Helena’s annual farewell concert to the Christmas season is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, featuring music by prominent local organist Joe Munzenrider and guest soprano Gretchen Mundinger.
It’s not only a night to celebrate the historic Twelfth Night period, Dec. 25 through Jan. 5, but also the music of two extremely talented Helenans.
The concert at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1000 Helena Ave., benefits the church’s organ fund.
“The music will be of the Season, and not,” said Munzenrider. He will be performing “the great” “Fantasie and Fugue in G Minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach, and Cesar Franck’s “Prelude, Fugue and Variation.”
“The ‘Fantasie and Fugue in G Minor’ is one of the biggest organ works,” said Munzenrider.
And coincidentally, it’s also described in a current New Yorker magazine article by critic Alex Ross, who writes the work “feasts on dissonance with almost diabolical glee.”
“It’s very tense and very dramatic,” said Munzenrider, who will also discuss the work with the audience.
“I always comment on the works I’m playing. It gives you something to target in listening. I want to talk about how Bach achieves that. He builds incredible tension and then releases” it.
“Franck’s ‘Prelude, Fugue and Variation’ is a radical contrast to Bach,” said Munzenrider. “It’s very intimate, very romantic.”
He’ll also perform “Mozart Changes” by Zsolt Gardonyi, which starts with Mozart, evolves into jazz and ends with Mozart.
And he’ll perform “Fete” by Jean Langlais, which he calls a “showy, contemporary piece.”
Mundinger, who for the past 13 years has been making music in New York, is a guest soloist for her inaugural appearance at the Twelfth Night concert.
In her diverse musical career of singing and teaching, she has particularly enjoyed premiering new operas, she said.
She will comment on and perform a group of very American Christmas carols, collectively known as the “Burt Carols.”
Composed by Alfred Burt, his father Bates and family friend Willa Huston, they were written to accompany Christmas Cards for their family and friends.
"Caroling, Caroling," "The Star Carol" and “Some Children See Him” are among several that have become more widely known and recorded.
“There are some early works, ‘What Are the Signs,’ ‘Christ in the Stranger’s Guise’ -- some little gems in there with interesting stories and interesting text,” she said.
“Some of them are sacred, some of them are secular,” said Mundinger. “They have very sweet texts. It’s interesting as they go through his life how harmonically they change. ... They’re all very different.”
“There is something for everyone,” she said of the concert. “I think Joe is really good at picking a variety of music from all genres. ... I’m excited to sing with Joe and perform with him.”
Munzenrider is a Carroll College professor emeritus of fine arts and taught there 43 years, primarily classes in music and art appreciation.
A Helena native, he’s been playing the organ since sixth grade.
Mundinger, another Helena native, is a graduate of the University of Montana, where she studied piano, organ and earned a degree in voice performance. She has a master’s degree in voice from Brooklyn College CUNY.
The program duration is a little over an hour. Admission at the door is $10 for adults, and $5 for seniors and students.