Mastersingers to perform local composer's music Feb. 21-23 in Tri-Cities

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 19, 2014 

Reginald Unterseher

Reginald Unterseher is known for his powerful musical compositions that tell stories relevant to the world today.

"Humankind has always used music to tell its stories, and truly great music expresses the political and philosophical sentiments of the times," said Justin Raffa, artistic director of the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers.

And Unterseher is a composer who musically personifies the life and times of the Northwest, he added.

The Mastersingers will perform some of Unterseher's new music Feb. 21-23 at different Tri-City locations.

Perfect Pairing concert will blend Unterseher's music with Carlo Gesualdo at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 and 3 p.m. Feb. 22 at St. Joseph's Church, 520 S. Garfield St., Kennewick.

There will be a Behind the Music talk a half-hour before each concert, giving the audience some history of the music. Tickets are $22 for adults at the door. Students in grades K-12 are free.

Then at 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Richland Public Library, there will be a recital titled Hanford Songs, which features the poems of Kathleen Flenniken put to music also composed by Unterseher.

Guest soloists are cellist Michelle Cameron, violinists Mary K. French and Heather Hull Hart, Amelia Kittson on viola, tenor Les Green, pianist Tara Swanson, and sopranos Molly Holleran, Mitzi Lundberg and and Vanessa Vega.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Students in grades K-12 are free. Buy tickets at Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet in Richland or at the door.

One of the pieces being performed at the recital is titled Here, Bullet, which was composed from poems written by Brian Turner. Turner wrote Here, Bullet, while serving as an Army Ranger in Iraq.

"I was first interested in Brian's book of poems when I heard him read some on the radio soon after the book came out," Unterseher said.

Some of Turner's poems dealt with war, and that caught the composer's attention.

"There is a long history of poets dealing with the subject of war, like Walt Whitman, Wilfred Owen and John McCrae," Unterseher added. "I believe it is an artist's job to think and feel deeply about their experiences of life, and to communicate those thoughts and feelings to whomever we can get to listen through whatever form expression is ours.

"I think Brian's poems do this brilliantly, and take us inside a story that most of us have only experienced second-hand. I feel the same way about Kathleen Flenniken's poems."

The recital features seven pieces Unterseher wrote from the poems, and will be performed by soloists with piano and the chorus.

"Reg will not be conducting for these concerts, but he is singing in the choir," Raffa said. "He is a former director of the Mastersingers when they used to be called Consort Columbia. When I was hired in the summer of 2008, I invited Reg to return as a singer. He has been a consistently valuable member of the choir ever since."

Unterseher's music also earned him Washington State Music Teachers Association composer of the year in 2013.

Unterseher has a simple way to describe the passion he feels when creating music.

"It's music of depth and power, humor and intensity, darkness and light, direct from composer to performer."

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;; Twitter: @dorioneal

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