of Arts at Grace in Cortland, which stages free concerts to the community. The two entities, as well as Triphammer Arts, will offer a free holiday concert Dec. 5, 2019, at Rose Hall, 19 Church St.

Steve Stull will Grinch it up with his baritone voice at a special Arts at Grace holiday concert.

The Lansing musician will both narrate and sing pieces from the Dr. Seuss 60’s classic cartoon, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” at the special concert Dec. 5 in

“I like to paint the picture with my voice, paint the picture of the Grinch so the audience can grasp that story,” he said.

And the 45-member Choral Union, a group of community members and SUNY Cortland students, will sing the parts of Whoville residents.

Promo for The Grinch

Photo provided by Jo Ann Wickman

Steven Stull, co-director of Triphammer Arts, will narrate and sing a Grinch Medley at the Dec. 5 concert at 19 Church St., Cortland.

That’s only one part of the free program, open to the public.

The show, at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 in Rose Hall at 19 Church St., is a collaboration of the Arts at Grace, the SUNY Cortland Performing Arts Department and Triphammer Arts, which Stull heads.

“It’s coming along very well,” said David Neal, founding and artistic director of the Arts at Grace concert series. “It’s beautiful,” he said.

“The concert is in two parts. The first part is songs sung by the Choral Union and is based on texts that are seasonal or sung around the Christmas season by wonderful composers.”

Stull runs Triphammer Arts in Lansing, a non profit art organization with his wife, Jeanne Goddard. He is a freelance performer, working with Syracuse Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic and the West Virginia Symphony. Goddard is a choreographer and dancer.

“We have an organic farm on Triphammer Road. We do performances there,” Stull said. “We built a barn on the farm. The top floor is the dance and rehearsal studio. We started doing that in 1990.”

They kept adding to their performance space through the years, with both indoor and outdoor stages. As many as 250 people can be seated outside. “This is our 30th season doing productions here at the barn,” said Stull.

“What’s interesting about things in the arts today, a lot of creative (events) are being produced by these regional organizations,” said Neal.

In fact, Arts at Grace is partnering with lead entity Triphammer Arts, to commission a special piece of work by Robert Paterson, a renowned composer known nationally.

“He is a composer I have worked with for 20 years now,” said Neal. “His work has been very well received. The Arts at Grace commissioned work from him in 2007.”

Now the two art organizations are raising money for the music, a mini drama that responds to Bach’s “Coffee Cantata.”

Neal said Society for New Music, based in Syracuse, may partner in the project as well.

It will be called the Cocoa Cantata, and will explore the chocolate industry and incorporate gender politics in the age of the #MeToo movement, according to Paterson.

Bach’s instrumentation will be used for a humorous critique of patriarchy, fair trade and the marketing of pleasure, according to Paterson’s description.

The mini drama will provide colorful parts for a soprano, baritone, bass-baritone.

“I think it’s really great, because he got his doctorate from Cornell about 20 years ago,” Stull said of Paterson. “I met him back then … He’s an active, working composer. He’s very melodic, very tuneful … He definitely has the gift of melody. He writes really well for singers.”

“I have heard quite a few pieces of his. They are really well written,” said Stull.
David Cote will provide the text for the piece. People can donate toward the work if interested. Find out more at or call 607-257-2043.

The program will be held in September at Rose Hall at 19 Church St., home of the Dan and Rose McNeil Foundation, Neal said.

“What we are planning on doing is inviting local chocolate and coffee vendors to set up their wares. We will be promoting their business through this performance. It will be a celebration of coffee and chocolate. Who doesn’t like those things?” Neal said.

There will be three solo singers a string quartet, flute and keyboard, Stull said.

As for the Dec. 5 show, that will be a community celebration, Neal said.

“It’s first of all, seasonal, during the Christmas holidays. It’s always nice to have community gatherings to hear music. And to celebrate the performance space brought on by the McNeils at 19 Church St.

The acoustics are wonderful, it’s centrally located and there is easy parking,” Neal said.

Rachael Weber is a freshman at SUNY Cortland and has been in a chorus since the fourth grade.

“I want to keep it going,” she said. “I am glad I found this,” she said of the Choral Union.

“I was taken aback that it was mostly older people than I am,” said River Milsapp, a sophomore. “But it has been a lot of fun so far.”

The Choral Union will sing settings of classic texts by Franz Biebl, Tomas Luis de Victoria and Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo.

“We are starting a new thing,” said Neal. “Our Cortland students are doing an a cappella number by themselves. They are doing a great job of that.”

They will tackle “White Winter Hymnal,” made popular by the a cappella ensemble Pentatonix.

Madison Chandler, a junior, said there are one to two people for each part. But all have strong voices. And they will do hand motions to accentuate the rhythm.

Ni Zhang will provide piano accompaniment.

“We sing really fine music and then we sing some fun things, like the Grinch in the second part,” said

Mark Schulz of Virgil

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Mary Schulz of Virgil is a member of the Choral Union.

Mary Schulz of Virgil, a first alto. “I love it,” she said of the Choral Union.

“We are all different people,” she said of the chorus, which she’s been in for six years. “Everyone has struggles. Even the students. We make music together. It’s really uplifting.”

Anne Farrell of McGraw is a soprano in the Choral Union two years now. A SUNY Cortland graduate, she likes to be part of the college community.

And Neal has a great reputation.

“I feel like we are getting a mini voice lesson. He teaches us to be good vocalists as well as singing the music.”

“It’s something for everyone,” said Farrell, of the free concert. “It’s a great mix of some music by contemporary composers as well as some traditional music. And at the end — the Grinch!”