From U.S. to Ukraine and back

Music: Founder of orchestra, chorus in Kiev finds success beyond all expectations.

September 14, 2000|By Tim Smith

Among unlikely success stories in music, consider this one.

The music director of a church in Orlando, Fla., visits Kiev in Ukraine in 1992 to conduct the first Handel's "Messiah" performance there since the fall of the Soviet Union. He likes the experience so much that he decides to pack up his family in Florida the next year and move to Kiev, where he creates an orchestra of 60 and a chorus of 115. While he's at it, he also founds a church and gets ordained as its pastor.

The orchestra and chorus flourish in Ukraine, performing sacred classics - Bach's B minor Mass, requiems by Brahms and Faure, etc. - that had been banned by the communists, as well as standard repertoire.

The music director raises enough money for the ensemble - primarily in the United States, Canada and Europe - to take all the musicians on a 15-state U.S. tour in 1999, performing instrumental and vocal classics and Ukrainian folk music. The tour is so successful it generates a second, which will bring this Kiev Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to Towson this week.

Driving this whole scenario is Roger McMurrin, who made a name for himself as music director of the nationally broadcast Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale in the 1980s and then did similar work for First Presbyterian in Orlando.

For this tour by his Kiev forces, McMurrin has chosen works by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, as well as by Gershwin, Bernstein, British composer John Rutter and others. For the Ukrainian part of the program, the performers will be in costume and use folk instruments.

The concert marks the opening event in the 14th season of the Second Presbyterian Church Concert Series, but instead of taking place at the church, it will be in Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium in Towson at 8 p.m. Friday. Admission is free; donations are accepted. For more information, call 410-889-6819.

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