The Johnstown Symphony Chorus is featured performing Handel's Messiah at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, in its return to the concert hall after a year-long hiatus.
Under the direction of Jeffrey L. Webb, the concert will feature four soloists: Molly Netter, soprano; Kristen Dubenion-Smith, mezzo-soprano; Brian Giebler, tenor; and Tyler Putnam, bass. Featured harpsichordist for the upcoming nearly sold-out performance is Dr. Paula Maust.
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Growing up locally
Maust is a Somerset County native, growing up near Berlin. She went to Berlin Brothersvalley High School where she played trumpet in the band, sang in and accompanied the chorus, and played in the musical pit. She also played trumpet in the Johnstown Symphony Youth Orchestra and participated in the youth and music ministries at the Friedens Lutheran Church.
"I started playing piano at 8, but I started the harpsichord fairly late in my music education at 25," she said.
Maust said she started playing the organ and like music history and theory in college. Her adviser suggested she look at the baroque orchestra to get the credits she needed.
"It was everything I was interested in," she said.
She is an assistant professor of music theory at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in 18th-century counterpoint and expanding the canon. Prior to her appointment at Peabody, she was a faculty member at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the Homewood campus of JHU.
An advocate for conducting dramatic early modern works from the keyboard, she directed a program of baroque opera scenes in collaboration with UMBC’s Collegium Musicum and Opera Workshop and was the assistant music director for Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas and The Fairy-Queen with the Peabody’s historical performance department.
In the spring, she will be the music director for a program of scenes from Francesca Caccini’s La Liberazione di Ruggiero at Peabody.
Maust completed a doctorate degree in harpsichord at Peabody in 2019, where she was the recipient of the Dean’s DMA fellowship. She earned Master of Music degrees in harpsichord and organ from Peabody and the Cleveland Institute of Music, respectively, and she completed her Bachelor of Music degree in church music/organ at Valparaiso University. Her teachers have included Adam Pearl, Webb Wiggins, Todd Wilson and Lorraine Brugh.
Who helped her along?
She gives a lot of credit to her piano teacher Jan Burkett.
"She taught me for many years and was so inspirational and prepared me to performing on a professional level," Maust said. "I also credit Beth Pile at Friedens church for the music program at the church. She is a good role model."
Maust is a performer, scholar and educator dedicated to fusing research and creative practice to amplify underrepresented voices and advocate for social change. She is the creator of www.expandingthemusictheorycanon.com, an open-source collection of music theory examples by women and people of color. She said the website now has 15,000 followers in 60 countries.
"That's very exciting to me," she said.
A print anthology textbook based on the project is under contract with SUNY Press and is expected to be released in 2022.
She has also given lectures about diversity in undergraduate music educational resources, Duke University, the Johns Hopkins University, Indiana University, the University of North Texas, Peabody Conservatory, and for Early Music America. Her recent study on racial and gender representation in the music classroom was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music.
Research of musician history
Her other primary research interest is the reception history of early modern women musicians. Her article “Turning the Madwoman Upside Down” was published in the most recent edition of Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture and her “Notorious Strumpets on the English Restoration Stage” can be read on Early Music America’s blog. She has given lectures about women performers for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Medieval and Early Modern Studies program, the Peabody Musicology Colloquium, the Pioneer Valley Symphony, Shenandoah University, and Bard High School Early College Cleveland. She has presented her research for the American Musicological Society, the Indiana University Historical Performance Institute, the American Handel Society, and the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music.
As a harpsichordist and organist, Maust has been praised for combining “great power with masterful subtlety” (DC Metro Theater Arts) and as a “refined and elegant performer” (Boston Musical Intelligencer). In her work as the co-director of Burning River Baroque and Musica Spira, she curates lecture-concerts aimed at connecting baroque music to contemporary social issues. Recent concert programs have centered on climate change, refugees, and mental health. She is currently working on recording Elizabeth Turner’s 1756 Six Lessons for Harpsichord. She also regularly performs with the Folger Consort, Third Practice, the Washington Bach Consort, Tempesta di Mare, and the Handel Choir of Baltimore.
Maestro James Blachly said about Handel's Messiah “there is no more complete expression of the full emotion of the holiday season than this miraculous work.”
Maust said Handel's Messiah is "an amazing piece of music. I have not a moment of rest in the concert. It is a big piece for organ and harpsichord."
Tickets are available online or at the box office. They are also available at the door from 6 p.m. on the day of the concert. The JSO Box Office is at the JSO offices on the second floor of the Galleria Mall from noon until 4 p.m. Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays.
This article originally appeared on The Daily American: Handel's Messiah by JSO features native