Palisades Sinfonietta presents orchestra concert, orchestral music returns to Mary’s Nativity Church

First concert since passing of QSO maestro Dong-hyun Kim

By Stephanie Meditz

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Prior to 2020, Queensboro Symphony Orchestra often performed at Mary’s Nativity Church.

For the first time in two years, Mary’s Nativity Church in Flushing will ring in the Advent season with orchestral music. 

On Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m., the Palisades Sinfonietta will present a concert featuring soprano TracyLynn Conner and composer Paul Joseph. 

The Palisades Sinfonietta was founded by Queensboro Symphony Orchestra’s Leonard Birnbaum after the death of QSO maestro Dong-hyun Kim in 2020. 

Since then, Mary’s Nativity has not presented any orchestral concerts. 

The concert will allow Queens residents to see classical music up close.

As music director of Mary’s Nativity, Joseph collaborated with Birnbaum and the clergy to resume the performances, and they resolved to put on an Advent concert. 

“[The concerts] were very popular. After the pandemic, people were asking if we’ll get the concerts going again, so a lot of people want to see them,” Joseph said. “We had a pretty good following that would come out to our concerts.” 

At the concert, Joseph will premiere his composition, “Grand Advent-ure,” a 15-minute orchestral fantasy derived from traditional Advent hymns. 

A lifelong musician, he has composed several orchestral pieces, including “The King of the Mask” debuted by QSO in 2015. 

“When you’re an organist at a church, you have to be able to…fill in musical spaces with improvisations,” he said. “I get lots of opportunities in church to improvise on the hymns that we’re playing that day. So it’s almost like the arrangement of the piece was an outgrowth of those improvisations, but in a more refined form.” 

TracyLynn Conner said that “Grand Advent-ure” perfectly represents the joy and preparation of Advent. 

Joseph will accompany her on the piano as she sings Bach’s sacred aria, “Erbame dich, mein Gott” from St. Matthew Passion. 

Composer, pianist and Mary’s Nativity music director Paul Joseph will premiere his piece, “Grand Advent-ure,” at the concert.

Conner, the cantor for Mary’s Nativity, holds a degree in opera performance and has been involved in musical theater on Long Island for over 20 years. 

This is her first concert singing as a member of the Mary’s Nativity parish. 

“For artists during the pandemic, it was very hard for us not performing, because that’s what we do. It’s also our therapy in life,” she said. “To get back to making music with other people, I couldn’t stop smiling during that rehearsal. The musicians are so talented and to be part of it feels like magic again…I think people will be very pleasantly surprised at how good it feels to have live music back in their lives.” 

To conclude the concert, the Palisades Sinfonietta will perform Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 3. 

“It’s a great thing to bring the music back and everything, and also be able to have the opportunity to compose something for it,” Joseph said. “There’s also a little bit of bittersweetness. It’s a memoriam. There’s a memory of [Kim] involved too, because obviously his shadow is over this. There’s a whole mix of emotions here.” 

The concert is free will offering, meaning that admission is free but donations will be accepted. 

“The church is a wonderful place to see classical music. This is why the concerts are so popular…it’s a big, resonant space,” Joseph said. “Also, people get a chance to see great music really up close. Most of the time, they would have to go into Manhattan and take a trip there and spend a lot of money. Here, you don’t have to do that.” 

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